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Sustainability Journey in Johor: New Book Shares Story of Malaysian Smallholders’ Road to RSPO Certification


A group of Malaysian independent smallholders obtaining the RSPO Independent Smallholder (ISH) Standard Certification have commemorated their sustainability journey in the book, “The Road to Certified Sustainable Palm Oil: A Sustainability Journey from the Fields of Johor”, which was launched at the recently concluded RSPO Annual Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT2023) in Jakarta, Indonesia. The book details the sustainability journey developed by the Center for Sustainable Small-owners (CSS) at the Asia School of Business (ASB) in Kuala Lumpur to facilitate the RSPO Certification of 407 independent smallholders under the Procter & Gamble (P&G) Smallholder Programme.

In August 2021, the programme successfully saw the certification of the inaugural group of 101 independent smallholders in Malaysia, awarded to Pertubuhan Tani Niaga Lestari Negeri Johor (PERTANIAGA) as Group Manager. The book describes in detail the flow of activities mapped to RSPO ISH Standard requirements, and provides guidance on developing documentation and training curriculum to support the journey towards achieving or facilitating certification. P&G Chemical’s Sustainability Director Francis Wiederkehr shared, “The P&G Smallholder Programme, which started in 2019, aims to act as a force for good to enable our smallholders to progress in their sustainable farming journey, gain recognition and achieve RSPO Certification.”

Within four years since the Smallholder Programme began, P&G partnered with independent smallholders to help them establish PERTANIAGA as their own independent smallholder association in 2021. To date, the programme has supported and guided 407 ISHs towards achieving RSPO’s ISH certification. In 2023, the programme introduced an initiative creating awareness on Sustainable and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and has trained over 1,000 smallholders to date. Another 400 PERTANIAGA members who are part of the programme are expected to be RSPO Certified in 2024.

Guntur Cahyo Prabowo, RSPO Head of Smallholder Program (Global), remarked, “This book pays tribute to smallholders’ inspiring journey towards certification and sustainability. Certified against the RSPO’s rigorous ISH Standard, smallholders protect, conserve and enhance ecosystems and the environment by ensuring that oil palm production is sustainable. They are integral to our overall quest to achieve greater levels of sustainability within the sector.” As of September 2023, over 35,000 independent smallholder farmers have been certified under the RSPO ISH Standard, covering a certified production area of 100,078 hectares across 7 countries.

CSS Director, Dr. Asad Ata said, “Being certified helps smallholder farmers become aware about sustainability as a shared responsibility, while increasing the marketability of their produce. It also allows them to benefit from RSPO premiums, of which our group of certified independent smallholder farmers from the districts of Batu Pahat and Pontian in Johor, have collectively received over US$42,000 in 2021 and 2022.”

Wiederkehr added, “With the sharing of our combined experiences in this smallholder journey in Johor, P&G-CSS hopes to inspire other companies and industry stakeholders to pursue certification initiatives for ISHs. While challenging, they are greatly rewarding in terms of creating a positive and hopefully long-term impact.” Access the eBook “Road to Certified Sustainable Palm Oil: A Sustainability Journey from the Fields of Johor” by clicking here.

This article was originally published on RSPO.