Malaysia’s “Sustainable” Palm Oil Just Pure Greenwash

posted by Rainforest Action Network

Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil. Photo: astromediashop
Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil. Photo: astromediashop

As I reported on Monday, the Malaysian government—hand in hand with the country’s largest palm oil companies—is attempting to undermine the RSPO’s “sustainable palm oil” certification standard by creating its own certification. Problem is—the Malaysian palm oil industry’s version of “sustainable palm oil” is pure greenwash which is extremely problematic for the companies and consumers demanding real standards of sustainability that are based on sound science. The entire notion of determining a baseline of “sustainability” for forest preservation will be lost.

Yesterday’s Malaysian paper StarBiz update on the process does not bode well for the species, communities and forests of Indonesia that are most threatened by the expansion of palm oil plantations. It reported that the “draft on the Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme is currently being formulated with the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) earmarked as the main moderator.” Does it seems strange to anyone else that Malaysia’s Palm Oil Board – in charge of advocating for palm oil expansion at any cost – is formulating a certification scheme for sustainable palm oil? Where are the scientists, agronomists and ecologists?

The article continues:

“the [Malaysian] Government is serious about introducing its national green palm oil certification scheme as an alternative to the current voluntary Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification…this is an opportunity for Malaysia to tell the world that its oil palms are grown in a sustainable manner and do not involve the clearing of virgin forest.”


Malaysia wants to tell the world that land conversion for its oil palm “doesn’t involve the clearing of virgin forest?” Clearly the preservation of natural forests is important, but what about the Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) of its Indigenous peoples and forest communities? What about its critical habitat for endangered species like the orangutan? What about its other forested areas that are not natural forest land anymore but secondary forests—key habitat for endangered species and diverse forest peoples? I think Malaysia has more at stake that it cares to admit. Watering down criteria for the “sustainability” of its palm oil plantations could turn out to be nothing short of devastating for the people and wildlife of Malaysia.