Forest Conversion Initiative | WWF Malaysia

Forest Conversion Initiative



Oil Palm Plantation
Sukau, Sabah,
Malaysia rel=
Oil Palm Plantation Sukau, Sabah, Malaysia
© WWF-Malaysia/Azwad MN

Foreign Exchange or a Sustainable Future for Malaysian Forests

Forest conversion is a dramatic process where natural forest landscapes are replaced by other land uses, affecting their habitat and biodiversity. Malaysia’s forests have been cleared for agriculture, pasture, mining, urban development and more in the name of progress. Covering a total land area of 4.08 million hectares, the single largest agricultural crop in Malaysia is oil palm.

While palm oil production is a major income source for Malaysia, non-sustainable practices in parts of the industry have brought about pressure on species and their habitats. In addition, fires to clear land for plantations are also a regular source of haze in Southeast Asia, posing serious health problems.

WWF-Malaysia engages the palm oil industry because its footprint is the largest in Malaysia. In dealing with problems that crop up from converting forests to plantations, WWF-Malaysia has developed a Forest Conversion Initiative to:

  • Develop better palm oil practices through research and collaboration with industry partners,
  • Urge investors to promote better practices by applying rigorous investment criteria,
  • Encourage key market players to adopt and promote better practices,
  • Influence government economic and trade policy in support of better practices and
  • Communicate with key audiences so that they are aware of the issues.

WWF believes that sustainable palm oil production is the best way to meet the world’s growing palm oil needs without further damaging forests and people. Together with concerned global stakeholders, we helped to create the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). This not-for-profit association, with members representing major players along the palm oil supply chain, is a unique platform for pragmatic co-operation to expand sustainably produced palm oil and its uses.

The first Roundtable Meeting (RT1) on Sustainable Palm Oil agreed to establish a credible definition of sustainable production through the Principles and Criteria for sustainable palm oil production. First mooted in 2003, the Principles & Criteria (P&C) also covers the management of existing plantations and development of new ones.