Indonesia’s Palm Oil : A Sustainable Oil

Palm oil is the first global vegetable oil that has its own sustainable governance system and sustainable vegetable oil certification. The first two countries to receive vegetable oil certification for their palm oil are Indonesia and Malaysia. Other global vegetable oils, including soybean oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil and olive oil, do not have a sustainable vegetable oil governance system and are yet to receive sustainable vegetable oil certification.

Since its enforcement from 2008 through 2015, about 5 percent of all internationally distributed palm oil is certified sustainable palm oil (Table 1). No other vegetable oils have been certified.

Table 1:     Sustainable Palm Oil Certification (CSPO + CSPK) in Global Vegetable Oils Year 2015

Type of Vegetable Oil Volume (in million tons)
Uncertified Sustainability Certified Sustainability Subtotal
Palm Oil 52.1 12.9 65
Soybean Oil 53.8 0 53.8
Rapeseed Oil 26.6 0 26.6
Sunflower Oil 16.7 0 16,7
Palm Kernel Oil 3.8 3 6.8
Groundnut Oil 5.6 0 5.6
Cottonseed Oil 4.5 0 4.5
Coconut Oil 3.4 0 3.4
Olive Oil 2.8 0 2.8
Total 169.3 15.9 185.2

Source: RSPO (2016)

In conclusion, palm oil is the only global vegetable oil that has undergone and received sustainable certification.

Based on the RSPO’s 2016 data, Indonesia’s production of certified sustainable palm oil is actually much higher when compared to other palm oil-producing countries (Figure 1). Almost 60 percent of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and certified sustainable palm kernel oil (CSPK) distributed globally comes from Indonesia. Malaysia is the second highest producer of CSPO/CSPK, followed by Papua New Guinea and Brazil.

Figure 1:    CSPO-Producing Countries by Production Volume (RSPO, 2016)*per 30 June 2016

Bearing in mind that the data for Indonesia’s CSPO and CSPK in Figure 1 reflects only the data gathered by the RSPO and has yet to be merged with the data from ISPO, it also does not take into account the production volume of oil palm plantation companies undergoing the ISPO or RSPO certification process. If all data were included (because in reality, palm oil products have met sustainability standards), then the actual production volume of CSPO from Indonesia would be much higher. The Agriculture Ministry is currently accelerating the implementation of ISPO, including for oil palm smallholdings. It is targeting 80 percent of existing oil palm plantations in Indonesia to become ISPO-certified by 2020.

The data shows that Indonesia is not only the world’s largest palm oil producer, but also the world’s largest producer of certified sustainable palm oil. Do producers of global soybean oil, rapeseed oil, and sunflower oil implement sustainable plantation management as Indonesian’s palm oil producers do? What about the producers of other agricultural products, as well as oil, gas, mineral mining and industrial products – Have they also applied a sustainable management system and received certification? It is important to ask such questions, because a sustainable ecosystem can only be realized when all other sectors, industries, regional administrations, products and commodities – not only oil palm businesses and palm oil – are also sustainable.

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