Palm vegetable oil is the most consumed oil globally. Due to its high demand, the vast production of palm oil has consequently led to an increase in conventional farming practices, which predispose people, animals, and the environment to harmful pollutants. It has also contributed to the shortage in biodiversity and palm oil deforestation, which, according to EPOA (European Palm Oil Alliance), is responsible for about 5% of tropical deforestation. With its root production in Malaysia, southeast of Asia, it has been an epitome of palm oil sustainable agriculture among all palm oil-producing areas worldwide.
However, on the upside, sustainable palm oil farming in Malaysia has been successful due to the following principle adaptations:
Transparency in their agricultural practices
The Malaysian palm oil sector is transparent, with fully traceable and transparent supply chains among their core producers. Their primary consumers are also keen to ensure their suppliers achieve Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) guidelines.
Some of the RSPO guidelines include;
- There is no planting of new palm crops where there exist rainforests or areas of high conservation value.
- Use of fire to clear land is prohibited.
- Ensure safe use of pesticides.
- Ensure right working conditions and wages.
- Complying with local, national, and international laws and policies.
- Practicing soil conservation practices, among others.
Social responsibility, health, safety, and employment conditions
The Malaysian palm oil industry is a source of employment to nearly 1 million people. It is also the major contributor to the agricultural sector’s value addition program in Malaysia. Therefore, the industry has improved living standards for thousands of families, thus helping eradicate poverty.
Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Over time, palm oil production has reduced diversity and wiped out native bird and mammal species from the tropical forests. This, however, is counteracted by strict policies aimed at protecting the ecosystem and increasing biodiversity. Some of these policies are as simple as soil conservation measures, anti-poaching campaigns, keeping the water sources clear of pollutions, and not to mention planting more trees.
However, even with such guidelines, deforestation is still a threat to Malaysia’s rainforests. Consequently, the Palm Oil Innovation Group (RSPO NEXT) has devised more stringent standards aimed to protect the environment and communities at large, these include;
- Policy on zero deforestation
- The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions regulations is stricter than ever.
- The game now belongs not only to large stakeholders but also the smallholders who are equipped with business skills and sustainability measures.
- POIG also works to ensure that all suppliers conduct business responsibly.