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Step Up Shared Responsibility Concept to Boost Certified Palm Oil Uptake, Says RSPO

The Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is disappointed that there is no improvement in the uptake of certified palm oil, saying this is sending the wrong message to oil palm growers.

“We cannot continue to accept that the uptake of certified palm oil today is only 64%. It is terrible and sends the wrong message to growers [as it] continues to push some people away from the RSPO, instead of attracting them in,” said RSPO co-chair Datuk Carl Bek-Nielsen.

Bek-Nielsen said there is a need for all RSPO members to step up implementing and operationalizing the concept of “shared responsibility” as sustainability is a collective mission requiring critical individual changes.

“The reluctance by some to step up and take ownership must stop. Remember that this is a collective mission where shared sustainability is the shared objective, therefore requiring [critical] individual changes,” he told local and foreign stakeholders and players from the palm oil industry at the second day of the RSPO Annual Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT2022) on Nov 30.

Bek-Nielsen, who is the chief executive officer of United Plantations Bhd, said the RSPO board of governance has a taskforce to regularly review the standards of the certification body.

“They should work on improving the auditability of the existing standards and improving the spirit of shared responsibility as its main priorities. It should not add extra layers on top of an already very hard and complex set of criteria,” he said.

Noting that certain quarters of the industry continue to promote an overly egalitarian approach, Bek-Nielsen said this would “inevitably amputate 70% of global growers from ever being able to live up to the RSPO principles and criteria”.

“What good is the RSPO if 70% of all growers will never be able to meet with RSPO’s criteria for sustainability, if this is already the gold standard and the strictest in any agricultural crop? This ego trip will derail the overarching goal of our sustainability mission of raising both the floor, as well as the ceiling — and not only the ceiling,” he said.

Currently, 20% of global palm oil production is RSPO-certified.

The certification body noted that no other agricultural crop including “European rapeseed, American soybean oil, Eastern European sunflower oil or South Europe’s olive oil” were subjected to the same level of scrutiny as palm oil.

“This is not to say there is no room for improvement. There is. But the RSPO has played a pivotal role for the industry in keeping certain trade doors open, which otherwise would have been permanently shut,” said Bek-Nielsen.


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