Committed to its mission of providing strategic oversight for the relevant operations of the RSPO Secretariat, the Assurance Standing Committee (ASC) has carried out a number of strategic initiatives in the second half of 2021 — from developing a work plan since the endorsement of the RSPO Assurance Report Gap Analysis to updating the RSPO Contingency Audit Procedure amidst the ongoing COVID pandemic, here are the highlights of the Committee’s activities to move it closer to its goal of future-proofing the RSPO Assurance System.
Addressing Gaps in the RSPO Assurance System
In July 2021, the ASC endorsed the Gap Analysis of the RSPO Assurance System Report. This led to the development of a three-year work plan that will be carried out by the Secretariat and overseen by the ASC. One of the immediate tasks from this work plan is the formation of three subgroups to conduct in-depth deliberation on matters related to the Assurance System’s implementation to assist the committee in making quicker and more informed decisions.
“Understanding the root causes and identifying appropriate solutions to address them was the first phase of the exercise, which has already been completed,” said Aryo Gustomo, Deputy Director of Compliance, Assurance Division. “We have since then moved on to the implementation stage, wherein we put the work plan into action. Through this initiative, it is hoped that we would inch closer to our goal of future-proofing the RSPO Assurance System.”
Another important topic that was discussed was the issue of potential liabilities from the addition of supply bases to the scope of certification that were not previously disclosed. This created a delay in the approval of public announcement requests for recertification and therefore may affect certification status. Upon consultation with the Standard Standing Committee (SSC), the ASC issued an interim measure to ensure the continuity of certification for RSPO members.
Improving Assessment Quality
In October 2021, the committee was briefed on Assurance Services International (ASI)’s accreditation system for Conformity Assessment Bodies (CAB), which involves a 12-24 month process before any applicant CAB is granted an accreditation. In addition, ASI explained its CAB performance appraisal which is an evaluation based on applicable International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and RSPO requirements as well as ASI procedures. The High Conservation Value Network (HCVN) also attended the meeting to give an update on its joint strategy with RSPO which aims to improve report evaluation times, maintain report evaluation quality, and improve the quality of reports submitted by licensed assessors.
Managing RSPO Certification during the Pandemic
In light of the uncertainty of the pandemic situation, the ASC approved Version 2 of the RSPO Contingency Audit Procedure in October 2021, replacing the previous version issued in August 2020. The procedure outlines two options, the first is for the Certification Body (CB)’s audit team to perform audits on-site or remotely with the support of an on-site audit facilitator; and the second for the CB’s audit team to conduct a full remote audit, with no assistance from an audit facilitator and/or local expert on-site. To determine the option that a unit of certification qualifies for, a risk evaluation must be conducted beforehand.
Platform for Constructive Feedback
With the objective of ensuring constant effective communication to stakeholders and providing an avenue to gather input from both RSPO and non-RSPO members, the ASC organised two more Assurance Forums in the second half of 2021. The first, held in June 2021, featured ASI, BSI, Musim Mas, and the Rainforest Alliance in a panel discussion titled "Delivering Credible Assurance," focused on the fundamental challenges in providing credible assurance and how innovative approaches can improve assurance quality.
Then in December 2021, the Assurance Forum presented a sharing session titled “Strengthening RSPO Social Auditing Protocols”. The Secretariat gave an update on the progress of the RSPO Labour Auditing Guidance and invited representatives from two certification bodies, the British Standards Institution (BSI) and TUV Rheinland, to report findings from field tests conducted in Malaysia and Indonesia. SAI Global also joined the session to discuss its practices for the SA8000, one of the social certification programmes that RSPO draws lessons from.
The ASC will reconvene in the first quarter of 2022 to provide directions to improve the credibility and accountability of the RSPO Assurance System.
To learn more about the Assurance Standing Committee, click here.