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RSPO members approve new palm oil standard to halt deforestation

Aptly themed “A Renewed Commitment to Achieving Market Transformation”, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) concluded its 16th Annual Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT16) and 15th Annual General Assembly (GA15) November 15, with a newly ratified and adopted certification standard aimed to universally strengthen social development, environmental protection, and economic prosperity across the sustainable palm oil value chain.

Datuk Darrel Webber (left) CEO of RSPO and Dato’ Carl Bek-Nielsen, co-chairman of RSPO and Chief Executive Director of United Plantations speaking at the RT16 press conference ((photo courtesy Tan Chee Hern/RSPO).

Held in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia from November 12 – 15, 2018, the 16th Annual Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT16) and 15th Annual General Assembly (GA15) attracted over 850 representatives from the global palm oil industry, including corporate leaders in sustainability, financial institutions, policymakers, academics, and social and environmental NGOs from around the world.

Marking a pivotal time for RSPO and its more than 4 000 global members, the three-day RT16 conference was framed around the key elements of the recent RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) reviewHalting deforestation, protecting peatlands, and strengthening human and labour rights.

The collaborative, multi-stakeholder review process, which launched in March 2017 through to October 2018 and received almost 11 500 individual stakeholder comments was tabled, ratified and voted-in November 15 by the General Assembly of RSPO.

The review process also resulted in the subsequent development of an additional and separate standard specifically for independent smallholders, due for ratification in November 2019. RSPO Chief Executive Officer, Datuk Darrel Webber, welcomed the newly adopted, consensus-driven P&C 2018 standard which includes a number of new elements, such as adopting no deforestation through the implementation of the High Carbon Stock Approach.

Today, we endorsed a universal, transformative, and integrated agenda, intended to strengthen transparency and inclusivity in the RSPO system, increase implementation of the RSPO standards, boost market uptake of sustainable palm oil through shared responsibilities, and create an enabling environment for our shared vision of market transformation. The new P&C is testament to the review process: Two 60-day public consultations, 18 face-to-face events in 13 countries, six Task Force meetings, and an unprecedented participation of civil society – making it the most inclusive review of its kind, to date, and for that we are proud, said Webber.

Immediate effect

The P&C 2018 comes into effect immediately, with existing RSPO grower members given a one year transition period to implement the new standards. The RSPO P&C are a set of environmental and social standards which member companies must comply with in order to meet RSPO certification standards.

During RT16, 9 independent smallholder groups received their RSPO certificates (photo courtesy Tan Chee Hern/RSPO).

It is reviewed every five years and benchmarked against the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (ISEAL), a global membership association for credible sustainability standards.

Other topics of interest at RT16 included ‘Sustainable Financing’ and the ‘Responsible Consumption and Production in Emerging Markets’ as well as the release of RSPO’s latest Impact Report.

Furthermore, a ministerial address was delivered to RT16 delegates by Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau, Deputy Chief Minister and State Minister of Trade and Industry, Sabah, while Professor Kai Chan, University of British Columbia provided the opening keynote address. The closing address was delivered by Dato’ Carl Bek-Nielsen, co-chairman of RSPO and Chief Executive Director, United Plantations Berhad.

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