Certification history and sustainable palm oil
Whilst UP has focused on responsible agricultural production for generations, our formal journey towards being recognized as a certified producer of sustainable palm oil commenced in September 2003 when we were audited by ProForest and became the world’s first audited producer and processor of sustainability produced palm oil in accordance with the Swiss supermarket chain, Migros’ principles and criteria on sustainable palm oil.
UP and the World’s First RSPO Certificate in 2008
Our entire oil palm plantations in Malaysia were successfully certified in accordance with the RSPO Principles and Criteria on the 26th August 2008 thus becoming the world’s first producer of certified sustainable palm oil. For more information on our progress in RSPO certification, please refer to https://www.rspo.org/members/33/united-plantations-bhd
UP’s role regarding the RSPO remain one of being active and in this connection, we are pleased to state that our Company was one of the initial palm plantations signatories to the RSPO in 2004. Shortly after the establishment of the RSPO, UP was a part of the initial stakeholders group involved in developing the principles and criteria to define sustainable palm oil.
In 2022, all of our estates and mills including our newly acquired plantation, Tanarata Estate have been successfully certified against the new RSPO Principles and Criteria 2018 which demonstrate a stringent compliance on No Deforestation, No New Planting on Peat regardless its Depth and No Exploitation of Workers and Local Communities (NDPE).
For our Indonesian operations, UP/PTSSS have successfully obtained the certificate for the entire HGU* area of 6717.62ha in December 2019. The Annual Surveillance Assessment is ongoing.
The Time-Bound Plan for the balance uncertified areas will be in tandem with the issuance of HGU certificates by the Government of Indonesia. This is expected by 2023.
For our Plasma scheme smallholders, the full certification is expected by 2023 subject to the issuance of individual land certificates by the local government.
*HGU refers to the certificate on land cultivation rights title issued by the Government of Indonesia.
UP and RSPO NEXT Certificate in 2017
In 2017, United Plantations became the first Company in the Asia Pacific to become RSPO NEXT certified by taking on the challenge and voluntarily pursuing to obtain the RSPO NEXT Certification for two (2) of our business units and were successful in becoming the first Company in the Asia Pacific to become RSPO NEXT certified. Nevertheless, upon successfully obtaining the RSPO NEXT Certificate, it became clear that the early made commitments to uptake this higher sustainability standard within the RSPO disappeared with western CGMs and other clients showing no interest.
The RSPO NEXT has been carved out in such a way that is based on fulfilling the spirit of “Commensurate Effort”. Commensurate Effort in this sense obliges not just the eligible growers to produce but also commits any eligible buyer such as consumer goods manufacturers or retailers to also fulfil their part of the shared responsibility namely, to offtake or purchase RSPO NEXT Certified Palm Oil thereby not inducing growers these ever stringent and high sustainability criteria only find out that there is no demand. As there has been no demand for RSPO NEXT products in the market, UP has decided not to proceed with RSPO NEXT Certification in 2019, even though we are confident of fulfilling our commitment by going beyond the RSPO standard compliance. In addition, with the revised RSPO P&C Standards 2018 which has been voted through on 15th November 2018 we can see that the RSPO Standards has moved closer to the RSPO NEXT Standards.
UP’s involvement in the RSPO today and in the past
Today our CED, Dato’ Carl Bek-Nielsen is the Co-Chairman of the RSPO Board of Governors representing the Malaysian Palm Oil Association’s seat. He was elected to this position in November 2014 and has thereby actively participated in and helped to oversee important developments and decisions within the RSPO. UP’s role regarding the RSPO remains one of being active and in this connection, we are pleased to state that our Company was one of the initial palm plantations signatories to the RSPO in 2004. Shortly after the establishment of the RSPO, UP was a part of the initial stakeholder group involved in developing the principles and criteria to define sustainable palm oil.
UP’s RSPO certified sustainable production volumes
Our capability of supplying sustainably certified, traceable, and high-quality palm oil and palm kernel oil is an important part of our commitment to customers. Our total RSPO certified and traceable quantity available based on our own production was approximately 227,000MT of palm oil and 45,500MT of palm kernels in 2021.
Global supply and demand for RSPO certified palm oil
Whilst it is commendable that approximately 19% of the world production of palm oil is now certified by the RSPO it is unfortunately still a fact that the global uptake of RSPO certified palm oil was only 8,713,872MT or 64.6% of the supply amounting to 13,489,144MT in 2021.
The RSPO certified oil not purchased will end up in the supply chain without being sold as certified sustainable palm oil. The oil will be downgraded to conventional palm oil which send a negative message to responsible growers worldwide regarding the effort they put into producing the sustainable palm oil.
It is, however, most pleasing that the concept of commensurate effort/shared responsibility has now been incorporated within the new RSPO P&C 2018, whereby the participation of the consumer goods manufacturers (CGMs) and retailers has led to a slight increase in the demand for RSPO certified products in 2021. More attention needs to be given to further raising the uptake of certified sustainable RSPO Palm oil by the CGMs and retailers by demonstrating greater level of ownership which so far is still not up to mark.
Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) Certification
The Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) standard is a national certification standard created by the Malaysian Government and developed with input from stakeholders in the palm oil industry.
We are pleased to announce that all of our mills and estates in Malaysia have successfully obtained the MSPO Certificates in August and September 2018. Our newly acquired plantation, Tanarata Estate has successfully obtained MSPO certification in April 2022.
Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) Certification
The Indonesian Government established a mandatory certification scheme in 2011, namely the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil Principles & Criteria (ISPO) to ensure that all producers within a few years will have to live up to certain standards when operating in Indonesia.
We are pleased to announce that we have successfully obtained the ISPO initial certificate for the entire HGU* area of 6717.62ha in August 2019 and subsequent Annual Surveillance Audits are ongoing.
*HGU refers to the certificate on land cultivation rights title issued by the Government of Indonesia.
Please click here to view our ISPO certificate for PTSSS.
Our Commitment in food safety for sustainable and consistent high- quality products is endorsed by relevant international certification bodies.
Quality and Food Safety Policy
Unitata and UniFuji are fully committed to producing high quality palm oil products which are safe for human consumption that meets the statutory and legal requirements for the overall satisfaction of her customers.
As part of our commitment to uphold Unitata and UniFuji as premium oil quality producers, much emphasis is placed on quality assurance throughout the various stages in both refineries.
This is evidenced through our continuous investments in the latest process technology and sophisticated analytical equipment that provide accurate and timely controls to ensure customer satisfaction on high product quality and food safety.
Edible Oil Refining and Specialty Fats Production
Attention to quality, investment in production facilities and ongoing product development are priorities in order for Unitata and UniFuji to meet challenging and changing customer demands.
In order to cater for the growing demand of high-quality products our refineries are equipped with automated manufacturing processes such as Neutralization, Bleaching, Deodorization, Fractionation, Interesterification and Packaging of specialty fats and oils.
Thorough process controls and a disciplined manufacturing culture help ensure that quality assurance is in place to comply with customer requirements.
Consumers today are placing an increased focus on safety and health in relation to food production, and demand transparent and traceable supply chains based on processes that reduce processing aids, water, energy and the overall GHG footprint. Furthermore, social care and strong emphasis on human rights for employees are increasingly seen as non-negotiable principles, as well as protection of fragile ecosystems including Peat land and forests.
In UP and all our subsidiaries, we are committed to being a part of this positive change by providing the highest quality of certified sustainable and traceable Palm Oil products and services to customers worldwide.
Food Safety and Certifications
To keep up with increasing demands on traceability in the supply chain, we have obtained numerous local and international certifications as follows:
ISO 9001, HACCP, Halal, Kosher, BRC, FDA, SEDEX, RSPO SCCS, MSPO SCCS, GMP, GMP+ B2 Feed Safety, MeSTI and MPCA.
ISO 9001, HACCP, Halal, Kosher, FSSC 22000, FDA, SEDEX, RSPO SCCS, MSPO SCCS, GMP and MeSTI.
As a requirement for the above-mentioned certifications, Unitata and UniFuji are audited annually by the various certification bodies and by customers. To improve and further strengthen our supply chain transparency, Unitata had been audited under SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit) a platform that encompass four pillars of responsible practices, ie. Labour, Health and Safety, Environment and Business Ethics. In March 2020, UniFuji has been audited by Verite and Arche Advisors, two independent and non-profit organizations , with the purpose of transparently improving safety and human rights gaps within our supply chain.
In addition, Unitata is continuously auditing and assessing our key suppliers of raw materials, packaging, and ingredients based on our established risk assessment procedures. All packed products are traceable to their raw materials including additives and packaging materials via batch and code numbers printed on the labels, which meet the requirements of the Malaysian Food Act and the requirements of the respective export markets. Furthermore, Unitata and UniFuji have established and validated our process controls to consistently minimize the risk of contaminants and meet the highest food safety standards.
Both refineries also emphasize on the element of food defence as part of product security. This assures the protection of our products from malicious contamination, adulteration or theft, and in this connection, relevant food safety training is of high priority for all employees in order to keep abreast with the increasingly demanding food safety requirements.
LOW 3-MCPD, Glycidyl Esters and MOSH & MOAH
3-MCPD and Glycidyl Esters are contaminants formed during the processing (refining) of edible oils and fats and has recently become a topic of concern for vegetable oil refiners and consumers based on a report published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in May 2016.
The EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) published the results of its assessment of the safety of 3-MCPD and Glycidyl esters with respect to human health. Available evidence from animal studies indicates that kidney toxicity is the most critical health effect of 3-MCPD in rats. Using this data, EFSA established a tolerable daily intake (TDI) for 3-MCPD for humans which represents the maximum amount that can be consumed daily over a lifetime without being harmful to health. It includes a very large margin of safety.
In line with our focus on sustaining and improving the production of high quality products within our Group much attention is directed towards reducing contaminants in our supply chain. This dedicated focus has enabled us to produce refined palm oil with levels of 3-MCPD and Glycidyl Esters that are amongst the lowest in the industry.
This is a testimony to more than 4 decades of research activities undertaken at our Unitata refinery combined with our Group’s dedicated quality commitment within all parts of our supply chain.
MOSH and MOAH
Of nearly equal repute in being a contaminant to final oils and fats is the new and emerging contaminant called Mineral Oil Hydrocarbons (MOH). It encompasses two main sub groups namely saturated hydrocarbons, generally present at a ratio of 80/20 with MOAH trailing behind MOSH.
MOSH is believed to accumulate in human tissue and cause adverse effects to the liver while MOAH, the greater menace of the two, is reported to be genotoxic carcinogens and may cause damage to the DNA leading to cancer. Hitherto, there has been no binding threshold limits set by the EU legislature save for Germany. Currently, customers favour suppliers whose thresholds, through consensus, are guided by the rule as low as reasonably achievable, ALARA.
In this respect a task force on MOSH/MOAH chaired by our CED was set up in 2018 to initiate a clear goal to meet the ALARA levels. Since then, baseline occurrence of the contaminant has been drawn and ensuing mitigation efforts have been carried out both through the plantation, mill and the refineries. As a result of these stringent quality controls and assessments, UP, Unitata and UniFuji are today able to meet the very stringent customer demand for oils used in especially the production of infant formulas. We are committed to further reducing the levels of these contaminants to the benefit of the customers globally.
For more information on sustainability and food safety certifications of Unitata refinery, please click here.
For more information on sustainability and food safety certifications of UniFuji refinery, please click here.