RSPO lifts IOI's suspension

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

IOI saw its RSPO membership suspended following allegations of illegal deforestation. ©iStock
IOI saw its RSPO membership suspended following allegations of illegal deforestation. ©iStock

Related tags Management Malaysia

The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has lifted the suspension of Malaysian palm oil supplier IOI citing "good progress" made by the group.

The recommendation came from the certification body's complaints panel which has been reviewing the case, and was endorsed by its board of governors.

The complaints panel said it was satisfied that IOI had met its conditions through actions taken​ since its suspension. The lifting will take effect next Monday (8th​ August).

IOI's board of directors said it was pleased with RSPO'S announcement.

The RSPO-IOI saga

IOI saw its RSPO membership suspended following allegations of illegal deforestation, among other violations of the certification body's principles and criteria, on its subsidiaries' plantations in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Although IOI submitted an 'action plan' to RSPO to resolve this, major food manufacturers said this did not go far enough, sparking a domino effect of companies​ - including Mars, Unilever, Kellogg and Nestle - ending their contracts with the Malaysian palm oil supplier. 

IOI then announced it intended to sue RSPO over the suspension but later dropped legal proceedings following a backlash of negative publicity​.

The company then revised its group sustainability policy, published a new sustainability implementation plan and requested for its suspension to be lifted.

RSPO said it welcomed “the good progress”​ IOI has achieved so far, but added: "The board of governors wishes to make it clear that the implementation of the action plan by IOI shall be subject to an independent ground verification by a team of experts.”

“The findings of the independent ground verification team shall be scrutinized by the RSPO complaints panel. The complaints panel will advise the board of governors to re-impose the suspension, with immediate effect, if the verification team find significant failures in the implementation of IOI’s commitments to RSPO, in correcting deficiencies that led to IOI’s certifications being suspended, in the first place.”

These experts will be appointed by the RSPO secretariat within the next 30 days, it said, and IOI will continue to submit quarterly progress reports, as it has been mandated to do by the panel since May.

Second verification after 12 months

After 12 months, the team of experts will conduct a second independent ground verification. The complaints panel will then review the situation to determine whether IOI’s action plan is satisfactory, adding other conditions if necessary.

IOI submitted an action plan to RSPO at the end of May, requesting its suspension from the sustainability certification scheme be lifted on 29th​ June.

Two weeks ago IOI issued a statement saying it had not yet received an official reply from RSPO, and said it hoped a favourable decision or a substantive reply could be given by RSPO soon. 

IOI, which is headquartered in Putrajaya, Malaysia, was unable to respond to our latest request for comment in time for the publication of this article. 

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