On Thursday, 29th August 2019, MDBC once again had the privilege of visiting one of our founding members; United Plantations, at their Jendarata Estate in Perak.MDBC members got to tour the historic plantation, witnessing all areas of production from the agricultural source to the refined products, including R&D, harvesting and evacuation, milling, quality control, and refining.
The delegation was hosted by CEO Dato´ Carl
Bek-Nielsen and Executive Director Martin
Bek-Nielsen, who made their passion for quality, innovation and sustainability felt throughout.
UP is a highly dynamic, vertically integrated plantation company, that produces quality palm oil and derived products. With a history reaching back to the late 1800’s, UP now covers almost 41.000 hectares of Malaysian soil, operating multiple Palm Oil Mills along two refineries, plus considerable interest in Indonesia.
Breakfast briefing: How to feed the 10 billion world population projected by 2050
The day started with a breakfast presentation, addressing facts and context surrounding the key Palm Oil issues that have been aired in the press as of late. The facts are in support of palm oil, a crop that can be harvested more than once a month, providing an oil yield per hectare for more favorable than that of (surprisingly) much less scrutinized annual crops such as soybeans. With a world population projected to reach 10 billion people by 2050, and a fast rise in calorie consumption our present arable land will not meet demand.
A redistribution of crops is required, as is getting yield up for individual crops. Thankfully the discourse is changing from a standpoint that aims to boycott palm oil to one that encourages the use of sustainable palm oil.
The world's first producer of certified sustainable palm oil
UP have been an active member of the RSPO (The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) since the early beginnings, and UP’s Malaysian plantations were successfully certified in 2008, becoming the world’s first producer of certified sustainable palm oil. The company has subsequently been recertified twice and in 2017, UP became the first company in Asia Pacific to become RSPO NEXT certified, which in a nutshell means: No Deforestation, No Fire, No Planting on Peat, Reduction of GHGs (Green House Gasses), Respect for Human Rights and Transparency. This is applicable at an organization wide level, including investments, joint ventures and in the organization’s wider supply base.
Learning how sustainable palm oil is produced
It was very enlightening to see how sustainable palm oil is produced, down to using owls for pest control and planting bushes to attract the right bees, instead of using fertilizer to combat certain plant infestations.
UP has shown us that sustainability can and should be ingrained in every aspect of a value driven organization. The company is one of the most efficiently managed, eco-friendly companies in Malaysia, well known globally for its active and innovative approach to best agricultural practices and high-quality standards.
UP have taken a leading role in the research and development of high yielding palm oil and now possesses considerable know-how in plant breeding, agronomy, and micro-propagation through its own R&D facilities for the development of improved planting materials and practices. This has resulted in UP being one of the highest yielding, plantations in Malaysia, in some areas achieving yields far above the national average. Rather than confidentializing this information for their own interests, it is made available to competitors along with UP’s hybridized high yield plant seeds.
Since 2005, UP have been identifying ways to reduce its Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHE) and remain at the very forefront in implementing GHG reducing projects - including installation of the first biogas facility in Malaysia and the use of energy efficient componentry throughout their mills, such as frequency inverters and highly efficient pumps from other leading MDBC members (Danfoss and Grundfos). UP runs a dynamic waste management and utilization system with the aim of achieving zero waste and the company is furthermore home to a number of tree reserve parks within which their BioD has initiated a range of ground-breaking conservation and biodiversity programmes.
1) Allan Jensen, Chairman MDBC, Head of Asia-Pacific Region, Danfoss Global Services.
2) Jari Niemi, Chairman MFBC, Sunborn International Ltd
3) Roberto Benetello, CEO EUMCCI
4) Dato´ Carl Bek-Nielsen, CEO United Plantations Berhad
5) Martin Bek-Nielsen, Executive Director United Plantations Berhad
We were thoroughly impressed with what we saw and worth mentioning is that every facility was found squeaky clean. An important note, seeing that palm oil is primarily a food product.
UP is not only known for its environmental awareness. The company places immense value on human resources, exhibiting a high level of social responsibility. The company provides emoluments well above the minimum statutory requirements and prescribes to the happiness, safety and health of both their employees and their dependents. Employee perks include, a welfare fund, Scholarships and financial assistance for education, an array of social amenities, comfortable homes with clean drinking water, clinics, hospitals and an old folks’ home.
We got to witness a primary school classroom with enthusiastic, motivated children exhibiting discipline and good character. We also witnessed an active effort towards religious harmony with the allocation of several places of worship including a church, a temple and a mosque.
It was a long day with a wealth of information, but we were rejuvenated with a visit to the Danish Bernam Bakery and a delicious poolside lunch at one of UP’s recreational clubhouses.
Join us for next visit
We strongly suggest that you join us for our next visit to United Plantations; it is truly a sight to be seen. If you have visited UP in years past, you are very likely to witness many changes on your next visit, as this dynamic company never rests in their efforts to continuously improve and push the bar. UP holds many lessons, not only for the food industry, but for any value driven organization aiming towards, sustainability, efficiency and a highly motivated work force.