Paving the way for the poor to quit poverty: Why palm oil matters.

SUSTAINABILITY OF PALM OIL is an invigorated concept and is not equally the same with ‘’sustainable palm oil’’ which commonly refers to palm oil certification scheme, i.e., standardized process and outputs in palm oil production supply chain. The term ‘sustainability’ in and of itself is wide-ranging. 

Most of palm oil producers are developing nations and, in some of those countries, palm oil is a significant contributor to the economic and social development through generating export earnings, creating millions of job opportunities, and alleviating poverty especially in rural areas. In that sense, the concept of sustainability of palm oil should have greater relevance with the priorities, interests, and aspirations of developing world, i.e., to sustain its economic and social development.

To a certain extent, concerns of sustainability have been driven by bodies and organizations in consuming countries, a number of which tend to highlight the importance of the environment above social or economic issues and/or question the value of social and economic benefits of palm oil cultivation.

The economic and social value of palm oil are so significant that they are not just limited to production benefits; but on the consumer side, this commodity is increasingly essential to meeting growing demand in developing countries. In the case of Indonesia, the second largest destination for palm oil is the domestic market, which now exceeds the demand in Europe.

The need to balance out environmental, economic, and social progress is widely accepted and forms part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under the 2030 UN Agenda.

This does not mean that the environment is not of concern to palm oil producing countries, or that there is a “trade off” between social and economic progress on the one hand and environment on the other; but it is increasingly clear that the importance of balancing out the development goals is in the hands of the Governments of palm producing countries and their stakeholders. It is in the national interests of these countries to drive the debate on sustainability without which real progress may not be achieved.

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