The Biodiversity and High Conservation Value Working Group



The Biodiversity and High Conservation Value Working Group (BHCV WG) has been formed to provide strategic and technical support to the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). RSPO members require support in applying the RSPO Principals & Criteria (P&C), particularly those related to the commitment to conserve biodiversity (Criteria 5.1, 5.2), preserve essential ecosystem services (Criteria 4.3, 4.4) and respect cultural landmarks or community access to natural resources (Criteria 6.1). This can best be achieved by minimizing or mitigating the negative impacts of plantations on the environment, while enhancing the positive impacts that palm oil bring to communities (Criteria 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6). These commitments are particularly important at the time of plantation establishment, which led the RSPO to adopt the High Conservation Value (HCV) methodology as a tool for these critically important periods in the palm oil production cycle (Criteria 7.1, 7.3), as well as provide explicit guidelines regarding the need to maintain ecosystem services and protect cultural landmarks or traditional uses enjoyed by communities (Criteria 7.2, 7.4, 7.5, 7.6).

The BHCV WG succeeds the Biodiversity Technical Committee (BTC), which was approved in 2006 by the third General Assembly (GA) of the RSPO with the specific goal of supporting RSPO members in issues related to biodiversity and the application of the HCV methodology for biodiversity related concerns. At the same time, or subsequent to that determination, other working groups and task forces have been established to address other aspects of the HCV methodology and its practical application on palm oil plantations. The BTC became operational in April 2009, shortly after the first Biodiversity Coordinator was hired in the RSPO Secretariat, (both with co-funding from BACP). In November 2010, the Executive Board (EB) of the RSPO recognized that improved coordination was required among the many overlapping efforts related to environmental and social issues. The EB charged the BTC to assume this role, but requested that it reevaluate its mission, strategic outlook and internal composition so that it could effectively assume this role and, in the process, provide more effective support to RSPO members. The BHCV WG is the product of that evaluation.

The RSPO's vision statement seeks to "transform the market for sustainable palm oil" and the BHCV WG supports that goal by assisting the palm oil sector in their efforts to conserve biodiversity, maintain key ecosystem services and respect significant cultural landmarks.

The BHCV WG will support the RSPO in the production, procurement and use of sustainable palm oil products through the identification, application and dissemination of recognised biodiversity science and standards, HCV methodologies and other best practices related to environmental and social issues. The BHCV WG will advise the RSPO Secretariat to develop monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and knowledge management systems (KMS) so that lessons learned from the application of the HCV methodology can inform the implementation and improvement of RSPO standards and guidelines.

The BHCV WG will oversee efforts to reach the following overarching objectives or strategically important tasks:

  Identify biodiversity and ecosystem services, including related social and cultural values impacted by the production, processing, procurement and use of sustainable palm oil products.
  Support the development of new or revised "practical sustainability standards" that address biodiversity, ecosystem services and social and cultural values on plantation landscapes.
  Provide technical input for the elaboration of pragmatic guidelines to support the application of the above "practical sustainability standards" particularly at critical stages in the development of new plantations.
  Support the RSPO in the application of the HCV framework by screening, reviewing and improving the assessment process.
  Provide technical advice to the RSPO Secretariat upon request.
  The BHCV WG will support the Secretariat undertake the following Tasks and Activities:
  Develop information resources and toolkits to facilitate the work of HCV assessors.
  Develop a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system that measures the impact of certification on the conservation of biodiversity, ecosystem services and the social and cultural values of the HCV framework.
  Commission and review studies which evaluate the efficacy of the HCV methodology, its application on plantation landscapes and its ability to resolve, alleviate, mitigate or otherwise manage environmental and social challenges related to the palm oil sector.
  Acquire, organize and share knowledge related to biodiversity, ecosystem services and the social and cultural values of the HCV framework via a "knowledge management system" (KMS).
  Review M&E reports and other information gleaned from the KMS, in order to make recommendations for improving the P&Cs related to HCV and biodiversity.
  Organize and synthesize information in order to improve guidance for the application of the HCV framework methodology.
  Review and approve HCV assessors.
  Adjudicate conflicts related to the application of the HCV framework on plantation landscapes.
  Disseminate information on biodiversity and HCV in appropriate formats and media outlets so that it is accessible to all RSPO stakeholders, and other important constituencies, such as governments, multilateral organizations.

In order to fulfill these tasks and meet RSPO objectives, it will be necessary to establish a yearly work program including a series of targets or deliverables (Annex 1).

Roles and Responsibilities
The BHCV WG supports the RSPO Secretariat and will report its findings to the RSPO EB and the General Assembly via the Standing Committee on Standards and Certification (S&C), which is coordinated by the Technical Director (TD) of the RSPO Secretariat. The BHCV WG will be assisted by the Biodiversity Coordinator (BC) who will report to the TD.

The BHCV WG will be the central advisory body for biodiversity and HCV issues. It is not the intent of the EB that the BHCV WG replace other on-going efforts addressing HCV issues (Annex 2); much to the contrary, the goal is to capture the outputs from those groups and channel that information to the Standards & Certification Standing Committee. In order to be effective, the members of the BHCV WG must understand and incorporate the lessons of many other groups that have been leading similar and parallel efforts over the last several years. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the RSPO P&C -- and all associated supporting documents -- are pragmatic and effective. To ensure effective coordination, the DT will be the principal conduit of communication among these groups and key individuals of these other bodies (typically the Chair) will be invited to attend BHCV WG meetings when appropriate.

The RSPO Secretariat will provide the financial, human and logistical support that the BHCV WG requires to meet, conduct business and achieve its objectives: The Biodiversity Coordinator (BC) will be the primary source of assistance and support to the BHCV WG. The BC will provide the BHCV WG members with technical reports from in-house and outsourced studies, terms of reference for consultancies, and other information that is required by the BHCV WG to fulfill its objectives. When the Technical Director (DT) may need technical assistance from the committee, this will be channeled through the BC who would be the primary contact person of the committee in the secretariat.

Participation & Governance
The BHCV WG will rely on the experience of the technical staff of RSPO members; other institutions or experts may be invited to participate if they bring specific expertise in practical aspects of conservation, environmental management, regulatory frameworks, or certification services.

The BHCV WG will be composed of 12 members, with representation that broadly reflects the sectorial and geographical composition and balance of RSPO, but which reflects the specialized technical nature of this group: retailers, consumer products manufactures and financial institutions (1) and processors and traders (1), growers (4), environmental organizations (2) and social organizations (2). Two independent members will be elected to represent certification bodies (1) and a representative from the HCV resource network technical panel (1). Other participants may be invited as necessary. The EB will designate two co-chairs from the nominated members: one selected to represent the interest of the growers and the other the pooled interests of the social and environmental organizations.

All members should have technical skills in one of the following disciplines: biodiversity, ecosystem ecology, plantation management, community and smallholder development or corporate social responsibility. Nominations will be presented to the Secretariat and approved by the Executive Board, both of which will ensure that the BHCV WG fulfills its mission as a technical advisory panel, as well as maintain collective competence and a balance among the various stakeholder groups. Candidates must be nominated by an RSPO member and approved by the EB after a due diligence process conducted by the RSPO Secretariat. Terms for participants will be for three years with elections staggered so no more than 30% of the membership is renewed in any one year. Membership in the BHCV WG is institutional rather than personal; change in employment status should be reflected in the composition of the committee. Participation is voluntary and non remunerative, but reimbursement for travel expenses will be allowed to facilitate participation of all stakeholder groups. Decisions will be reached by consensus by nominated members and must be made when a quorum, which is defined as 2/3rd of the nominated members, are attending a meeting.

The current members of the BHCV WG will be invited to serve for between one and two years, with 1/3 retiring each year to be replaced according to the guidelines detailed in the previous paragraph. Moving forward, members will serve three years may be invited to serve consecutive terms.

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