Credit: Integrity Unit, RSPO

In May 2023, the Integrity Unit took part in the RSPO CB Interpretation Forum in Bogota, Colombia and conducted the 7th RSPO Assurance Forum in conjunction with the RSPO Inter-American Conference in Miami, USA. With a shared purpose of fostering dialogue and collaboration, these activities brought together industry stakeholders from the Americas and across the globe to address challenges and seize opportunities in implementing and upholding global standards for sustainable palm oil. Amidst the lush landscapes of Bogota and the vibrant energy of Miami, the Integrity Unit facilitated a series of productive sessions, fostering purposeful dialogues on critical issues and promising prospects. 

Strengthening audit on labour and wider social aspects

RSPO CB Interpretation Forum (23 May 2023, Bogota, Colombia)

In this event, the Secretariat conducted a socialisation session for the Labour Auditing Guidance which has been undergoing an 18-month trial period since its announcement in November 2022. Apart from assisting them with the content, participants were also engaged in practical exercises centred around the preparation of certification proposals and audit agendas to enhance their understanding on the application of the guidance in real-audit situations.

The session continued with a spotlight on complaint cases from Latin America which were drawn from the RSPO Complaint Case Tracker, capturing the recorded complaints up to the present time. Subsequently, participants were asked to select the most pressing issues among the nature of complaints presented and discuss the root causes. The following are the root causes identified:

  • Illegal sourcing of FFB: (i) Complex regulations compromising economic returns and attempts to evade taxes, (ii) Insufficient control in the purchase of forest products by intermediaries, leading to increased demand for illegal sourcing and (iii) Lack of specific government programmes addressing poverty, contributing to the incentive for illegal sourcing of FFB.
  • Forest degradation: (i) Insufficient universally understandable criteria for identifying forests within management units, (ii) Weak enforcement of protective regulations and inadequate forest protection measures and (iii) Expansion of productive projects in vulnerable areas, driven by higher land costs, despite existing laws and regulations aimed at protecting forests.
  • Land dispute: (i) Lack of societal focus on collective wellbeing, placing emphasis on personal gains instead, (ii) Territorial appropriation by political powers and (iii) Insufficient presence of government offices in rural areas to legalise land titles and a lack of knowledge among farmers regarding the legal processes to secure land rights.
Overcoming sustainability challenges in compliance with RSPO Standards

7th RSPO Assurance Forum (31 May 2023, Miami, USA)

From Bogota, the team travelled to Miami and organised the 7th RSPO Assurance Forum. Supported by the Assurance Standing Committee (ASC), the forum provided a platform for RSPO members and non-members to engage in discussions and offer constructive feedback to enhance the RSPO Assurance Systems. Under the given theme, the forum presented a brief overview of the RSPO’s Standards, highlighted the shared responsibility among all actors, and examined the impact of the Principles and Criteria (P&C) implementation on downstream players. Assurance Services International (ASI) and SCS Global Services contributed valuable insights as panellists during the forum. 

Additionally, the forum sought input from participants regarding their current sustainability approaches and their expectations on audits and auditors. Overall, the feedback reflects a collective commitment to sustainability and an acknowledgment of the key areas that require attention. It underscores the importance of continuously improving auditing processes to further enhance sustainability practices within the palm oil industry.

To read the full report, click here.

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