Just Transition in the Palm Oil Industry: International Webinar

by | Jan 20, 2022 | Uncategorized

Term of Reference


The palm oil industry is booming for several reasons, especially the need for investment to increase economic growth. With the paradigm of economic growth, the government sees that the palm oil industry is able to absorb labor and generate large foreign exchange for the country. The palm oil industry is manifested in the form of a large-scale, monoculture, capital-intensive business, the use of large land areas, large labor organization, detailed division of labor, the use of wage labor, a complex structure of labor relations as its effort to meet the global market demand.

The palm oil industry is a major contributor to global warming and species extinction. The constant expansion of new monocultures in Indonesia, Malaysia as well as in Africa and Latin America is increasingly destroying rainforests. The direct contribution of the presence of oil palm plantations is the creation of job opportunities. The absorption of labor in the palm oil industry and its plantation generates a fairly large number compared to other industries. But  the fact  millions of workers on oil palm plantations are precarious status, low wages, minimal health insurance and suppression on unions.

Sustainable palm oil plantations propagated by corporations does not solve the problem. That is why an alliance of trade unions, women’s organizations and the environment from Indonesia wants to develop its own strategy for an ecologically and socially just restructuring of the palm oil industry. A “mosaic landscape” that combines small-scale palm oil production with contiguous rainforest areas and agroforestry systems, and which relies on the work of well-paid ecologists, could be part of the solution.

Transnational Palm Oil Labour Solidarity Network (TPOLS) has formulated the paper “A Just Transition in the Palm Industry”. This paper is the result of preparatory discussions within the TPOLS network. The paper describes the socio-ecological transformation of industries that face the demands of labor and environmental justice. Does the “Just Transition” perspective developed by the workers offer solutions to pressing social and ecological problems in the palm oil sector? What are the similarities but also contradictions between workers and indigenous peoples in forest areas? Is it possible for trade unions and workers’ movements to accept calls for a socially and ecologically just transformation of collective bargaining and use their power to achieve this goal? The paper is intended to initiate a wider discussion on Just Transition perspectives for the palm oil industry.



The launch of the English version of the paper continues from the launches in Indonesian and German languages aimed at specific audiences in those countries. It is intended to introduce the idea of labour-led Just Transition to an international community of activists and scientists working on the palm oil industry. In contrast to the previous launches, the English launch will be held in Indonesian and English, with simultaneous translation on Zoom.

  1. Introduce the concept of Just Transition in relation to the palm oil industry
  2. Introduce the project
  3. Facilitate a reflection and discussion of our initial ideas
  4. Generate ideas that can be useful for the success of the project
  5. Win collaborators from trade unions in other countries (palm oil, plantation, and agrifood industries, International Union of Food Workers IUF, etc), from international NGOs and from the Climate Justice Movement to engage with the project and to establish a systematic exchange on Just Transition perspectives in other countries, along the supply chain and in related sectors.


Target Audience

  1. Trade Unions. For the English/Indonesian launch, efforts should be made to invite trade union activists from different countries that organise palm oil and other plantation workers, workers in the agrifood business, and workers in related industries along the supply chain. The event will also try to identify and invite trade unionists working on Just Transition in other sectors.
  2. If possible, the event will try to include workers and not only trade union organisers.
  3. Climate Justice Movement. The palm oil industry is a major contributor to climate change. ‘Just Transition’ strategies are an important part of the movement for climate justice. The event aim to invite as many people as possible from the Climate Justice Movement to encourage an active alliance with the labour movement.
  4. International NGOs. Many international NGOs and donors work in Indonesia and on palm oil in general, and many are looking for new perspectives for change. Introducing the paper and the project could establish links for further collaboration and funding in the future.
  5. General audience. The launch will be made widely available on social media to enable the participation of interested persons in the general public. It might inspire them to organise their own meetings on Just Transition in the Palm Oil industry and to become active in solidarity work with TPOLS.



  • Hotler “Zidane”Parsaroan (Sawit Watch)
  • Fitri Arianti (Indonesia Rainforest Action Network Coordinator)
  • Michaela Haug (Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology University of Cologne)



The format of introduction by authors of the paper with commentaries by key persons from relevant movements was successful in both the Indonesian and German language launches. The commentators come from organisations or movements we are interested in collaborating with, and should reflect different perspectives from labour, agrarian and environmental justice movements.

  1. International Trade Union (to be announced)
  2. Isaac Rojas (Friends Of The Earth International-Costa Rica)
  3. Yason Ngelia (West Papuan young activist, Lao-Lao Papua)
  4. Dr. Pujo Semedi Hargo Yuwono (Gadjah Mada University, Department of Anthropology)



Date: Friday, January 28th, 2022

Time: 8 PM Jakarta/ 2 PM European time/ 08.00 AM New York time

Zoom link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84067003542 Meeting ID : 840 6700 3542

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