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Amsterdam, 4 June 2015 - A new drive to address palm oil’s global sustainability challenges emerged at RSPO’s third European Roundtable held yesterday in Amsterdam, gathering an audience of around two hundred and eighty industries, NGOs and stakeholders from palm oil producing and importing countries.While all parties agreed that RSPO certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) is part of the answer and acknowledged the work done by RSPO so far, they did not see any room for complacency and stressed the importance of change.
In his opening speech, Biswaranjan Sen, Co-chair of the RSPO Board of Governors and VP Chemicals Procurement & Supply Procurement at Unilever, said: “Times are changing. Watch this space, there is more to come. If we do not change, RSPO will be left behind.” The organisation has adopted a set of ambitious regional objectives for market uptake: to reach 100% CSPO in Europe by 2020, 50% in Indonesia and Malaysia, 30% in India and 10% in China. The conference highlighted a number of challenges that RSPO will need to address in order to implement its market transformation vision in Europe and globally.
Credibility and sustainability are high on the agenda. Today, the RSPO Board of Governors will discuss the adoption of RSPO+, a set of additional sustainability criteria which most innovative members will be able to integrate into their certification process. Among the biggest sustainability challenges, Jonathon Porritt, Forum for the Future and Chair of the High Carbon Stock Study, highlighted a need “for a robust methodology to balance forest protection with the socio-economic interest of local communities.”
To meet the credibility challenge, Biswaranjan Sen stressed that RSPO is not a club, and that the organisation has taken serious measures to suspend or expel non-compliant members earlier this year, and has revamped its complaint panel. Another positive signal came when Annisa Rahmawati, Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace said she gave RSPO 7/10 score when asked about the potential of RSPO to meet the sustainability challenges. Greenpeace have been among the critical of the NGOs, and yesterday it wasclear that they did not support a Palm Oil boycott.
Driving up market demand in all companies and sectors is another key challenge RSPO needs to address, particularly in Europe, as there is no better place than the EU for RSPO members to work together to drive uptake of CSPO.
Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business at Marks & Spencer, said: “I stand here as a businessman. Business can contribute to a sustainable future, but I think there is also a role for governments to play.” Christiaan Rebergen, Director General International Cooperation, Government of The Netherlands, agreed on the importance of governments and encouraged stakeholders to share their ideas with policy makers. “RSPO cannot do it alone”, he said, and added that frontrunners in Europe represent an opportunity. “How do we get the European market to reach 100%? The Dutch government will back this process during its EU presidency. And Minister Ploumen tends to put the sustainability of the international value chain on the EU agenda, starting with a high level conference in December.”
See the photos from the event here.
In response to the urgent and pressing global call for sustainably-produced palm oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders. The seat of the association is in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur with satellite offices in Jakarta, London and Zoetermeer (NL).
RSPO is a not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry - oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs - to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.
Such multi-stakeholder representation is mirrored in the governance structure of RSPO such that seats in the Executive Board and project-level Working Groups are fairly allocated to each sector. In this way, RSPO lives out the philosophy of the "roundtable" by giving equal rights to each stakeholder group to bring group-specific agendas to the roundtable, facilitating traditionally adversarial stakeholders and business competitors to work together towards a common objective and make decisions by consensus.
Contacts for RSPO Secretariat: