International Conference on Just Transition in Palm Oil Industry: Meeting Report

by | Mar 13, 2024 | Focus, Report and Publication

In the 21st Century, the palm oil industry is still characterised by serious ecological and social problems. Despite many roundtable discussions and transnational campaigns, production is still based on large-scale monocultures, land- grabbing, and on the exploitation of cheap and precarious workers. This is certified as “sustainable”. Workers, often without a permanent contract or on a decent living wage, know that this is fake news. Instead, monoculture industrial agriculture relies on the exploitation of human and non-human nature to be profitable.

In 28-29th November 2023, an international conference on “Just Transition in the Palm Oil Industry” was held in Sambas, West Kalimantan in Indonesia. The conference was attended by 140 participants, mainly from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia, India, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Germany, and Switzerland. Those who attended are Key grassroots actors who are linked or closely linked with the palm oil industry such as workers and trade unionists, local and indigenous groups, small-scale farmers, environmental justice and agrarian activists, feminist groups, and other allies.

This conference wishes to challenge the current production system and the narrative of “sustainable palm oil” by developing a Just Transition perspective for the Palm Oil Industry. Just Transition means a strategy for change from the view point of workers and the labour movement. Just Transition aims for a social-ecological transformation that focuses on human needs within a zero-carbon economy with respect for more-than-human nature.

We hope to find answers to questions such as: What could a truly socially and ecologically just palm oil production look like? What do workers and the labour movement have to say about the necessary social-ecological transformation of the industry? What lessons can be drawn for other agro-industrial crops? Could a mosaic landscape be an alternative to large-scale monocultures? What about land rights, and the rights of indigenous peoples? What necessary changes are needed along the supply chain? What kind of alliances are necessary and possible? How can workers and trade unions organise to push through the necessary changes?

The objectives of this conference are
1. Deepening of theoretical and practical understanding of the concept of Just Transition for workers, trade unionists, and allies involved in developing such a strategy in practice
2. Envisioning the future: against exploitation, against environmental destruction, on democracy: what do we define as “Transition and/or Just?”
3. Discussion of preliminary results from the pilot phase of the project and concrete plans for implementation of the project with participating activists and organizations
4. Development of international ties for the promotion of the project both in other palm oil areas (Central Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia) and along the global production network
5. Comparative and generalizing perspectives for other agro-industrial value chains

Download the full report here: (to be published)

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