Palm oil fruit harvest in Malaysia © Craig Morey

Palm oil fruit harvest in Malaysia © Craig Morey

Growers (including both large companies and smallholders) cultivate oil palm trees on plantations, and maintain their concession sites, in order to harvest the fresh fruit bunches (FFBs) used to produce palm oil products. Growers are at the starting point of the palm oil supply chain and, as a stakeholder group, they have direct environmental and social impacts on the ground. Growers are coming under increasing pressure to adopt best practices for sustainability due to a growing awareness downstream and an increase in global demand.
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Palm oil mill in Sabah © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Palm oil mill in Sabah © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Millers extract the oil from FFBs and process it into crude palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm kernel meal or expeller. Oil palm growers and mill operators are interdependent and work closely together in the palm oil supply chain. Palm oil mills are beginning to adopt innovative techniques to manage the by-products of the milling process, including converting waste products into energy, and treating palm oil mill effluent (POME) before releasing it to reduce pollution.
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smallholders congo resized

Smallholders in the Democratic Republic of Congo © Nick Hobgood

Smallholders, defined by the RSPO as working on a plantation of less than 50 hectares, produce 40% of the world’s palm oil. There are many challenges facing smallholders, especially when it comes to sustainability. However, smallholders manage around 4.2 million hectares of land in Indonesia alone, so it is vital that they get support to improve their practices.
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World map showing biodiversity hotspots and areas of biofuel crop cultivation by UNEP/GRID-Arendal

World map showing biodiversity hotspots and areas of biofuel crop cultivation by UNEP/GRID-Arendal

Biofuels are a new generation of fuels that derive their energy from the carbon fixed in vegetation and algae. Palm oil biodiesel offers an alternative source of energy that can reduce current dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels and may reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As the demand for clean energy grows, some energy companies are now increasing production of biofuels made from vegetable oils, including palm oil.
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