Chief Minister’s Move On Certified Palm Oil Shows He’s Business Savvy

Less plantations carved out from permanent forests means the declining Borneon elephants will have more space to roam.

COMMENT: Kudos to the Chief Minister of Sabah, Shafie Apdal for pledging to have Sabah’s palm oil operations certified under the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) initiative. His business savvy is starting to look like a trademark feature of his government.

While the previous government had pledged to certify Sabah’s palm oil operations under the foreign owned RSPO, CM Shafie’s move will save the state millions of ringgit in certification costs. The MSPO, whereas, as a national program has pledged funds to help Sabah’s smallholders to attain certification.

This is a smart business decision considering the fact that certification as costly as it is under the RSPO, only makes the premium markets available but does not guarantee premium business for Sabah’s smallholders.


Truth be told, the Chief Minister’s uncanny business sense has helped the state to score on two fronts.

Firstly, any operation worth certifying under the RSPO has already been certified. This leaves mostly small to medium oil palm operations which would have rejected any costly certifications as the previous government wanted.

Secondly, by engaging the MSPO to certify all these remaining areas, he has passed a big portion of the conservation buck to the MSPO.

How so?

The Chief Minister had indicated early on that conservation in Sabah was in need of help and funding. By having the MSPO enforce riparian reserves etc according to state law, he can now leave this giant task to the MSPO without costing the state a cent.

This may not be apparent immediately as the new state action plan for wildlife was cleverly announced by one of his ministers.

But one need only put the two pieces together to see the masterful way he has coordinated the needs of the state in certifying palm oil and wildlife protection to see that he has pulled off a stunner. 100% certified palm oil for Sabah and strengthened conservation all at minimal costs to the state.

Well executed sir. Well executed but some of us have noticed it.

• Robert Hii is a Sarawak-born activist whose passion is global sustainability