Members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) need to further improve transparency on their palm oil production and areas as well as make improvement on corporate structures, supply chain linkages and trade flows, co-chair Anne Rosenbarger said.
They also need to report their progress in a consistent and measurable way.
“When transparency is the norm and robust assurance systems are in place, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will gladly celebrate industry successes as they become verifiable,” she said in her closing address at the recently-held 17th Annual Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT17).
Rosenbarger while acknowledging that the sustainable palm oil is in desperate need of a branding makeover, said a big part of it relies on how to effectively communicate to consumers the inputs supporting sustainable palm oil, compared with a boycott.
“This message is more meaningful and more credible when it comes from social and environmental NGOs than when it comes from companies and industry groups. Raising awareness around sustainable palm oil is a way for NGO members to get more involved – part of our Shared Responsibility,” she explained.
She noted that improving the livelihoods and sustainability of smallholders is also crucial, hence becoming one of the biggest issues that the palm oil industry must address.
On this note, the RSPO members had voted to adopt a new Independent Smallholder Standard (ISH), a critical step to making RSPO certification more accessible, while maintaining the credibility of the RSPO standard.
It also marked a major step forward toward ensuring the credibility of the RSPO and its standards, demonstrating they could help deliver on ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ policies.
Themed ‘A Shared Responsibility: Converting Commitments into Action’, the three-day RT17 held on Nov 4-6 also saw the launch of a new initiative, the RSPO Smallholder Trainer Academy that aims to significantly increase the resources available for smallholders globally.
By adopting a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach, RSPO hopes to reach a larger number of small scale oil palm farmers through agricultural best practice training.
Throughout the conference, other industry-current topics were discussed including, ‘DNA and Blockchain Technology in Palm Oil Traceability’, ‘Our Shared Planet: The Human-Wildlife Conflict,’ as well as ‘The Next Decade for Palm Oil and Sustainable Palm Oil’.
The conference also provided an apt platform to set in motion the recently endorsed requirements and the implementation of Shared Responsibility rules for members. The RSPO also conducted a media tour on RSPO certified plantations in the Krabi region of Thailand on Nov 6-8, which provided the opportunity to meet the smallholders and discuss their entry into the RSPO system.