Book Review: Label Hijau, Kompilasi Pengetahuan dan Pengalaman Sertifikasi Ekolabel di Indonesia

By Lembaga Ekolabel Indonesia, July 2005

Roughly translated, the title of this publication reads: ‘Green Label, a Compilation of Knowledge and Experience of Ecolabel Certification in Indonesia’. It is divided into four main sections, titled ‘Certification and the Natural Forest Rescue’, ‘Certification of Plantation Forests’, ‘Certification and Society’ and ‘Labelling Sea Produce and Rottan’. The book comprises 373 pages (+ 24 pages of introduction) and is wrapped in a soft cover. Whoever expects a state-of-the-art discourse on ecolabel certification will be disappointed. The book starts with a note from the publisher, which explains that the book is a selection of case studies by participants of LEI’s certification training. The statement doesn’t clarify the relevant experience of the contributors, an issue which remains enigmatic throughout the book. The provided biographies are a jumble of trivia, including details of kindergarten, primary schooling and addresses. If the authors have any experience in ecolabel certification at all, this is also not reflected in their references. Only 3 out of 23 contributions provide references to public documents on ecolabel certification.

Analysis of the first section of the book again provides little reassurance on the experience of the contributors. In one piece “ancient” field visits (1995/1996) are discussed as current findings. Another item discusses Guatemalan case studies without justifying their relevance for Indonesia. Yet another exposé erroneously claims a forest concession must be conflict free prior to certification. One article recommends that ecolabel certification must function as formal recognition of natural resource rights. One write-up – referring to seed certification – is so irrelevant to ecolabel certification it is ambiguous why it is included. None of the contributions analyses the link between certification and the rescue of natural forest (the title of the first section). Only one contribution clearly rises above the standard of the book. A paper by Asep Sugih Santana introduces forest certification as an alternative to combat illegal logging. The problem statement is to the point and well defined, with clear references for further study. The discussion of the problem is presented in a clear and logical way. A quick assessment of the other sections indicates it doesn’t get much better.

An implicit but repeating issue in the contributions is the lack of understanding of ecolabel certification. The contributors neither define ecolabel certification nor verify their personal doctrines regarding the issue. This results in the examples of misperception and propaganda in the paragraph above. The book doesn’t recognise this, and consequently fails to address a major issue in ecolabelling in Indonesia. Worse, LEI implicitly sanctions the misperception and propaganda by publishing the contributions without any commentary. The various contributors can now point to this publication to validate their point of view.

The information in this book raises many questions. For instance, quite notable are the numerous typo’s and spelling errors, missing and erroneous references and illegible maps. Does LEI implement quality control and peer reviewing for its publications? Also, claiming data accuracy down to 50 m2 based on Landsat imagery (accurate down to some 1,000 m2) is dysfunctional. Does LEI maintain expertise to recognise such redundant errors? Also, two discourses report occurrences of illegal logging and other serious violations prior to and during the certification of Diamond Raya Timber. Does this mean that LEI certifies a concession that violates its principles and criteria? Information lacking from the book is also very striking. For example, legal issues regarding ecolabel certification have surfaced in the last two years. None of these issues are discussed. Equally, various concessions have passed the LEI certification scheme; Erna Djuliawati, Intracawood Manufacturing, Sari Bumi Kusuma and Sumalindo Lestari Jaya II come to mind. Yet none of these concessions is mentioned in the book. Neither does the book include contributions from forest auditors. How can LEI release a ‘compilation of knowledge and experience of ecolabel certification’ without including practical experience of these practitioners of ecolabel certification?

Bart W van Assen
September 26th, 2005

LEI was provided with a draft version of this review on September 19th 2005 and commented on September 22nd 2005. These comments were incorporated in this version of the review.