RSPO propose to tighten land clearing standards

This is written by my colleague Rupa Damodaran.

SINGAPORE: THE Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is seeking to tighten its standards, making land clearance for planting oil palms more difficult from 2013.

If Malaysian and Indonesian oil palm growers, who form the bulk of the industry, disagree to the proposed changes, it could delay the multi-stakeholder body's first review of its principles and criteria -- which govern the standards, said its president Jan Kees Vis.

"Malaysian, Indonesian and African growers would need time to go back and talk with their colleagues if they want to go ahead with the proposed changes," he said, at a media briefing here yesterday. He added the land use criteria could be the biggest impasse in the review.

The review has been extended by another six months to March 2013 to accommodate various other issues affecting the palm oil industry.

RSPO existing standards, under its eight principles and 39 criteria to define sustainable palm oil, have not been clear on labour and human rights, greenhouse gas in relation to land use change, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from current operations.

The GHG and carbon footprint calculator came about after the principles and criteria were established in 2004.

"What we are saying is that if your current business model is to increase production through replanting, please expand on areas which have been deforested earlier," he said.

Vis also said, with the growth of palm oil demand expected to double from 50 million tonnes now to 100 million tonnes in 2015, the RSPO needs to work to transform the huge markets in China and India which consume eight million tonnes to absorb certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO).

Currently, it is the large consumer goods manufacturers like Walmart and Unilever which can introduce the CSPO in these two countries but both governments need to extend the support, he said.

The RSPO has boasted that the supply of CSPO globally has soared 250 per cent between 2009 and 2011 while the sales volume had grown six times.

Apart from the Netherlands, Belgium has announced that it will source only CSPO by 2015, as a pledge by an alliance of major processors, manufacturers and industry associations. Yesterday, the UK also announced a similar interest.

Meanwhile, Vis said the RSPO was still having talks with Indonesia to enable its palm oil industries which have received the mandatory Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) to benefit from the international RSPO standards by complying with the additional standards.

He noted Gabungan Pengusaha Kelapa Sawit Indonesia (GAPKI) or the Indonesian Palm Oil Association withdrew its membership with RSPO last year to support the ISPO. "If they (the individual growers) are RSPO-certified I hope they will be certified (automatically) in Indonesia too", he added.