The Secretariat of Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (hereinafter “Sec-CPOPC”) has sent an objection letter dated 4 August 2020 to IKEA for selling children’s books that are denigrating palm oil and presenting false information. The letter was sent to the CEO of IKEA Mr Jesper Brodin to respond one of the two book’s titles called Orangutan is Scared and Love the Orangutan which chose to pull at the heartstrings of children and their families with its tale of the orangutan hunted by evil palm oil plantation growers. This is an example of misinformation that is contributory in misleading consumers and boycotting palm oil in some of Western countries.
The Sec-CPOPC is of view that an educational children’s book should be a good opportunity to recount the daily efforts of millions of small farmers to preserve biodiversity as well as the orangutans. Unfortunately, these books have opted for an ideological rhetoric. While any crop cultivation would present a risk to the existence of orangutans and many other species, there is no need to falsely portray it in a dramatic manner to children.
The Sec-CPOPC is admitting that the cases of orangutans have happened in the past, but these are isolated incidents, which are now subject to prosecution. Orangutans now are welcomed and protected in today’s plantations, thanks also to the efforts of many non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Instead of recounting a false narrative, the books could have told orangutans and human’s coexistence, efforts of millions of small farmers to exit poverty, and education access obtained by millions of children provided by the oil palm plantations.
Many of our associates and small farmers’ organisations have expressed to us their disappointment over the books being sold in the IKEA’s stores. The publication of these books indeed goes against the IKEA’s commitment to sustainability and responsibility toward stakeholders, including the company’s target market. It is hard to explain to them why IKEA, a member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), who is in the forefront of sustainability efforts, has chosen to publish a text that calls for palm oil to be boycotted.
IKEA has Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur-based offices and acquires increasingly bigger market share in the countries. The Sec-CPOPC suggests that a successful marketing expansion should also take into account the sensitivity of the debate on palm oil in palm oil producing countries, and a far more balanced assessment of global sustainability and the environment. The Sec-CPOPC is inviting the IKEA to consider a partnership to improve and strengthen sustainability, including concrete cooperation in preserving the orangutans.