Towards a more responsible industry – Sime Darby Plantation’s journey to stop deforestation and raise living standards

As the world continues to scrutinise the palm oil industry and its association with deforestation, the urgency to change the way the industry operates has increased dramatically.

Sime Darby Plantation (SDP), the world’s largest producer of certified sustainable palm oil, shares the concern and is determined to become part of the solution. 

SDP has made it its mission to cultivate palm oil sustainably. The company is one of the founding members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and made its Zero-burning pledge 30 years ago.

To meet global expectations, SDP has aligned its sustainability objectives with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG Goal #12 – ‘Responsible Production and Consumption’ and SDG Goal #8 – ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’.

Many are unaware that oil palm is the most productive vegetable oil crop on the planet, producing more oil per hectare compared to other crops. However, arable land for agricultural activities is becoming scarce and the growth of palm oil industry has been associated to vast deforestation, especially in Southeast Asia. It has also been accused of various human rights abuses.

To address this problem, SDP embarked on a journey to create a superior oil palm seed called the ‘GenomeSelect’ that was developed through genomic selection and prediction process. It has the potential to deliver oil yield improvements of 15% more than the Company’s previous best seed, producing significantly higher yields equivalent to 50,000ha of new land, without having to increase planted areas. The additional yield from ‘GenomeSelect’ can ultimately feed 15 million people and save up to 400,000 ha of land.

Nevertheless, SDP is unable to solve the problem of deforestation by working alone. To ensure that SDP suppliers are also committed to the same No-deforestation pledge, the Company launched their pioneering online traceability tool called ‘Crosscheck’ that enables anyone to trace the supply of palm oil throughout SDP’s supply chain to determine if it is sustainably sourced.

Although the responsible and sustainable production of palm oil plays an important role in SDP, the well-being and livelihoods of workers within the Company’s operations are equally important. The increasingly globalised world and economy has brought a growing recognition that businesses have to protect and promote human rights, and the forefront of basic human rights involves adequate living and working conditions.

SDP has put in place the Central Housing Complex (CHC) in Tennamaram Estate that meets these conditions and provided opportunities for its workers to enjoy a work-life balance, as well as economic growth. The CHC model allows SDP’s workers to provide a holistic living space for their families while ensuring, a safe and enriching working experience within the plantation.  

At SDP, adopting these business practices is about doing business sustainably and responsibly. They are the solutions that the Company offers to protect the long-term prospects of an industry that adds value both economically and socially, if done the right way.