Misi Webinar Series – From Oleochemicals to Oil Palm: Tracking for Sustainability

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A team of researchers under the Center for Sustainable Value Networks (CSVN) at MISI is developing a model to track and trace responsible sourcing for Palm Kernel Oil with a focus on Independent Smallholder Farmers (ISHF) in peninsular Malaysia. The ISHFs supply fresh fruit bunches (FFB) of oil palm to palm oil mills through various intermediaries. Unlike scheme smallholder farmers, these ISHFs are a disparate group of suppliers with no contractual obligation to any mill or a third party.

With farm sizes as low as two and half hectares, an average yearly production of eight to twelve metric tons per hectare per year and a population size of thirty to forty thousand, it creates an enormous challenge to achieve transparency into the supply chain where these ISHFs contribute significantly because of their sheer size. Through this webinar we hope that the audience is able to appreciate the complexity of the supply chain and the challenges involved in achieving transparency.

Like many other industries, the pressure to produce responsibly on these ISHFs is very high, but the demand for sustainably-produced and sourced oil palm does not match it. The current sustainability standards do not provide a viable economic incentive to the ISHFs to invest in sustainable sourcing either, exposing them to the risk of being left out of the supply chain against larger plantations.

Through this webinar we hope to illustrate that while sustainability should not be an elusive target, it will require the more prominent stakeholders in any supply chain e.g., the larger MNCs , the mills or the dealers to champion the cause and facilitate the issue creating for themselves a business case for sustainability that makes sense to the end customers and shareholders.


Dr. Ata is an Assistant Professor at the MIT Global Supply Chain and Logistics Excellence Center at the Malaysia Institute for Supply Chain Innovation (MISI) in Shah Alam, Malaysia. His areas of research and interest include Supply Chain Network Design, Optimization and Supply Chain Finance. He is also the Director of Center for Sustainable Value Networks (CSVN) at MISI where he has worked extensively with SMEs and Small Farmers designing supply chains that are socially responsible, environmentally sustainable and economically viable specializing in the areas of food and agricultural products. He has been a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Cambridge, USA and teaches topics in Supply Chain Management, Logistics, Information Systems and Optimization. Prior to joining academia he worked in the industry for twelve years on various Supply Chain IT, Telecom and e-Commerce projects.

Dr. Ata received his Ph.D. in 2011 from Southern Methodist University Dallas TX, USA in Operations Research, Master in Computer Science from Arizona State University Tempe AZ, USA in 2000 and Bachelor of Architecture (Honors) from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India in 1997.
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