Regulating for rights and sustainability: biofuel in Malaysia

Ken McPhail (Department of Accounting, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia)
Tengku Farrah Maimunah (Department of Accounting, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Publication date: 16 November 2012



Industrial biofuels have been promoted as one solution to energy security, climate change and rural development, however many non‐government organisations argue that national biofuel policies could violate many individuals' right to food. Drawing specifically on the palm oil industry in Malaysia, this opinion piece therefore seeks to provoke debate on the relationship between rights and sustainability and whether emergent business and human rights regulatory frameworks grasp the complexity of business's impact on the right to food.


The commentary draws on an analysis of disclosure made by all palm oil companies listed in the Malaysian stock exchange. The annual, corporate social responsibility reports and web pages for all companies as at June 2011 were reviewed. Each company's disclosures on human rights; sustainability and biofuel were analysed and related this to evidence of government investment. The primary objective in undertaking the content analysis was to explore whether and how the discourse of corporate accountability in the palm oil industry is evolving, specifically in relation to human rights and sustainability.


The paper finds that there is little evidence that rights, the environment and biofuel are being connected at a policy or conceptual level in the palm oil sector in Malaysia. In the majority of disclosures, sustainability and rights appear to be substantively disconnected. In the main, the increase in demand for palm oil that will result from the growth of national biofuel targets is constructed as positive for business. This paper address the regulatory implications of the findings.


This opinion piece contributes toward filling a significant gap in the literature on the inter‐relationship between rights and sustainability. This study will primarily be of value to regulators and policy setters within the palm oil industry in Malaysia. However, the findings may have value to policy setters within the biofuels sector internationally.



McPhail, K. and Farrah Maimunah, T. (2012), "Regulating for rights and sustainability: biofuel in Malaysia", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 252-261.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.