After the black swan event aka the global pandemic of 2020, most of us are looking forward to saying an emphatic goodbye to one of the most tumultuous years in recent history. The world is hoping that 2021 will see a return to something closer to pre-COVID-19 life, especially with the start of vaccination programmes.
If there’s anything the last 12 months have taught us, it should be to approach any forecasting of the future with caution. Nevertheless, some things are likely to be on the horizon for Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) and the palm oil sector.
2020 is undoubtedly going to be remembered as the year that we can’t get over fast enough. Everyone everywhere has been affected by the events of this year. Clearly, some of those impacts are going to be more long-lasting than anyone ever anticipated before COVID-19 entered our everyday consciousness.
Yet amidst all the upending of our lives, not everything has been entirely bleak and gloomy. Let’s look at some of the things that have been achieved or have emerged amidst these unprecedented challenges.
Ambushed on the school run — “Mummy my friend (let’s call him Barlowe) said palm oil is bad”. It’s an occupational hazard, when you work in the world’s second largest palm oil company, explaining what you do for a living at school events or dinner parties. Sometimes after a long day at the office answering criticism from NGOs and anxious questions from customers, you just want to avoid it at the school social.
But with an earnest eight year-old wanting to defend his Mum in the school yard, what do you do?
Keep it simple. “Palm oil is a plant. Plants are not good or bad. It’s how we grow the plant that has the impact. And Mummy works to help farmers farm better. Can you remember that?” Smiles, nods. …
“NGOs often criticise us but when asked for clarification, often they refuse to give us data. If NGOs were to make the allegations, we hope they can come with the facts, talk to us and let us make a proper investigation to address the issue. We don’t always know what’s happening.” These were the words of a company executive during a heated Q&A session at the 5th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources. As an intern at Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), I had the chance to participate in this dialogue, which discussed the future of the agricultural sector and in particular, the palm oil industry — a controversial one that has been targeted by NGOs for nearly two decades. …
Imagine a world where there is no more fossil fuel. What would you use to power your vehicles? How would you heat your homes? What would keep power plants and industries running? We look to biofuels — the renewable, alternative energy source that can be made from palm oil.
What are biofuels?
Biofuels can be broadly defined as fuels from biomass (matter derived from plants and animals). Different biofuels are produced differently. For example, ethanol is produced by fermenting corn or sugarcane while biodiesel is produced by breaking down animal or plant fats in the presence of methanol. …
What comes to mind when you think about working in a palm oil company? For many, the image might be plantations, trees and rural areas. Well, I work in a palm oil company, but it is not what you expect. I work in the heart of a bustling city district in Jakarta, on the 23rd floor of a high-rise office building, in Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food’s Central Business Services (CBS) division.
What is CBS and why does a palm oil company require it?
As the name suggests, CBS is a centre for shared services, like Finance, IT, HR, General Affairs, and Procurement, in our organisation. Three years ago, GAR created CBS to increase efficiency, transparency and standardisation in the company. At that time, the concept of shared service centres like ours was just starting to gain traction. But most agriculture-based companies were not yet on the bandwagon. Sinar Mas Agribusiness and Food was one of the first palm oil companies to implement it. …
Biogas is a renewable energy that is produced from the breakdown of organic waste, and is a great way to ensure zero waste in palm oil production. GAR operates biogas plants to utilise the waste from our mills, producing energy which in turn, powers the mills.
So how does this circular economy work and how else does biogas benefit our palm oil production?
Turning waste into energy
Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) is a wastewater resulting from processing fresh fruit bunches to crude palm oil at the mills. …
I work as a social media specialist at Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), and it has been just under a year since I stepped into the fascinating world of palm oil.
On the one hand, the industry holds great interest for its potential benefits on the other it is plagued by so much negative sentiment. From my first day on the job, I’ve seen a barrage of misinformation being pedalled online about the commodity. Outrage and negative headlines grab attention, and people are quick to jump to the blame game before understanding an issue.
As you can imagine, being in a controversial industry, my job involves informing, educating and correcting a lot of negative perceptions people online have of palm oil. Many times, I find it challenging to provide a meaningful response, especially with a 280-character limit, because of how complex the issues are. …
There is so much in the news about European countries and palm oil producing countries at loggerheads. Is the EU really banning palm oil?
This point is often misunderstood. There is no ban of palm oil or of any of its derivatives. European food companies can still buy palm oil, European personal care and cosmetics producers can still use palm derivatives. Even European biofuel refineries can continue to source palm oil and blend it with diesel to make biodiesel.
Then what is the fuss about?
In 2018 the EU concluded their Renewable Energy Directive for 2021–2030. In the directive, each member state is given carbon emission reduction targets in energy and transport. Relevant to transport, the EU has been promoting the use of biofuels as long as they reduce carbon emissions, compared to fossil fuel. …
While the use of biofuels has clear benefits, they are often widely debated. Biodiesel sourced from palm oil especially, has sparked controversy in the European Union (EU) where palm oil production is strongly linked to increased deforestation. We take a closer look at the arguments against biofuel and how they are being tackled by producers like Golden Agri-Resources (GAR).
Is using biodiesel made from palm oil causing deforestation?
It would be an over-generalisation to answer yes or no to this, so to further understand this, we need to break it down into two parts:
First, deforestation happening in the world cannot fully be attributed to palm oil. …