Frequently Asked Questions

RSPO
  • The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a multi-stakeholder initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable production of palm oil worldwide. RSPO's more than 400 members include palm growers, oil processors, traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, investors and social and environmental NGOs.

    Through co-operation and open dialogue, they work to put on the market certified palm oil that is produced in a sustainable way, and to maximize the amount of palm oil that can be RSPO-certified.
  • The Roundtable aims to ensure that no primary forests or other high conservation value areas are cleared for new palm oil plantations, that oil palm plantations minimize their environmental footprint and that basic rights of local land owners, farm workers and indigenous people are fully respected.

    About 40 million tonnes of palm oil are produced worldwide per year. Roundtable members currently represent about half of that volume, so the RSPO's efforts can potentially have a major impact. While in due course the RSPO aims to see all palm oil certified, sustainable palm oil will initially make up less than 10 percent of the total volume of palm oil. Over the next few years, however, that percentage should grow significantly. Ultimately, the Roundtable aims to have all the world's palm oil produced in a sustainable way.
  •   Established a Code of Conduct for its members.
      Defined Principles and Criteria defining sustainable palm oil production.
      Approved independent certification bodies, which audit palm oil mills and plantations on the ground and provide certificates to those meeting the RSPO's Criteria. Dozens of mills and plantations have been certified, many more are under review.
      Set up four certifications systems through which companies can purchase certified palm oil. All these systems assure product manufacturers, retailers and consumers that their purchase contributes to sustainable palm oil production.
      Issued Communication and Marketing Guidelines to ensure that consumers receive accurate information on how products relate to sustainable palm oil.
      Grown its membership from 7 to more than 450 organizations worldwide.

    By late 2010, more than 3.5 million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) had been produced, and more than 1.5 million tonnes had been sold through RSPO's systems.
  • Recently, the government of Indonesia announced that it is developing Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certificates, which would be awarded to Indonesian companies in the palm oil supply chain beginning in 2011.

    The RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) strongly welcomes any initiative and endeavor towards sustainable palm oil. This includes the emergence of ISPO (The Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil); a national certification standard for sustainable palm oil, which further reinforces RSPO’s global vision and commitment.

    RSPO is confident that ISPO will positively encourage Indonesia, as the world’s largest palm oil producer, to move towards this larger sustainable agenda.

    RSPO’s international certification standard has been constructed through intense research, dialogue, contributions and consensus by a diverse group of stakeholders from all around the world; comprising oil palm producers; palm oil producers/traders; consumer goods manufacturers; retailers; banks and investors; environmental or nature conservations NGOs; and social and developmental NGOs.

    These standards are widely recognized by RSPO’s expanding membership base of over 500 members in over 40 countries all around the world.

Sustainable Palm Oil
  • Oil palms only grow in the tropics, where their cultivation can have negative side effects for local populations or the environment.

    Among the social side effects of growing oil palm cultivation have been displacements of communities that used to farm or live in the area and whose legal or customary rights to the land became sources for dispute. Also, there have been reports of plantations that violated the rights of workers, including those to fair payment, safe working conditions or the freedom to unionize.

    Expansion of oil palm plantations has led in some cases to the cultivation of land previously covered with peat-swamp forests, primary forests or other high conservation value areas. Such areas, already under pressure from other factors such as commercial logging, are often highly valued for their biodiversity and their capacity to sequester carbon dioxide. Forest parcels are sometimes cleared by fires, which can burn out of control.

    Sustainable palm oil is produced without these negative social and environmental side effects.
  • Switching from palm oil to other vegetable oils may seem like an easy solution, but it really is not. Demand would merely shift to other vegetable oils, increasing the sustainability problems connected to those particular crops.

    What's more, compared to other crops like soy bean, sunflower or rapeseed, oil palms produce by far the most vegetable oil per hectare of land, so switching to other vegetable oils may very well result in more primary forests being converted into agricultural land, not less.

    So for sustainability reasons, it is better to switch to sustainable palm oil than to other vegetable oils.
  • Yes. Palm oil production does not have to displace primary forest or other high conservation value areas. In palm oil producing countries, large areas currently lie fallow. What's more, in many areas yields per hectare are far below what we know can be achieved by applying agricultural practices recommended by the RSPO. So from the same hectares of land, much more palm oil could be harvested than is being done today.
  • The first sustainable oil palm plantations were certified in the summer of 2008, and the first shipment of RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil arrived in Europe in November of that same year.

    As certification progresses, the supply and uptake of certified sustainable palm oil will gradually increase. Many manufacturing and retail companies have pledged to use only RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil by 2015. All those pledges combined would require much more certified sustainable palm oil than producers can supply today. So in the newt few years, supply and uptake by the market will both continue to grow.

    By early May 2011, more than 5 million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) had been produced, and more than 2.4 million tonnes had been taken up through one of RSPO's certification systems.

    Up-to-date market figures are always available through RSPO's online Market Center.

Palm Oil Products
  • Since in most products palm oil is just one (small) ingredient out of many, producers may opt to not claim the use of sustainable palm oil on the packaging. Instead, they may use websites or brochures to inform customers about the level of their involvement with sustainable palm oil.

    The RSPO has formulated specific Guidelines on Communication & Claims for on-pack communication, product communication and corporate communication. These guidelines are available in RSPO's online Market Center.

    In November 2010, the RSPO announced that it will formally launch its trademark logo early 2011. The new logo will make it easier for consumers to check whether palm oil in a product is part of the RSPO scheme.
  • A manufacturer or retail company can only make such a claim if the palm oil used in the product came from a certified plantation and was kept 'segregated' from conventional oil throughout the supply chain. All segregated batches of sustainable palm oil were registered and administratively followed using a global database that is maintained by UZT Certified.

    Through the database, palm oil refiners can trace segregated oil all the way back to RSPO-certified oil palm plantations.
  • If a product carries such a claim, it means that the amount of palm oil needed to make the product was indeed produced sustainably; however, the sustainable oil itself may have ended up in a product not carrying a claim. For practical or economical reasons, there is no direct fysical link between this product and the certified oil palm plantation.

    While this may sound strange at first, using such a system often makes perfect practical, economical and sustainable sense.
    The palm oil supply chain is long and complex. It spans many traders, storage tanks, pipelines and oil tankers across several continents. In such a supply chain, batches of oil get added together or split up all the time. Sometimes it would be too difficult, or too costly, to keep certified sustainable oil fully segregated throughout the chain.

    The RSPO wants to enable every company that produces or uses palm oil to help make all palm oil production sustainable. That is why it has set up alternative systems that achieve the same goal without direct links throughout the supply chain. Controls make it possible for consumers at the end of the chain to support certified palm growers, even though the oil itself may have been mixed in with conventional oil at some point. RSPO's certification systems ensure that all sustainably produced palm oil is accounted for.
  • For a limited time, they can: a company does not have to certify all of its plantations at once. Sometimes that would be impossible. When the first plantation is certified, however, robust plans must be present to certify all of the remaining plantations within a few years. Already, at those other plantations, no primary forest or high conservation value areas may be lost, all laws must be obeyed and land or labor disputes must be resolved.

    But remember: RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil ALWAYS comes from plantations that have been certified!
  • The RSPO wants to enable every company that produces or uses palm oil to help make palm oil production sustainable. That is why it has set up alternative systems that enable companies or consumers to support certified sustainable palm growers without the need to trace oil all the way through a long and complex supply chain. One of those systems is based on 'certificate trade'.

    In short, a certified palm oil grower in Southeast Asia or Africa can sell a 'sustainability certificate' to a company in France or China. In return, the company can claim that its products 'support' the production of certified sustainable palm oil. Controls ensure that the producer cannot sell more certificates than he is entitled to, and that the company at the consumer end cannot claim more certificates than it has actually purchased. The palm oil itself is not marked 'certified' and the complex supply chain may ship it anywhere in the world.

    While certificate trade may sound strange at first, it makes perfect practical, economical and sustainable sense, achieving exactly the same thing while giving certified growers more financial incentives.

    Remember that a product for which certificates are bought will not say it 'contains' sustainable palm oil. Instead, it may say it 'supports' the production of certified sustainable palm oil.
  • Many products containing certified sustainable palm oil, or products that advance the production of sustainable palm oil through GreenPalm certificates, are already available in supermarkets today. They include products such as biscuits, chocolate, candles, soaps and detergents.

    Many of these products do not yet show their RSPO credentials on the packaging. That will change when the RSPO formally launches its trademark logo in 2011.

    It will take time before RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil can be found in all consumer goods sold worldwide.

Membership
  • There is an important difference between RSPO membership and RSPO certification. They represent two distinct steps companies take towards becoming sustainable.

    Step 1 is membership of the RSPO. By becoming a member, a company pledges to work towards producing or using only certified sustainable palm oil, which takes time. Many companies have said they will get there by 2015, but all of those pledges together require far more certified sustainable palm oil than what can now be supplied. So today, only part of their palm oil is certified as sustainable.

    Step 2 is the final step: certification of (all) palm oil production or processes in the palm oil supply chain. Certification involves visits by third-party auditors who check units of the company against all the RSPO criteria. Only companies that pass this test can sell RSPO-certified palm oil or other palm products.

    Some producers members have certified some of their plantations but are still in the process of getting others certified. Some plantations may not be ready for certification, for example because they were recently acquired from a less responsible company. RSPO rules are strict, however: when a company wants to certify one plantation, it must have robust plans to have all of its plantations certified within a few years. Already, at those other plantations, no primary forest or high conservation value areas may be lost, all laws must be obeyed and land or labor disputes must be resolved.

    But remember: RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil ALWAYS comes from plantations that have been certified!

Certification
  • Since palm oil is a global commodity, sustainability certificates have to be recognized worldwide.

    ISPO-certification would be based on criteria set and evaluated by the Indonesian government.

    RSPO-certification, however, is based on criteria set by consensus among hundreds of members spanning five continents and seven stakeholder groups. They include leading NGOs, growers, banks, consumer goods manufacturers and retailers. Palm oil mills are audited and certified by independent, third-party certifying bodies, and the supply chain is secured and monitored through certified supply chain systems. It has taken years to build such a comprehensive framework.

    ISPO-certification may help Indonesian palm growers work towards complying with the RSPO’s criteria. The RSPO does, however, not foresee a global role for ISPO certificates.
  • RSPO’s international certification standard was constructed through intense research, dialogue, contributions and consensus by a diverse group of stakeholders from all around the world. Stakeholders included palm oil producers, traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservations NGOs, and social and developmental NGOs.

    These standards for sustainable palm oil production are widely recognized by RSPO’s expanding membership base of over 500 members in over 40 countries around the world.

    However, circumstances in various countries differ in terms of governing laws, soil conditions, infrastructure, and other domestic factors. National Interpretations are designed to take those differences into account. They are discussed and developed by a formally established Working Group within each market. The Working Group comprises key representatives from various stakeholder groups that are relevant to palm oil development within the country.

    National Interpretations require final approval from the RSPO. While adapted to national contexts, the RSPO at all times upholds the integrity of the fundamentals in its overall Principles & Criteria.