Impact assessment, which is the process of identifying the future outcomes of a current or a planned activity, is an essential step before the execution of any development project to ensure the feasibility and sustainability of the activities. Since the 1980s, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been regarded as a critical decision-making tool by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It is used to assess the environmental impacts of a proposed activity and to develop mitigation measures to address, reduce, or offset any potential negative impacts.

EIA puts emphasis on a specific set of effects, mainly environmental effects. The scoping difference regarding the mitigation and management of environmental impacts may also cover other dimensions such as social, ethical, and economic dimensions.

Social Impact Assessment (SIA) was introduced to assess social-related effects such as health risk, state of well-being, service availability to a community, facility accessibility, participation in environmental governance, and quality of life.[1] Its primary purpose is to bring about a more sustainable livelihood between the biophysical system and the human environment. SIA addresses the issue of economic driven development which maximises social benefits while minimising adverse impacts that affect the common way of life in society. By identifying both EIA and SIA impacts in advance: (1) better decisions can be made about which interventions should proceed and how they should proceed; and (2) mitigation measures can be implemented to minimise socio-economic costs and environmental harm from a specific planned activity [2]. EIA and SIA implementation have marginal influences on decisions in favour of balancing both environmental and non-environmental objectives with political factors. [3]

EIA and SIA approaches have evolved over time in tandem with the evolution of respective countries national legislation on environmental management and social policies. Some countries even have sector-specific technical guidance and local stakeholder perspectives which are adapted to the impact assessment framework (e.g. EIA for Nigeria’s oil sector) [4]. Additionally, some international conventions have specific processes and requirements for impact assessments, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Considering this gap, there is a need to research on the current implementation of the social and environmental impact assessments in a specific country, and if possible, align with international conventions.

In addition, a more comprehensive impact assessment model was introduced, integrating both EIA and SIA into a holistic methodology known as the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA), which has been a central requirement of the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C). RSPO members are required to comply with Criterion 3.4 of the RSPO P&C on conducting SEIA assessment before new plantings or plantation operations [5].

For more information, please refer to this Terms of Reference.

Interested applicants may submit their expression of interest to [email protected] by 6:00 PM MYT (GMT+8) on 16 February 2023. All documents submitted must be written in English. For any queries, kindly contact the Standard Development team, RSPO Secretariat at [email protected].

[1] IISD (2016) Accessed from:
[2]  IAIA – Social Impact Assessment definition –,processes%20invoked%20by%20those%20interventions.
[3] Dendena, B., & Corsi, S. (2015). The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment: a further step towards an integrated assessment process. Journal of Cleaner Production, 108, 965-977.
[4] UN Environment (2018). Assessing Environmental Impacts – A Global Review of Legislation, page 6, Nairobi, Kenya.
[5] see the guidance for Criterion 3.4 in 2018 RSPO P&C, pages 91 & 92.

Get Involved

Whether you’re an individual or an organisation, you can help make sustainable palm oil the norm.

As an individual

Take a stand for sustainable palm oil with your weekly shopping. See how you can influence brands and businesses.

More on individual action

As a smallholder

Discover how RSPO Certification can introduce you to sustainable farming practices to increase your yield and the land and wildlife around your smallholding.

More on smallholder impact

As an organisation

You can make an impact on reducing the negative social and environmental impact of conventional oil palm cultivation through producing and sourcing certified sustainable palm oil.

More on organisation influence