Palm oil plantations are destroying animal habitats, threatening forest peoples, and ravaging rainforests in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea. However it doesn’t have to be that way – Hondupalma just became the world’s most sustainable palm oil plantation thanks to a certification from the Rainforest Alliance. The 9,500-hectare plantation invested two years and a total of $2.5 million to achieve the certification, and as a result there have been significant economic, social, and environmental benefits across the entire community.
Rainforest Alliance Certification requires 10 principles to be followed. Some of these points include the reduced use of agrochemicals, better recycling and waste disposal systems, ensuring the well-being of workers and their families, and protecting endangered species and forest areas deemed to have high conservation value.
As pointed out by TreeHugger‘s Katherine Martinko, the cooperative has seen a 15-20 percent increase in crop yields, spent less money, and benefited from other environment gains, such as more abundant wildlife and undergrowth within the plantations, all because of reduce agrochemical use. The benefits aren’t just environmental however – members of the association also had their houses renovated to meet certification standards, and Hondupalma donates money to a local government-owned school.
Hondupalma even managed to teach the Rainforest Alliance a thing or two about being more socially minded. Workers at the plantation received significantly higher wages than they would elsewhere, thanks to the fact that profits are shared between all of the cooperatives members. Certified farms are only required to pay the national minimum wage, which is often woefully inadequate. Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) and Rainforest Alliance told Martinko that they are now working together to try and address discrepancies between minimum and local wages.
Hondupalma proves that certification can really benefit everyone – especially in industries such as palm oil that suffer a poor reputation around the world. It also shows that when people work towards a common goal, the outcome can be truly astounding.