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RSPO tops in IUCN NL palm oil sustainability certification comparision

Palm oil is a major driver of biodiversity loss. Voluntary standards attempt to address biodiversity decline. Yet there is a huge variation between standards on criteria related to biodiversity protection and level of assurance. A new benchmark report published by IUCN NL helps companies and governments move towards sustainable palm oil, by providing insight into the quality and in the level of assurance of sustainability standards for palm oil.

Palm oil plantation (photo courtesy IUCN NL).

Palm oil is a major driver of biodiversity loss. Voluntary standards attempt to address biodiversity decline. Yet there is a huge variation between standards on criteria related to biodiversity protection and level of assurance. A new benchmark report published by IUCN NL helps companies and governments move towards sustainable palm oil, by providing insight into the quality and in the level of assurance of sustainability standards for palm oil (photo courtesy IUCN NL).

The report “Setting the Biodiversity Bar for Palm Oil Certification” which is published by IUCN NL, the Dutch national committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network, assesses the rigor of biodiversity and assurance requirements of the six sustainability standards with the largest market share in certified palm oil production.

The report concludes that the newest Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standard of 2018 provides the best standard to protect biodiversity. The report also provides recommendations on how companies can help improve the rigor of its implementation in practice.

The International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) and Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards score average and should address some areas of concern where scores are weaker.

The report also finds that the national standards of the world’s top two producers – Indonesia’s Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) and Malaysia’s Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) – are “far from satisfactory and risk providing a sustainability stamp without robust criteria and assurance”.

Sustainability standards to address biodiversity loss

Palm oil is used in food, cosmetics, cleaning products and for biofuel. It is an important crop for global food security and an economic pillar of development in a number of countries.

While palm oil is a major driver of biodiversity loss, replacing palm oil at a large scale with other oils would most likely increase the production of less land-efficient oil crops, displacing rather than halting the significant global biodiversity losses caused by palm oil as IUCN published in a report last year.

However, limiting or halting the further expansion of palm oil (such as according to the moratorium in Indonesia) remains highly relevant.

IUCN NL says that it supports the role of robust voluntary agro-commodity sustainability standards as an important element in a mix of governance measures that aim to improve the sustainability of agricultural production, trade, and consumption.

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