This post was originally published on July 1, 2017 and updated on December 17, 2019.
The Malaysian palm oil industry, known for decades as the leader in responsible palm oil production, is successfully addressing concerns that have plagued the global palm oil industry for decades. The industry’s ground-breaking national palm oil certification program tackles key issues including deforestation and workers’ rights. The Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification differentiates this country’s responsible palm oil from the competition.
Malaysia is the world’s second largest producer of palm oil. In 2008, the tropical country became the first to produce and export certified sustainable palm oil. Achieving MSPO became mandatory as of 2020, and the country is working toward 100% compliance.
The stringent MSPO standards cover key issues in the palm oil industry.
The MSPO standards prohibit deforestation. Malaysia has committed to retaining at least 50 percent of its total land cover under natural forest cover. Planting on lands with high biodiversity value is not allowed unless it is carried out in strict compliance with national or state biodiversity legislation.
The MSPO standards dictate clear and strong requirements on palm oil industry workers’ health and safety. Employees are allowed to form and join trade unions, and facilitate collective bargaining agreements. The MSPO standards prohibit the use of forced or trafficked labor as required by Malaysian law.
Burning of lands
The MSPO standards state that the use of fire for land preparation and waste disposal should be avoided. Biomass recycling and zero-burning practices are encouraged. Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree, in a process similar to olive oil production. Unlike common oilseed crops such as soy, corn and canola (rapeseed) which need to be planted annually, oil palm trees grow and produce fruit for up to 25 years before replanting is needed.
The MSPO standards require best-practice agricultural practices involving cultivation on peatland. The standards have strict requirements for water levels in the field groundwater table and collection drain.
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