KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s biggest palm oil producer Sime Darby said on Friday it is committed to working with environmental groups, days after a senior executive called for government action against them.

Franki Anthony Dass, chief advisor and value officer at Sime Darby Plantation — the world’s biggest palm oil company by land size — told an industry forum on Tuesday that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were orchestrating attacks on palm oil.

“If they are so unfriendly, why allow them to be in our countries Malaysia and Indonesia,” he said. “We have the right to control this and do something drastic for once.”

Indonesia and Malaysia are the top two producers of palm oil, the cultivation of which is blamed for large scale deforestation in Southeast Asia and for endangering wildlife, such as orangutans and pygmy elephants.

Sime Darby said that Franki made his comments in his capacity as chairman of the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council, the national sustainability body, and his comments did not refer to all NGOs.

“It was referring to the misbehavior of certain unreasonable NGOs that are trying to discredit painstaking efforts by the industry to raise its sustainability standards via certification such as the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil,” the company said in a statement to Reuters, referring to the Malaysian green certificate for palm oil.

Environmental groups, especially in Europe, have called on palm oil producers to be more sustainable.

Sime Darby said it has collaborated with many NGOs in its path to sustainability and will continue to do so.

Palm oil is used in everything from ice cream to lipstick to fuel.

Last year the European Union legislated to phase out palm oil use in renewable fuel by 2030 because of concerns about deforestation.

Producers, though, say palm oil buyers including major consumer goods companies, must share responsibility because they don’t buy enough sustainably produced oil, undermining efforts to reward those who adopt greener practices and reduce deforestation. — Reuters