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RSPO and Monash University partner to boost sustainable palm oil research

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Monash University Malaysia has signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), aimed at increasing research and awareness of sustainable palm oil among Malaysian youth and researchers, to drive continuous improvement across the industry. 

From left to right: RSPO Chief Operating Officer, Bakhtiar Talhah, Professor Chan Eng Seng, Director of Monash-Industry Palm Oil Research Platform (MIPO), Professor Anthony Guo, Head of School – School of Engineering and School of Information Technology, Monash University Malaysia’s President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Walker (photo courtesy RSPO).

Due to the movement control order in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the signing of the MoU took place virtually on December 4, 2020, between RSPO’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Bakhtiar Talhah, and Monash University Malaysia’s President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Walker.

As the second-largest palm oil producer in the world, we hope Malaysian researchers can not only help raise awareness about sustainable palm oil production and consumption but also help to develop new strategies and tools to improve sustainable agricultural and sourcing practices across the global palm oil supply chain, said Bakhtiar Talhah, RSPO’s COO during his opening remarks.

Established in 1998, Monash University Malaysia is the third-largest campus of Australia’s largest university. As a self-accrediting institution of higher learning, it offers a distinctly international and culturally rich environment with approximately 8 900 students from 78 different countries and 900 staff from 34 countries.

The challenges faced by the palm oil industry are multifaceted in nature and require a multidisciplinary approach to research and engagement. Monash University Malaysia is uniquely placed to work with RSPO in delivering solutions for the palm oil industry. We have been established in Malaysia for over 22 years and we work hand-in-hand with multiple stakeholders on influencing policy at the local and federal government levels. Palm oil production is an important part of the Malaysian economy, and we are delighted to be working on this crucial sustainability issue, said Professor Andrew Walker.

Leverage research platform

As a first step, both parties have agreed to organise a joint research symposium, which aims to offer a platform for researchers and industry practitioners from around the world to share and explore current research findings, and discuss future directions for the advancement of the palm oil industry.

RSPO and Monash University will also work together with a team of outstanding researchers and state-of-the-art research and education facilities, through the Monash-Industry Palm Oil Education and Research Platform (MIPO), established in 2018.

MIPO aims to promote cross-disciplinary collaborations and university-industry linkages in developing sustainable solutions for palm oil production through research, education, and training.

Through this collaboration, RSPO hopes to provide more information and clarification to Malaysian youth and the general public about the benefits of sustainable palm oil for people, the planet, and prosperity.

In recent years, RSPO has been putting more focus and effort into driving research evaluations, which are crucial in helping to fill knowledge gaps and capture lessons learned, to inform current practices, identify challenges, and improve future initiatives.

Until such time as sustainable palm oil becomes the norm, it’s important for consumers and especially the younger generation – our future leaders – to understand that there are different ways that palm oil can be produced. Labeling products that contain Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) and the use of the RSPO Trademark on products are simple ways for consumers who do not know anything about palm oil, to easily identify ‘good’ palm oil. We hope that Malaysian youth and researchers will further promote this important message in the Malaysian market, so we start to see more brands switching to sustainable solutions, remarked Bakhtiar Talhah.

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