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Following a successful first meeting in Hyderabad in February, to develop the National Interpretation (NI) of the revised RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) 2018, the Indian NI Working Group (NIWG) held its second meeting earlier this month in Mumbai, from 14-15 May 2019.
The NIWG reviewed the P&C 2018 and discussed its relevance for Indian plantations, mills, and smallholders. The RSPO Independent Smallholder Standard, currently in its third round of public consultations, was also discussed at length amongst the group. After the first meeting, the RSPO organised a field trip in Andhra Pradesh to increase the level of understanding for working group members and allow them to interact with local smallholders, visit local mills, and also to help them to better understand the challenges faced on the ground.
India has a legislation that is similar to a ‘jurisdictional approach’ but due to legal restrictions, company-owned oil palm plantations in India is uncommon. However, with more than 50,000 oil palm smallholders grouped in different zones and bound to specific mills, the hope is that this could be an opportunity for smallholder farmers in India to produce palm oil sustainably. Aside from this, RSPO is expecting its first Indian smallholder group to be certified by mid 2020.
Over the course of these meetings, the group also discussed supply chain models, systems for certification, mills and Independent Smallholder Credits, among other key topics. Some important highlights from these two meetings were the agreement of the definition of ‘smallholders’ in India’s context, and the different scenarios for the applicability of the P&C 2018, ISH Standard, Group Certification, and Supply Chain Certification.
The India NI initiative has been supported by an in-depth baseline assessment study and gap analysis for Indian farmers, commissioned by the RSPO. Transgraph Consulting will be working with the NIWG to finalise the draft of the NI, which will go through a 30-day public consultation period from June to July. The NIWG will then gather for the third meeting in August to discuss the public comments and prepare the final draft to be submitted to the RSPO Secretariat for approval by the RSPO Board of Governors (BOG).
There has been strong support for the India Sustainable Palm Oil Coalition (I-SPOC) since it launched in September last year, with 15 organisations joining the coalition in just 8 months. The founding members held their first members’ meeting at the Hindustan Unilever (HUL) headquarters in India. To strengthen the governance of the coalition, HUL and AAK Kamani were asked to join the founding members as part of the I-SPOC Steering Committee.
The coalition members have now been divided into three working groups namely; Policy Advocacy, Supply Chain Transformation and End-Users, to pursue activities that will accomplish I-SPOC‘s mission to promote sustainable consumption and trade of palm oil and its derivatives in India along the supply chain, through industry collaboration.
The current members of I-SPOC include Climate Disclosure Project, Colgate-Palmolive, Ferrero, Galaxy Surfactants, Haldiram’s, Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble and Rabobank. Representatives from Reliance Retail, Dunkin Brands, General Mills, IKEA, Reckitt Benckiser, HSBC, Yes Bank and ISEAL Alliance joined the first meeting as ‘Observers’.
“Palm oil is a priority raw material and in 2016, we brought forward our target for purchasing 100% physically certified palm oil from 2020 to 2019. As a ‘Steering Committee’ member of I-SPOC, we believe we’ll make greater progress towards transforming the industry in India through greater transparency,” said Jasbir Singh Nanda, Procurement Director - South Asia at Unilever.
Arindom Datta, Rabobank’s Executive Director added that “palm oil is an important ingredient for food and consumer goods, generating high economic value for global companies and for small family farms in Asia. Rabobank is involved in solutions, from the plantation to the supermarket shelf. As a food and agri bank, it is in our interest that the sectors in which we are strong are also healthy. India is a challenging market and therefore, it is good to see that several large organisations have joined I-SPOC already. We are fully committed to encouraging all stakeholders to transition to certified sustainable palm oil coming to India from Malaysia and Indonesia and also its domestic production in India once the ‘National Interpretation’ process is complete. For a significant long-term impact, at some stage, we will also need to bring in government representatives for policy level interventions.”