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Indonesian palm oil group ditches sustainability roundtable in favour of national scheme

By Michelle Knott , 04-Oct-2011

The Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) has withdrawn from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which currently offers the only international audit scheme for producers of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO).

RSPO brings together a range of stakeholders, including environmental groups, to support more sustainable palm oil production. GAPKI has now pulled out of RSPO in favour of Indonesia’s own sustainability initiative, ISPO.

Palm oil is used to substitute for cocoa butter in confectionery, as well as in biscuits and margarines. It’s also widely used in toiletries and cosmetics. However, palm oil plantations have been blamed for deforestation and other environmental problems in producer countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

Continued commitment

“The main reason for the withdrawal is that the Government of Indonesia is introducing ISPO, which will be backed by law and regulation, whereas RSPO is voluntary,” GAPKI spokesman Fadhil Hasan told ConfectioneryNews.com. “The withdrawal from RSPO does not mean in any way that GAPKI is no longer committed to sustainability.”

However, ISPO is not yet firmly established - the first clutch of ISPO auditors were only appointed in July and the national roll-out is scheduled for completion by 2014.

“The fact that the Indonesian Government is contemplating ISPO as a compulsory standard is welcome and is a direct response to what the RSPO has achieved since it was formed in 2004,” said Adam Harrison, senior policy officer for food and agriculture at environmental group WWF-UK and WWF representative within RSPO.

“However the ISPO has not shown the same level of multi-stakeholder involvement in its development as the RSPO and it has yet to show how it will be put into practice and policed. Until it does so we cannot rely on ISPO alone to deliver better performance in the industry.”

The way forward

“It is regrettable that GAPKI has decided to leave the RSPO, but the RSPO is a voluntary organisation and GAPKI needs to respond to the majority of its members that are not yet RSPO members themselves. However, 46 individual Indonesian growers including several that are already certified are remaining and the RSPO will still be able to progress,” he told this publication.

The RSPO Secretariat is now working with the remaining Indonesian members to find an interim representative for Indonesian growers on the RSPO board until the organisation’s general assembly can choose a permanent replacement in November.

RSPO understands the importance of Indonesia in achieving our vision of transforming the market and we reaffirm our steadfast commitment to Indonesian member companies and growers in general to guide and inspire them to embrace sustainable palm oil, in spite of this development,” said RSPO in a statement.

Indonesia is the world’s number one producer of all palm oil and already grows 1.95m tonnes of CSPO. That’s around 35 per cent of global production. Malaysia is the number two palm oil producer overall, but accounts for over 50 per cent of CSPO.

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