“Palm oil is a blessing for Indonesia – we are blessed with fertile natural resources, adequate rainfall and sunshine.” Susanto Yang, CEO Sinar Mas Plantation VII, West Kalimantan.
According to Badan Pengelola Dana Perkebunan Kelapa Sawit (BPDP Sawit), Indonesian palm oil companies provide jobs for approximately 3.3 million people, and had a total export value of Rp 240 trillion in 2016. The palm oil industry is certainly important for the country’s economy. Unfortunately, the palm oil industry is often portrayed negatively in the media with a focus on issues such as environmental damage, inadequate labour facilities, and forest fires.
In order to provide understanding of sustainability practices and achievements, as a publicly-listed and integrated palm oil-based consumer products company in Indonesia, we felt there was a need to build better synergy between the industry’s stakeholders and media. Therefore, SMART organised the inaugural Sustainable Palm Oil Master Class programme on July 25-26, 2017, inviting journalists and employees to understand more on communicating about palm oil. As a relatively new employee, I attended the training as a participant and learnt news writing techniques, journalistic ethics, and SMART sustainability practices and achievements that are aligned with our GAR Social and Environmental Policy (GSEP).
Speakers who were invited to lead training sessions were part of different aspects of the palm oil industry such as Trainer of Gabungan Pengusaha Kelapa Sawit Indonesia (GAPKI) South Kalimantan, Untung J Wiyono and Director of Badan Pengelola Dana Perkebunan (BPDP) South Kalimantan, Herdrajat Natawidjaja. Senior Editor of news publication TEMPO, M.Taufiqurahman, was present as a facilitator and provided guidance on news writing techniques. Chairman of the Press Council of Indonesia, Yosep Stanley Adi Prasetyo, also shared as a speaker about the media’s obligation to be objective and balanced in presenting the news, “Every piece of news should always put forward the aspects of neutrality, based on facts, and uphold the code of journalistic ethics.”
After participating in this Sustainable Palm Oil Master Class programme themed “Transformation of Sustainable Palm Oil Production in Indonesia, Our Journey and Responsibility Together”, I gained an understanding of the importance of the media and palm oil stakeholders working closely to portray a more accurate depiction of the industry. While companies need to provide clear information for the media when issues arise, journalists also need to ensure factual and balanced new coverage. We hope to continue rolling out the programme to other stakeholders and journalists who are involved in the palm oil, to educate and then work together in painting an accurate picture of the industry, as we know that palm oil industry has helped to grow country’s economy and improved the welfare of our beloved nation.