WWF-Malaysia Echoes YB Teresa Kok’s Concerns on the EU’s Continuous Movement to Phase Out Palm Oil | WWF Malaysia

WWF-Malaysia Echoes YB Teresa Kok’s Concerns on the EU’s Continuous Movement to Phase Out Palm Oil

Posted on 10 October 2018
Palm Oil Plantations
© WWF-Malaysia/Mazidi Ghani
Kuala Lumpur: On 5 October 2018, YB Teresa Kok, Minister of Primary Industries stated that the European Union’s (EU) continuous efforts to phase out palm oil from its market was impeding Malaysia from achieving some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In what is seen as an anti-palm oil movement, YB Teresa stressed that this action was sending a message to palm oil producing countries that investments and efforts in sustainability does not pay off and is futile. She added that Malaysia has taken various initiatives to invest in sustainability and comply with sustainable practices, which was done in compliance with global market demands.

WWF-Malaysia would like to reiterate that WWF does not support a ban on palm oil, and we believe that the palm oil industry can and should enhance current practices to ensure that the production of palm oil does not have a negative impact on the environment and ecosystems. We are also of the opinion that substituting palm oil with other vegetable oils is not a sustainable solution. In September 2016, WWF Germany published a report looking at the environmental consequences of palm oil substitution in Germany. One of the main conclusions was that exchanging palm oil with other oils could worsen the problems, such as increase of land use. Therefore, it is important to recognise that palm oil is by far the most productive vegetable oil presently produced at a large scale. A shift to other vegetable oils would inevitably mean demand for more agricultural land and water to produce the same volume of oil. 

Efforts in sustainability have paid off as more and more players in the palm oil industry have committed to sustainable practices. Therefore, an anti-palm oil movement is not, in our opinion, a viable outcome. Nonetheless, Malaysia still needs a good and sustainable land use plan and management that balances development and conservation, which allows the country to maximise the economic and social benefits while ensuring the maintenance of ecological functions. This should be done in a multi-stakeholder participatory approach, involving the Government, industry players, research institutions, civil society organisations and the communities affected. 

As addressing sustainability concerns are among the main challenges in enhancing the acceptance of sustainable palm oil in markets such as Europe, India, and China, governments and key stakeholders involved should address these concerns in a more consultative and jointly responsible manner. It is also a matter of time before consumer pressure will push other international markets to adopt more stringent controls on their palm oil procurement processes. Therefore, Malaysian producers should continue to strive towards greater sustainability in their practices, as the benefits not only transcend market access, but also include other aspects, such as the well-being of workers and continuous improvements to operations. This will improve the confidence of consumers and ultimately the global market in accepting the use of sustainable palm oil and palm oil products from Malaysia.

Malaysia’s commitment to sustainably produced palm oil is clear via the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification, which will be made mandatory beyond 2019. WWF-Malaysia views the MSPO certification scheme as a step in the right direction towards the journey for an overarching sustainability standard that will eventually make sustainable palm oil the norm in Malaysia. Nonetheless, while WWF-Malaysia is working to support Malaysia’s move towards the MSPO certification scheme, we also acknowledge that there is a need to further strengthen, improve, and enhance the standards and a move towards greater multi-stakeholder consultations, robustness and accountability within the application of MSPO.  

We also hope that more industry players will view the MSPO certification as a first step towards ultimately achieving the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification, which we currently recognise as the only credible, independent, international, and multi stakeholder standard and certification scheme. We will continuously seek to advance improvements on these certification schemes to achieve greater sustainability in the palm oil industry.

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For more information, please contact:

Dora Hashim 
Communications Manager, Sustainable Markets Programme, WWF-Malaysia 
Tel: +603-7450 3773
Email: shashim@wwf.org.my
Palm Oil Plantations
© WWF-Malaysia/Mazidi Ghani Enlarge