The latest development within the RSPO could be debilitating to its mission.
This past November, a delegation from Rainforest Action Network (RAN) attended the ninth annual Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) meeting in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Unfortunately, not enough RSPO members attended the last RSPO meeting to meet quorum so its annual General Assembly (GA) vote was meaningless. As such, the GA is reconvening tomorrow (Thursday) in Kuala Lumpur. What happens in this vote could determine the future of the RSPO.
The RSPO is a multi-stakeholder body, which means that all of its members, including producers, refiners, growers, organizations and corporate brands, are involved in creating and implementing standards to certify palm oil as “sustainable.”
RAN has raised concerns in the past around the lack of a greenhouse gas emissions standard and problems implementing the basic RSPO standards around endangered species habitat, social conflict and labor violations. But for companies already dependent on the RSPO to meet the public’s demands for “sustainable” palm oil, this is a critical moment for the future of the palm oil market.
One RSPO member, the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA), has snuck in several new resolutions, which, if voted in, could jeopardize the basic integrity of the RSPO. Worse, key members may start planning their exit strategies, which could collapse the entire initiative.
The questionable resolutions include calling for a moratorium on RSPO certification — including allowing growers to take a break on their time-bound plans (which is one of the few ways RSPO members are held accountable). A moratorium on RSPO certification would essentially be a death blow for the RSPO’s mission. Being part of a certification scheme that stops certifying, at a time when we’re witnessing species extinction and human rights abuses such as slave labor, is a poison pill to “sustainable” palm oil standards.
If you are relying on the RSPO as a standard to ensure that some of your values are met, it is crucial to vote down these resolutions and to talk to other RSPO members to do the same. RAN would be happy to work with any stakeholder to clarify values around sustainable palm oil and look for alternative ways to drive demand for real changes on the ground. Additionally, it is more important than ever to remain heavily engaged with this standard and not allow industry to neuter it.
If you are an RSPO member company with palm oil in your supply chain and truly committed to producing responsible palm oil, we strongly ask that you immediately push for critical changes both within the RSPO as well as in your supply chain.