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RSPO Certification Audits during COVID-19 Crisis

Since our last announcement, we have been working closely with RSPO members, certification bodies (CBs), and our accreditation body (AB) to identify ways to ensure that our standards remain a top priority for all, and that the impacts of COVID-19 do not affect our ability to uphold the credibility and assurance that is expected from RSPO certification. 

However, necessary adjustments have been made as both CBs and certificate holders (certified members) are affected by travel restrictions and other circumstances, which has caused practical challenges, especially for on-site audits relating to employees and communities. We thank you all for your patience and understanding as well as your willingness to adapt and quickly respond to the ever changing landscape of COVID-19. 

In saying this, we have received a number of queries from members and stakeholders alike and wanted to take this opportunity to clarify some of the main questions or concerns about how the RSPO Secretariat, our members, CBs and AB are continually adapting to this global pandemic.

In an effort to strengthen the credibility of our auditing process during this time, RSPO accredited CBs will be allowed to perform remote audits with the participation of one or more ‘Audit Facilitators’ on-site. An Audit Facilitator can be used whenever the CB’s audit team cannot travel to be on-site to perform an assessment, when a site visit and/or interview is required. The facilitators will support the audit team in validating and recording appropriate evidence using the technology available during the remote audit and perform interviews of relevant employees or stakeholders, at the request of the audit team. This process can be used for all types of audits.

The position on initial certification audits mostly impacts independent smallholder groups that are ready for certification against the RSPO Independent Smallholder (ISH) Standard. In view of this position impacting smallholder livelihoods, the RSPO Secretariat has carried out a review for the possibility of implementing remote audits for the Eligibility Phase of the ISH Standard. A remote audit for the Eligibility Phase shall only be allowed for if there are restrictions in place for on-site audits in a specified country/region due to COVID-19.

We wish to reassure all stakeholders that remote audits are a temporary measure only and will not replace on-site audits. There are indicators in the RSPO standards that require on-site interviews with workers and community members, as well as verification of the site’s conditions. 

We have developed the following documents to guide CBs and Certificate Holders. These documents will be made available in several languages:  

  • Contingency RSPO Audit Procedure
  • Audit Facilitator Guidance 

We have summarised all of the queries received over the past few months into a concise document of frequently asked questions (FAQ), which we encourage all members, CBs and other interested stakeholders to download and read. 

You may access all the documents HERE

You may also contact us at certification@rspo.org if you have any further questions or concerns regarding this matter.