The recently concluded RT2022 gathered a large number of actors in the palm oil value chain to discuss current market challenges and identify opportunities for greater partnerships. Members of the Assurance Standing Committee (ASC) also attended the momentous event, demonstrating their commitment to maintaining the credibility of the RSPO Assurance System. The ASC convened in September 2022, prior to its fourth quarter meeting that was held during RT2022. Key highlights from both meetings are presented below.

Improving Auditability of Labour Requirements

In its September 2022 meeting, the ASC endorsed the RSPO Labour Auditing Guidance, Handbook for Auditors. Developed with the main objective of improving auditing of labour-related elements in the RSPO P&C, the guidance provides specific recommendations that cover the whole audit process, from contract signing and planning, to execution and reporting. The Secretariat will conduct a series of workshops in the first quarter of 2023 to increase awareness and understanding, as well as encourage the use of this voluntary guidance document by certification bodies (CBs).

In addition, the ASC agreed to clarify the interpretation of Clause 5.7.3 in the RSPO Certification Systems Document 2020 so that when the sampling formula is applied, the minimum number of estates to be audited will be no less than four (4). This clarification has been communicated via the RSPO Interpretation Forum (RIF). The meeting also saw the participation of the High Conservation Value Network (HCVN), which gave an update on its efforts to strengthen licensed assessors’ capacity and presented ideas to improve the management and monitoring of high conservation value areas.

Strengthening Assurance through Analysis of Data

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about all kinds of challenges and the ASC was not spared from it. After conducting more than ten virtual meetings, the ASC was finally able to hold an in-person meeting on 1 December 2022, during RT2022. This was especially meaningful for Lawrence Quarshie from Golden Star Oil Palm Farmers Association (GSOPFA), who joined the ASC earlier this year, saying, It is very inspiring to see the dedication of ASC members in ensuring a robust assurance system for the RSPO. As representative of the smallholder constituent, my goal is to maintain the role of smallholders in ensuring the credibility and integrity of sustainability standards are amplified.”

In this fourth quarter meeting, the Secretariat highlighted a few indicators from the draft RSPO Principles & Criteria (P&C) 2023 that are relevant to pressing issues in assurance for the ASC to discuss. While the ASC acknowledged the scope and roles of the P&C Review Task Force, the discussion was meant to provide an assurance perspective on the draft. Another matter that was raised in the meeting was the possibility of merging CBs’ preliminary audit data form with the RSPO Metrics Template. The ASC advised the Secretariat to look into synergising the data collection to increase accuracy and ease the process for both members and CBs.

Also present at the meeting was Assurance Services International (ASI), which discussed findings from their recent social compliance assessments and an analysis of non-conformities raised by CBs. In its presentation, ASI explained how a systematic review of CBs’ performance patterns informs the focus of their oversight. The ASC was also provided a summary of the latest Assurance Progress Report, which detailed an action plan based on the 2021 Assurance Gap Analysis. The report indicated 35% completion and stated that 42 out of 83 activities are expected to be accomplished by September 2023.

The ASC will host another virtual Assurance Forum in January 2023. The forum acts as a platform for stakeholders to discuss and provide constructive feedback to further strengthen the RSPO Assurance System. 

To learn more about the ASC, click here

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