Industry reacts to RSPO's Impact Report

By David Burrows

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/slpu9945
© iStock/slpu9945

Related tags Palm oil Sustainability

FoodNavigator approached industry and campaigners for their reflections on the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)'s 2016 Impact Report. What are the challenges and opportunities in the next 12 months?

“It’s good to see RSPO recognising the challenges that it faces. The coming standard review is a key opportunity for RSPO to improve its approach to deforestation and social rights, in particular. While we recognise its limitations, the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) provides the most widely supported approach to developing and enforcing standards for sustainable palm oil production.”

Jonathan Horrell, director of sustainability, Mondelēz International


“The upcoming 12 months, with the review process of the RSPO principles and criteria, represent a huge and concrete opportunity to better meet stakeholder expectations of safeguarding forests and workers. On one side there will be the significant challenge of de-linking palm oil from deforestation by integrating the High Carbon Stock Approach toolkit into the current standard. On the other side, there is the challenge of upholding workers’ rights whilst breaking the link between palm oil and labour exploitation [as is suggested in the recent POIG’s publication “Palm Oil Innovations: Labour Rights”]. We also expect improvements in auditing and grievance procedures to secure the enhanced rules.”

Ferrero Group spokeswoman

Click here​ to read more about RSPO'S 2016 Impact Report.

“We welcome the research conducted by NGOs in highlighting to consumers some of the complex sustainability issues facing the palm oil industry.  We continue to engage and support the RSPO, which remains the only industry standard which is widely accepted by stakeholders in the palm oil value chain. Whereas we appreciate the RSPO needs to be strengthened, as founding members we are committed to driving forward and working with its members to transform the palm oil industry beyond certification standards. Industry is making significant efforts to sustainably source palm oil, although we acknowledge more work needs to be done to protect the environment and address the social concerns. At Unilever, we are aligned with RSPO report on the need to address labour rights and ensure transparency across the palm oil supply chain. To tackle these issues at scale, we need to work collaboratively with industry, our suppliers and expert partners.”

Unilever spokesperson​ 


“We believe that RSPO certification is an important first step towards improving supplier behaviours, and Nestlé remains a member. However, the scheme has been challenged by consumers and stakeholders as RSPO certification on its own does not guarantee that producers will adopt environmental and socially sustainable practices. As a response to the environmental and social challenges in palm oil production, we are focused on improving traceability and investing in remediation activities with our suppliers that complement, but go beyond the requirements set out in the current RSPO standard. We support efforts to improve transparency in the palm oil supply chain. Given the complexity of the palm oil industry and the many million people that it employs in South East Asia, progress in addressing environmental and social issues relies on cross-industry efforts. We will thus continue to proactively work with our partners and other organisations to improve practices in the palm oil industry.”

Nestlé spokesperson

“RSPO has had a major impact on the palm oil industry since it started operations in 2005, for example almost 20% of global production is now RSPO certified. However we agree that the RSPO is not perfect and are working with other stakeholders to address several issues also identified by RSPO. This includes strengthening the principles and criteria of the standard by requiring higher levels of performance on key aspects such as greenhouse gas emissions, low carbon stock area development and no planting on peat. These and other issues will be addressed during the review of the principles and criteria which will take place in 2017. Human rights abuses, which are systemic in many industries in several of the producing nations, are already an industry focus. The RSPO standard already addresses some of the issues, [but] again WWF will be looking to strengthen these in the forthcoming P&C review.”

Stephen Watson, head of corporate engagement and Asia, WWF


“I wholeheartedly agree with Datuk Darrel Webber’s assessment that incorporating the High Carbon Stock Approach into the RSPO P&Cs is crucial to enhancing the certification body’s relevance and effectiveness.  Until that happens, companies and consumers cannot rely on the certification label to provide assurance of deforestation-free and peat-free production, which renders the label rather meaningless. The real challenge in achieving that goal – which has plagued RSPO for years – is its consensus-based structure of decision-making, which enables rogue producers with weak commitments to hold the whole body hostage, creating a race to the bottom. This is why RSPO’s standards remain a floor, rather than a ceiling, and why so many palm oil companies and buyers have gone beyond RSPO standards in adopting the stronger “No deforestation, no peat, and no exploitation” policies. For too long RSPO’s human and labour rights standards have only existed on paper.  The RSPO has an important role to play here if it chooses to enforce its standards, much more swiftly addresses grievances filed, and finds neutral arbiters that aren’t riddled with conflicts of interest.”

Deborah Lapidus, campaigns director, Mighty


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