I’ve arrived in Malaysia, ready to begin my new Conservation Marketing Internship. Last week I met my fellow marketing interns in Kuala Lumpur where we planned a few sight seeing trips to get to know each other a little better. Like many people of my generation, a lot of our research is done via social media. Whilst scrolling through Instagram, we came across an event for World Earth Day run by the Malaysian Nature Society. What better way to get stuck in than attending an event specifically about conservation in Malaysia?
Conservation in Malaysia
A main element of the event was a corridor of fantastic organisation’s with interactive stalls telling us all about themselves. I got the chance to speak to people currently working on a variety of conservation projects here in Malaysia. One of which was MyCat. MyCat is a partnership organisation which focuses exclusively on the conservation of tigers, their habitats and their prey. At the event they were gathering signatures for their petition ‘no more dead tigers’. With less than 300 left in the wild, extinction is imminent unless action is taken.
Another was Landskap. Landskap is a non-profit organisation who’s aim is to create a culture within Malaysia to appreciate and take care of the natural ecosystem. They were their talking about the fantastic joint work they are undertaking with their sister company ‘Tropical Rainforest Conservation & Research Centre‘. The aim specifically is to conserve and preserve tropical rainforest plant species. Done so by collecting living collections of seeds and creating plant nurseries across Malaysia. Therefore allowing reintroduction of rare plant species to the natural environment. It’s humbling to see how passionate they are about the conservation of their county. Plus we had the opportunity to plant our own seed.
It was equally interesting to hear from a government project – River of Life. Kuala Lumpur, literally translating to ‘muddy confluence’ was built around the Klang river. The project aims to connect people to the river, bringing it back in to the heart of the city. Cleaning up the river is one of its main aims, but it was impressing to see the efforts this included. One being educating local businesses on how to avoid polluting the river. For example, how restaurants can dispose of their cooking oil without it polluting waterways.
An alternative conservation effort
TFT offered a different insight in to the efforts of conservation. They are a company who transform supply chains with the ultimate aim of making them more sustainable. Palm oil is a great example. Many people might instinctively think not buying palm oil products is the best way to prevent the problems it causes. (Up to 300 football field’s worth of forests are cleared every hour to make room for palm oil plantations). However, this is unrealistic. It’s a booming industry, a huge provider of jobs and income for the people of Malaysia. We can’t simply stop producing it. What can be done though, is producing sustainable palm oil that is properly managed.
One of TFT’s projects works directly with palm oil producers. Initially this involves ensuring that any deforestation that’s required, is done so in the most efficient way. Satellite technology and field surveys are taken to identify and protect what are known as High Carbon Stock. These store higher levels of carbon than others. So if cut, emit far more carbon into our atmosphere. Eventually this develops in to eliminating deforestation. Another important element of the transfer of the palm oil supply chain, includes the social issues, preventing workers being exploited. Sustainability is as much about the people as it is the environment.
How can marketing play its part?
Awareness plays a huge part. How can people make a difference if they aren’t aware of issues? How many people do you know who actively check the labels of food packaging to see if the palm oil it contains is supplied sustainable? This is where marketing comes in. Social marketing. It’s been truely incredible to see the ‘plastic free’ campaign really take off. Just last week we saw over 40 companies sign up to pledge to cut plastic pollution. The spread of awareness from programmes such as Blue Planet and of course on social media has driven this campaign. However, where we need to be careful is making sure the messages delivered are accurate and well informed. No ‘fake news’.
On a personal level, it was exciting to speak to MyCat as one of the Fuze-Ecoteer projects I’ll be working on in Merapoh works alongside them, providing data of tiger marks found on anti-poaching patrols. It was powerful to think that the more volunteers I can help sign up to this project, the more money there will be to increase the number of patrols. More patrols means more snares/traps can be discovered and disarmed. More reports can be shown to the authorities.
Marketing really can make a difference to conservation efforts.