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Adoption of RSPO Independent Smallholder Standard at the 16th Annual General Assembly

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) held its 16th annual General Assembly in Bangkok, Thailand  for all Ordinary Members to vote on Resolution GA16-6f for the Adoption of the RSPO Independent Smallholder Standard 2019 for the production of sustainable palm oil by Independent Smallholders.

A dedicated multi-stakeholder Smallholder Interim Group (SHIG) which started out as a subgroup, was formed during the second Principles and Criteria (P&C) Review Task Force meeting in July 2017. The SHIG comprised of a balanced smallholder representatives with the main objective of developing a simplified approach for RSPO Smallholders, in accordance with Objective 2 of the Board of Governors (BoG)  approved Smallholder Strategy and aligned with the BoG approved RSPO Theory of Change (TOC).

This newly adopted standard aims to increase the inclusion of smallholders into the RSPO system through a mechanism which takes into consideration the diversity in challenges and situations faced by smallholders globally, together with their varying needs and concerns while adhering to the key pillars of RSPO’s Theory of Change (ToC): Prosperity, People and Planet.

The  RSPO Independent Smallholder (ISH) Standard will be effective immediately from the date of approval (with a 12 (twelve) month grace period). 

Moving Forward:

The new RSPO ISH Standard comes into effect immediately, however there will be a transition period of one year from the date of adoption (6 of November 2019) to implement the new standard. The ISH Standard shall serve as a generic document for smallholders that qualify as Independent Smallholders and is applicable for certification of sustainable palm oil production worldwide. Furthermore, National Interpretations (NIs) where deemed necessary, will need to be developed to allow for the alignment towards the RSPO Independent Smallholder Standard. 

The RSPO Secretariat will update, revise and/or develop all related guidelines and systems documents to align with the new standards to further support and direct independent smallholders towards progress and to become compliant. New guidelines and systems documents under development include:

  1. Simplified FPIC Approach

  2. Simplified combined HCV-HCS approach

  3. RaCP Mechanism

  4. Guidance for Group Managers and Individual Group Members 

  5. Certification Systems document 

Interim Measures:

While the guidelines and systems documents are being developed, the interim measures to be used by independent smallholders and group managers are as listed below :

1. Simplified FPIC Approach

In the interim, smallholders are to use existing FPIC approach for applicable scenarios while the simplified FPIC approach is being developed. 


The new approach  will be developed and published no later than February 2021.

2. Simplified combined HCV-HCS approach

Group managers are advised to contact the RSPO Secretariat if any independent smallholders have indicated plans for new 



The RSPO, in consultation with the HCSA Steering Group, intends to develop a simplified combined HCV-HCS approach to identify and protect HCS forests. The simplified and combined HCV-HCS approach for independent smallholders will be open to public consultation and will be published no later than June 2021.


In the meantime, independent smallholders are not allowed to clear any primary forests, or any areas required to protect or enhance HCVs and HCS forests, as committed by signing the Smallholder Declaration. Until the simplified combined HCV-HCS approach and tool for independent smallholders is available, new planting will only be permitted in low risk areas. The definition and procedure for identification of low risk areas will be defined by a Smallholder No Deforestation Task Force.

3. RaCP Mechanism

The group manager will be required to declare any clearance by the Independent Smallholders since: 

  • November 2005 (Without prior HCV assessment) 

  • November 2019 (Without prior HCS assessment)


This requirement quantifies conservation liability which will then be  assessed through a Land Use Change Analysis (LUCA) supported by the RSPO Secretariat. Final Conservation Liability, if any, will need to be recorded and remedied and/or compensated once the mechanism appropriate to ISH is available.


Appropriate remediation and compensation (RaCP) mechanism for independent smallholders will be developed and published in 2021.

4. Guidance for Group Managers and Individual Group Members 

Group managers are advised to contact the RSPO Secretariat for additional information regarding the guidance.


Guidance for group managers / members will be developed and published no later than January 2020. 

5. Certification Systems document

Certification bodies are advised to contact the RSPO Secretariat if they are auditing against the RSPO Independent Smallholder Standard.


Certification Systems Documents for independent smallholders will be developed and published no later than December 2020.

For further information on the RSPO ISH Standard, kindly contact  Mr. Ashwin Selvaraj, RSPO Head of Smallholder Programme at ashwin@rspo.org.