Complaints System Introduction

1.1. Background

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a not-for profit Association that has been established with the overall objective to “transform markets to make sustainable palm oil the norm.” The RSPO Secretariat is responsible for administration and management of the activities of the RSPO in pursuit of this objective.

While addressing sustainability challenges, not all situations follow standardised approaches and reach undisputed outcomes. This may lead to conflicting perceptions by different stakeholders, resulting in complaints which are addressed to the RSPO for resolution. RSPO is focusing on dialogue as the means to address and resolve grievances.

The RSPO Complaints System aims to address the effectiveness criteria for non-judicial grievance mechanisms provided by Prof. Ruggie in his “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework”.

1.2. The need for a system to handle complaints

The Complaints System fulfils RSPO’s need to address complaints against RSPO and its members in a manner that is reflective of the nature, mission and goals of RSPO. Specifically a complaints framework and process fulfils the following:

a.   Providing a focal point for complaints against RSPO members or the RSPO system itself.
b.   Providing a fair, transparent and impartial process to duly handle and address complaints against RSPO members or against the RSPO system itself.
c.   Facilitates actions or initiatives that may enhance future dealings between parties.

This complaints system is not intended to be a replacement for legal requirements and mechanisms in force by any regional, national, or international governmental body. RSPO requirements mandate adherence to such official governmental requirements, and as such, the RSPO complaints system is meant as a support and supplement to them.

1.3. Objectives of Complaints System

a.   Provide a framework for RSPO to address complaints against any RSPO Member or the RSPO system itself.
b.   To ensure that any alleged breaches of specified RSPO Statutes, By-laws, motions approved by the General Assembly, or any other approved articles, including the Principles & Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil Production, Certification System and RSPO Code of Conduct are fairly, impartially and transparently resolved.
c.   To protect RSPO’s integrity.

1.4. Basis

All complaints raised to RSPO shall be based on the following RSPO documents:

a.   RSPO Statutes and By-laws.
b.   RSPO Principles & Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil Production (P&C), including all guidance, indicators associated with the adoption and implementation of the P&C.
c.   RSPO accepted or endorsed National Interpretation of the P&C where it is applicable.
d.   Code of Conduct for Members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
e.   RSPO New Plantings Procedure.
f.   RSPO Certification Systems.
g.   RSPO Rules established for Trade and Traceability and for Communication and Claims.

1.5. Accessibility

The RSPO Complaints System and all information pertaining to procedures for using it are to be maintained accessible through RSPO’s website. Progress reporting on cases is regularly updated on the website.

The complaints system can be used by all stakeholders, both RSPO members as well as non-members including affected communities (and their nominated representative), workers (and their nominated representative), other interested parties etc.

RSPO is seeking to ensure that aggrieved parties have reasonable access to sources of information, advice and expertise necessary to engage in a complaints process on fair, informed and respectful terms. Those who may face particular barriers to access can be provided assistance through the RSPO Dispute Settlement Facility.

1.6. Communications and Announcements

The RSPO Secretariat shall make public announcements relevant to its system for handling complaints on an ongoing basis, via its website. Transparency should be the rule, confidentiality the exception. Some information can be kept confidential if the complainant is fearful of any repercussions of making a complaint. Information should be presented in a neutral way, preventing judgement or favouring any of the parties.

Announcements shall be made within five working days of their results being issued by their respective Complaints System component or by the Executive Board. Specifically, the Secretariat shall issue public notifications about the following types of developments:

a.   Calls for information pursuant to a specific case (or cases)
b.   Progress on cases being mediated through the RSPO DSF, in line with the DSF Protocol
c.   Authorized decisions of the Complaints Panel, Executive Board, or the Secretariat itself
d.   Changes in the status of an RSPO member
e.   Changes in the status of a certification body
f.   Appeals of decisions made by Complaints System component bodies
g.   Related actions or consideration needed by the membership in response to any of the above.