Conservationists lament the loss of rainforests in Borneo, and charge plantation companies for their destruction. Those on the plantation side argue that planting is done on already deforested land.

This study reveals that the plantation industry is the principle driver of the loss of old-growth forest in Malaysian Borneo. In Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan), considerably more oil palm has been developed on already deforested lands. This is what the conservation community has promoted for decades. Development on degraded lands is a cornerstone of sustainable palm oil development, compatible with certification schemes and with recent zero-deforestation pledges. Seen from that perspective, Indonesia seems to have done much better than Malaysia, than has been widely assumed – though since 2005 the sharp increase in oil-palm driven deforestation gives little room for complacency. Despite planting on degraded lands, deforestation remains very high in Borneo, and does not appear to be slowing.

This atlas helps distinguish plantation companies who practiced deforestation from those who avoided it, for more effective oversight of certification bodies and governments, and to allow companies that are doing the right thing, avoid the bad reputation of those who actually deserve it.