What a waste of funds. The World Wildlife Federation wasted money in putting together a scorecard of companies in Singapore and Malaysia to assess their use of palm oil. This is a regular activity of the WWF which puts together these assessments to find out which companies are using “sustainable” palm oil as a name and shame campaign.
The report on Singaporean and Malaysian companies use of palm oil was shared on The Guardian using a platform sponsored by a palm oil certification group, the RSPO, which remains the main beneficiary of any monies spent on “sustainable palm oil” usage presently.
The RSPO, which the WWF helped create, charges companies ranging from growers of palm oil to cosmetic brands a fee in order to make a claim that “sustainable palm oil” is being produced and used. The credibility of RSPO certification is good chatting material for another day but my question today for the WWF is, why the heck would you survey Malaysian companies on their use of palm oil in the context of sustainability?
The two leaders of the WWF scorecard are reported as Wildlife Reserves Singapore(WRS) and Denis Asia Pacific who have committed to the use of “sustainable palm oil.”
It makes sense that the WRS would commit to a product that “guarantees the protection of habitat for wildlife threatened by unsustainable palm oil production” because they are after all, a conservation entity whose interests lie in saving wildlife. Saving wildlife however, is only a part of what defines “sustainable” palm oil.
If the WRS was to commit to sourcing 100% sustainable palm oil, which implies they want nothing to do with anything that threatens wildlife, should the WRS seek to ban any visitors who may be investing in uncertified palm oil plantations in Indonesia? Palm oil companies that are publicly traded on the Singapore stock exchange but operate in Indonesia are popularly traded and frequently accused of removing wildlife habitat.
In the case of Denis Asia Pacific, I hope their commitment to using sustainable palm oil was made with the home grown product, the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil(MSPO) scheme in mind. It is true that sustainability issues rank low for Asian and Southeast Asian companies so they are providing a great example. It would actually be awesome if they succeed in achieving the stated goal of :
…employee satisfaction, brand value and business opportunities in Europe, US and Australia where sustainable palm oil has become a market entry criteria
This would serve doubly to inform consumers worldwide that Malaysian products can offer the quality that is expected and use sustainable ingredients at the same time. Imagine the pride from palm industry workers in Malaysia who make up a large consumer base for the Ayam Brand products when they see the MSPO logo on products they consume.
All Malaysian Palm Oil is Sustainable if you ask Malaysians
As for these scorecards that the WWF likes to put together, they may be relevant to consumers in developed countries that want to reduce their personal impact on the environment but it’s a waste of funds to do it in countries like Malaysia. The scorecards may work well in influencing brands in the US or Europe but to do it in palm oil producing countries that depend on the crop to sustain the country’s economy is ignorant.
The simple fact that Malaysian companies are using a home-grown product to supply the local market qualifies that product as being sustainable for Malaysians.
One of the main reasons for the failure of the current model of certified palm oil to make market inroads in developing countries is that these standards do not work in developing countries. Certification standards that emphasize the protection of forests may work well in countries that have plenty of degraded lands due to historical deforestation but will not work in developing countries that are still well forested.
If we are to apply those certification standards to developing countries, then we should apply all standards from developed countries, including the standard of living. That would put the majority of Malaysians under the poverty line. For the WWF to conduct a survey of Malaysian companies on the use of sustainable palm oil based on first world standards shows pure ignorance of real world issues and smacks of neocolonialism.
Malaysia to Save Norwegian Wolf Habitats
If we were to reverse the positions between Malaysia and say, Norway, one of the richest countries in the world. Malaysia could suggest that Norway has enough money for generations to come and therefore should stop Artic explorations for the most polluting of all energy sources in oil and gas. Malaysia could also create a conservation fund from its palm oil revenue to save critically endangered wolves in Norway by funding habitat protection in Norway. Would that be an acceptable proposition? No, it would not. Just as the Norwegians need to find ways to preserve their remaining forests while continuing their economic growth, the Malaysians have to do likewise and this in a nutshell, is what sustainability is about.