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By Devane Sharma

Why Is Palm Oil the Most Common Vegetable Oil Around Us?

Palm oil and its derivatives can be found all around us. They can be found in roughly 50% of packaged products, from chocolate and pizza to shampoo and toothpaste1. Palm oil’s nearly ubiquitous nature results from oil palm being an extremely efficient crop. Compared to other types of vegetable oil, oil palms require smaller land areas to produce high quantities of oil and do so all year round.

Replacing palm oil with other vegetable oils, like rapeseed, sunflower seed, or soy, requires 4 to 7 times more land, which would result in tremendous levels of deforestation. While oil palms are not a perfect crop, they can be grown more sustainably.

How Can Palm Oil be Grown Sustainably?

Here are a few ways Musim Mas goes beyond industry-recognized sustainability standards to lead the evolution of the palm oil industry:

  • NDPE Policies: Musim Mas’ No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) policy goes beyond legal and certification requirements to ensure that palm oil is produced sustainably and protects workers’ rights, communities, and indigenous peoples.
  • RSPO Certification: 100% of Musim Mas’ mills with integrated plantations are certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), meeting stringent principles and criteria of the globally recognized standard for sustainable palm oil.
  • POIG Verification: The Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) has established yet more stringent standards for protecting biodiversity, peatlands, forests, and carbon while supporting local communities and workers. Musim Mas was the first Southeast Asian palm oil major to join POIG and has since achieved 100% POIG verification for its RSPO-certified mills.

Musim Mas pushes for positive change in the industry on multiple levels. Some other collaborations and partnerships include those with Consortium of Resource Experts (CORE), Earthqualizer, Fire Free Alliance, High Carbon Stock (HCS) Approach Steering Group, Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO), PONGO Alliance, Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) 2020, Verité, and more.

Challenges for Smallholder Farmers in the Oil Palm Industry

Smallholder farmers own 20 hectares or less of planted oil palms, making up roughly 40% of oil palm plantations in Indonesia. While the family provides most of the labor, smallholder farmers still need access to capital and financial support to assist with harvesting, replanting and to avoid slash-and-burn agriculture.

Musim Mas’ Smallholders Program helps integrate smallholders into sustainable palm oil supply chains. It features a curriculum developed around five components: Yield, market access replanting, legitimacy, and alternative livelihoods.

Built in-line with our NDPE policy, the program is geared toward supporting smallholders with good agricultural practices, financial literacy, and personal nutrition—amongst other things to improve their livelihoods. Musim Mas’ Smallholders Program has already resulted in over 35,000 smallholders being trained as of July 2022.

Summary of Oil Palm Growth

Palm oil is the world’s most widely-used vegetable oil. As the most sustainable oil from a land-use point of view, it will continue to play an essential role in meeting the world’s demand for vegetable oils and their derivatives. Guided by its NDPE policy, smallholders program, and certification standards, Musim Mas believes that its production can be sustainable while meeting a growing demand for vegetable oils across the supply chain.