Asia School of Business and Procter & Gamble Detail Sustainability Success in New Book

The Center for Sustainable Small-Owners (CSS) at the Asia School of Business (ASB) in Kuala Lumpur, and Procter & Gamble (P&G) shared the successes and learnings from their Sustainability Journey in a book Road to Certified Sustainable Palm Oil: A Sustainability Journey from the Fields of Johor.

The book, launched at the beginning of the annual Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) conference (RT2023) in Jakarta, Indonesia today, shares the details of a Sustainability Journey developed by CSS in guiding and facilitating the RSPO certification of 407 independent smallholder (ISH) farmers under the P&G Smallholder Program.

In August 2021, the program successfully saw its inaugural group of 101 ISHs become the first group of independent smallholders in Malaysia to achieve the RSPO Independent Smallholder (ISH) Standard certification, which was awarded to Pertubuhan Tani Niaga Lestari Negeri Johor (PERTANIAGA) as Group Manager.

The book launch held at the beginning of RT2023’s Smallholder Linking and Learning Workshop, themed “Partners for the Next 20” Towards Enterprising ISH Groups, was attended by P&G Chemical’s Sustainability Director, Francis Wiederkehr and Director and Principal Scientist, P&G Global Sustainability, Dr. Lee Kuan Chun; CSS Director, Dr. Asad Ata; RSPO Secretariat’s Technical Director, Francisco Naranjo, and Head of RSPO’s Smallholder Unit, Guntur Cahya Prabowo.

It was also attended by RSPOs Smallholder Regional Managers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Latin America, and Africa. The event was attended by over 80 participants from among the smallholder farmers from the host country, Indonesia, as well as India, Malaysia and Thailand, Latin America and Africa.

Francis Wiederkehr shared that the P&G Smallholder Program, which started in 2019 aims to act as a force for good to enable our smallholders to make progress in their sustainable farming journey, gain recognition and achieve RSPO certification. He said: “We are proud of this program, which is powered by on the ground local expertise with a strong team of field officers, researchers and agronomists led by CSS Director Dr. Asad Ata.

“Within only four years, we’ve partnered with our independent smallholders to help them establish their own independent smallholder association, PERTANIAGA (in 2021) and worked together to help them become the first ISH association in Malaysia to achieve RSPO certification.

“To date the program has supported and guided 407 ISHs towards achieving RSPO’s ISH certification. In 2023, the program introduced an initiative creating awareness on Sustainable and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and to date has trained over 1,000 smallholders. “

The program is working with another 400+ PERTANIAGA members, who are expected to be RSPO certified in 2024.

RSPO commended P&G and CSS on the launch of this book, citing it as an insightful journey into the implementation of 2019 RSPO ISH Standard. Guntur Cahyo Prabowo, Head of Smallholders Unit, RSPO said, “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.

“As such, they are an integral component to the overall quest to achieve greater levels of sustainability within the sector. As of September 2023, over 35,000 ISH farmers have been certified under the RSPO’s rigorous ISH Standard, covering a certified production area of 100,078 hectares across 7 countries. This book pays tribute to their inspiring journey towards certification and sustainability.”

CSS Director, Dr. Asad Ata shared that smallholder farmers contribute a substantial 40% of the global palm oil supply. “In Malaysia, 16% of small farmers are independent, and the industry provides employment to over half a million people and livelihood to an estimated one million,” he said.

“Being certified helps farmers achieve awareness of sustainability as a shared responsibility while increasing the marketability of their produce. It allows them to benefit from RSPO premium, where our group of certified ISHFs, from the districts of Batu Pahat and Pontian in Johor, have collectively received RSPO premium of over USD42.5 thousand in 2021 and 2022.”

He expressed hope that many more groups beyond Johor and even Malaysia, will be able to benefit from the publication of the CSS Sustainability Journey Book, which 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. The eBook “Road to Certified Sustainable Palm Oil: A Sustainability Journey from the Fields of Johor” can be accessed at  

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