Palm oil industry should be more concerned about conservation of biodiversity in order to be sustainable and prosper in future said renowned biologist and conservationist Datuk Seri Lord Cranbrook.
“The conservation of biodiversity is actually not only something they can be doing but also something they should be doing in order to continue to prosperous in future” he said in a lecture jointly organized by Universiti Putra Malaysia, Bintulu and Bintulu Natural Science Society.
“Sustainability is about social, economic and environmental in perpetuation of good.
According to Lord Cranbrook there are various ways to persuade private sector particularly oil palm plantation companies towards conservation of biodiversity.
“There are companies that make it part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) or sometimes obliged by standard of CSR they need to be concerned about bio-diversity.
He said government also played a major role in conserving bio-diversity albeit indirectly by instituting environmental protection as part of the conditions for issuance of license to private sector.
Lord Cranbrook also dismissed the notion that conservation of biodiversity was not an efficient resources utilisation.
“Oil palm plantation are supposed leave certain areas, to avoid steep slope of certain angle,” he said
“Admittedly, there are oil palm plantations that planted right up to the river banks, on swampy ground that frequently flooded.
He said from the point of efficiency, oil palm companies should only grow where their trees were growing well – not on steep slopes with poor soil or swampy areas frequently flooded throughout the year – as that not going to give them any yield.
Cranbrook also said various studies have consistently indicated that oil palm plantations were partly to blame for disappearance of forest species.
“There have quite a lot of works done on oil palm and natural forest bio-diversity. It’s not altogether inspiring,” he said.
According to him comparison of oil palm with primary and secondary forests studies show that 85 percent of forest species (birds, insects, mammals etc) do not survive.
In recent years Lord Cranbrook said oil palm companies responded to criticism of their practices by proposing a certification.
Towards that end, Malaysia and Indonesian plantation industry has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the establishment of Producers Cooperation Forum on Sustainable Palm Oil in Jakarta on March 5.
The Forum resoultion in 2005 said that sustainable palm oil production is comprised of legal, economical, environmentally appropriate and socially beneficial management and operations.
Criterion 5.2 of the resolution defined sustainability as “the status of rare, threatened or endangered species and high conversativon value habitats, inf any, that exist in the plantation or that could be affected by plantation or mill management, shall be identified and their conservation taken into account in management plans and operations”.
Under his current capacity, as external adviser to Yayasan Ulin – a charitable foundation in Indonesia, Lord Cranbrook said he would continue to persuade oil palm plantations for promotion of conservation, particularly in unprotected habitat of Borneo.
There were lot of works need to be done if we’re serious about conservation and sustainability of palm oil industry he said.
“I’m disappointed that only 292,554ha of the huge areas that the 11 companies (in Malaysia and Indonesia) signed up to the certification had been allocated for conservation”.
“If one sector insists that it must drive down biodiversity to maintain the profitability of its enterprises, then the future of that business may be in jeopardy – and its action gives the rest of humankind a right to protest,” Cranbrook said in his concluding remark.