Yes, many researchers, conservation organisations, and NGOs plea for use of only RSPO certified sustainable palm oil. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a multistakeholder organisation that focusses on maximizing the social, economic and environmental benefits of producing palm oil— which can be an engine of transformation of our societies, as long as it is done in a sustainable way. The RSPO as a tool to introduce improved production practices, that may lead to improved livelihoods for farmers and workers.
The RSPO is a worldwide body of which over 4000 organisations are member. Members include NGOs such as WWF, Oxfam Novib, Solidaridad, IUCN, but also companies like Ahold, Unilever, Mondelez, Wilmar, Sime Darby and financial institutions. Together these organisations have developed rules for production and trade of sustainable produced palm oil, the Principles and Criteria for the Production of Sustainable Palm Oil. Palm oil producers, producing in accordance with this standard can get certified against this standard.
Plantations can only get certified if an independent third-party certification body has conducted an audit. The biggest struggle in the move to sustainable palm oil in Europe is that RSPO certified companies are still sometimes associated with negative practices and deforestation, as it cannot 100% guarantee that no incidents take place. As such the RSPO scheme loses credibility. The Assurance Standing Committee of the RSPO is continuously working on future-proofing the RSPO Assurance System.
The main certification requirements are detailed in the RSPO’s Principles and Criteria:
- The production of palm oil must not cause deforestation or damage any area required to protect or enhance High Conservation Value (HCV) or High Carbon Stock (HCS) forest.
- HCV and HCS forests in the managed area must be identified and protected or enhanced.
- Growers have to monitor and identify the occurrence of protected species of plants and animals.
- Burning the land surface at any stage of operation on the plantation is forbidden and fire cannot be used to prepare or clear land prior to the plantation’s establishment.
- There are clear requirements relating to labour standards and working conditions, including the right of workers to freedom of association. Special rules must be set to protect the rights of vulnerable groups of workers such as migrants, refugees, women, and young labourers.
- Pay and conditions for office staff and plantation labourers must meet industry minimum standards and be sufficient to provide a decent living wage (DLW). The RSPO’s certification scheme is the first such system that requires full implementation of a DLW.
The RSPO’s Principles and Criteria are reviewed every five years and are submitted to the roundtable’s general assembly for ratification.