How Sustainable Vegetable Oil Production Contributes to UN SDGs

Emphasising on the awareness of the palm oil’s sector importance for millions of smallholders in the producing countries and building on undeniable academical findings, the webinar “How sustainable vegetable oil production contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goals” was an excellent occasion to discuss, in front of a wide international audience, the main issues around palm oil’s role in the attainment of the UN SDGs.

Opening the events, Tan Sri Datuk Dr. Yusof Basiron, CPOPC’s Executive Director, emphasized that palm oil is the most effective vegetable oil when it comes to land use and it is increasingly being produced in a sustainable way, shining a light on the paradox of the exaggerated scrutinization that this commodity gets from all stakeholders. It was also underlined that palm oil CO2 net contributions are not significant and that then the EU should focus on facts when it regulates this sector.

During the event, experts with different experiences shared the most recent and relevant perspectives on the ways in which the palm oil is contributing to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals set in the UN 2030 Agenda . A particular attention was given to the role that the palm oil supply chain plays to lives of more than 5 million smallholders across the world, whose live hood depends directly on the palm oil.

Dr. Matteo Bellotta, from theEuro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC), presented the study he and his team have conducted on the socio-economic aspects related to palm oil production and the achievement of the UN sustainable development goals. In his presentation Dr Bellotta highlighted that the research has analyzed the ways in which the “conventional” and “sustainable” palm oil contributes to the achievements of the UN sustainable and development goals. He concluded by stating that sustainable palm oil production contributes directly to 8 SDGs and certification schemes are identified as a possibility for improving the socio-economic impacts of the palm oil supply chain. More studies are needed to contextualized the contribution of sustainable palm oil in cultivating countries.

Rukaiyah Rafik, from FORTASBI (Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil Smallholders Forum), presented the experience from the ground activities of the smallholders and the role that the palm oil plays in archiving the SDGs. She also pointed out the importance that the sustainability certifications play for smallholders as these certifications help contribute share best farming practices, respect worker’s rights, work on the climate change issues, and manage farmland from fires. Concrete and visible palm oil contribution to the betterment of the farmers and the communities around palm oil plantations cannot be disregarded.

Zulkifli Alamsyah, a Lecturer at the Agribusiness Study Programme, University of Jambi, and Researcher at the Consortium Studies on Smallholder Palm Oil,outlined  the importance of the role that palm oil plays in the fulfilling the global needs for vegetable oil. He stated that palm oil can be prioritized to protect global land banks from the inevitable increase in vegetable oil production to meet growing global demand. Finally, hestated thatthe palm oil industry influenced substantially to the achievement of seven SDGs indicators (Poverty, Good health and well-being, Education, Inequality, Climate Action, Life on land, and Life Under the Water), and influenced moderately to hunger and decent work indicators. Based on his study, palm oil contributes way more than vegetable oil towards the attainment of SDGs.

Adzmi bin Hassan, from the Malaysian National Association of Smallholders (NASH) urged how the smallholders in the palm oil supply chain contribute to the achievement of the UN SDGs. For Malaysia, the palm oil supply chain contributes to 53.4 % of the total Agri commodity contribution to the national GDP. He also highlighted that the palm oil is the main vegetable oil that has been contributing to the Malaysian economic development, thus directly contributing to UN SDGs. Yet, this is not valued as much as it is needed from the consumer countries as the campaigns against palm oil, even the sustainable one, continue.

A dynamic Q&A session concluded the webinar by giving the chance to the large international audience to raise their questions to the panelists. Within other important points raised was the point on the reasons why the palm oil is perceived negatively from some EU countries given the fact that it is most economically and environmentally efficient vegetable oil, as well as on the role of women in the supply chain.