Malaysia achieves forest certification for rubber plantation in Sabah

Against the back of recent European Union Deforestation-free regulations (EUDR) and other sustainably-centred concerns, the rubber sector in Malaysia has achieved a significant milestone with the inaugural Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management (FM)/chain of custody (COC) certification of rubber plantations in the state of Sabah.

Malaysia achieves forest certification for rubber plantation in SabahTotalling 183.14 ha, and held by the first group of 56 rubber farmers from indigenous communities, this falls under the purview of the Sabah Rubber Industry Board (SRIB).

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the FSC group scheme is expected to cover over 7,000 ha of FSC-certified rubber plantation by the second quarter of 2024.

As the pioneer of forest certification, FSC sets the standard for responsible forest stewardship which ensures forests and forest plantations are managed in a way that is environmentally appropriate, socially-responsible and economically-viable.

Beyond ensuring rubber plantations are sustainably-managed via the rigorous standards of FSC, the project serves to ensure readiness for the increasing demand for products made of FSC-certified materials, and compliance with the EUDR as well as other similar legislations/policies.

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan said that the awarding and certification by FSC – which was initiated in the Tuaran district – marks a historical milestone for the Malaysian rubber sector.

SRIB General Manager Sabdil Bin Tanjong said they are in the process of obtaining FSC COC certification for two of their rubber factories – the Beaufort Latex factory and Tenom Standard Malaysia Rubber (SMR) Factory.

“Our aim is to produce and export FSC-certified SMR and FSC-certified Latex Concentrate to the international market,” he noted.

A scale-up plan is embedded in the project, where progressively more smallholders are on board into the FSC group scheme, held by CMO Malaysia Sdn Bhd FSC-C195423.

CMO International Managing Director Michal Brink said his company is proud of being able to bring this group of rubber smallholders in Tuaran to FSC certification.

“The smallholders have been trained and put in a lot of effort to comply with FSC requirements in their daily routine. With active cooperation of SRIB, we believe this can quickly be scaled up to include smallholders in other areas throughout Sabah,” he added.

CMO International team played an instrumental role in training the smallholder farmers, and ensuring they understand and conform with FSC standards. As the Group Entity holding the FSC certificate for this group scheme, CMO uses its software (‘Empower’) to map each member on the ground, compile the necessary management documents, conduct internal audits and monitor performance of the group members, in line with the requirements of the FSC standards.

Meanwhile, Control Union Malaysia extends its congratulations to CMO Malaysia Sdn Bhd and SRIB for their historic achievement in successfully completing the FSC Forest Management audit. They stand as the first entities in Malaysia to attain the esteemed FSC certificate for a group of smallholder rubber plantations.

The thorough audit, meticulously conducted by Control Union, involved consultations with over 400 national and regional stakeholders, along with comprehensive on-site visits, demonstrating steadfast compliance with FSC national standards.

Supun Nigamuni, Managing Director of Control Union Malaysia, said smallholders play a significant role in the Malaysian rubber industry.

“Their invaluable contributions play a crucial part in the sector’s overall growth and sustainability. Recognising their importance is essential for fostering the well-being of local communities and promoting ethical, sustainable business practices.

“We commend the inclusive approach in collaborating with smallholders, reflecting a commitment to the betterment of local communities. This accomplishment further underscores a dedication to responsible forestry practices and the preservation of valuable ecosystems,” he explained.

WWF-Malaysia Conservation Director Dr Henry Chan also congratulated FSC Malaysia and SRIB on their achievement. He added that being the world’s seventh largest producer of natural rubber, Malaysia has to ensure that rubber, and products made from rubber, are sustainably-produced and used, to ensure minimal impact to the environment.

This is the start of a journey to propel Malaysia as one of the major suppliers of sustainably-produced FSC-certified rubber in the Asia-Pacific region. FSC has made significant strides in certifying the natural rubber value chain across diverse consumer sectors.

Numerous products with FSC-certified natural rubber, such as balloons, footwear, gloves, mattresses, pillows, tyres and yoga mats, are now available on the market.

FSC-certification assures that the natural rubber in these items originates from forests or plantations adhering to safe working conditions, free from deforestation or environmental harm.