World’s Largest Certifier of Sustainable Palm Oil Must Strengthen Its Certification Systems to Remain Relevant, Warns Civil Society

Rainforest Action Network calls for fundamental shifts in RSPO’s assurance systems 

Kuala Lumpur – Members of the world’s largest certification scheme for palm oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), concluded its first in-person Annual Roundtable since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic this week, and the body faces mounting questions about its credibility and relevancy in the global marketplace. 

In 2018, the RSPO strengthened its certification standard to prohibit deforestation, new development on peatlands, and strengthen protections for the rights of communities and workers. These changes brought the RSPO into alignment with the global No Deforestation, No Peatland and No Exploitation (NDPE) benchmarks for responsible palm oil production. This year’s Roundtable meeting marks the beginning of a public commentary process on the certification standard, to be reviewed and adopted by the sustainability certifier in November 2023. Civil society organizations are calling for the RSPO to ensure the certification standards remain aligned with NDPE benchmarks, as well as improve its complaints and assurance systems. Some complaints put to the RSPO have remained unresolved for years, while others have been dismissed without addressing key grievances raised in the complaint. 

“The RSPO still needs to demonstrate that its members are actually adhering to its 2018 standard and must not weaken its standard further in this review process,” said Robin Averbeck, Forest Program Director with Rainforest Action Network (RAN). “If the RSPO continues to fail to uphold its own principles and criteria, this will have huge ramifications on the credibility of the scheme going forward. 

“Global market demands are shifting especially due to regulation in the E.U., the U.S., and specifically the state of California which are expected to require evidence that imported palm oil is traceable and free of deforestation. The RSPO needs to make fundamental shifts if it wants to be seen as a trusted certification system for responsibly produced palm oil.”