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RSPO’s Roadmap Towards Sustainable Palm Oil

Description on RSPO Theory of change

The RSPO Theory of Change (ToC), is a roadmap that demonstrates how RSPO will achieve its vision; to make sustainable palm oil the norm. The ToC infographic and supporting narrative outlines the key strategies and activities RSPO will implement, together with the support of members, partners, and other actors, to trigger the transformation of the palm oil sector. The strategies are intended to bring about direct outputs in the form of increased adoption of the RSPO standards, greater transparency and inclusivity in the RSPO system, increased market uptake of sustainable palm oil, and improved enabling environment.

Over time, these outputs lead to outcomes that are expected to improve the quality of life of oil palm farmers, create a more prosperous palm oil industry, and enable us to better conserve our planet and its resources. These benefits are then reciprocated by companies and consumers in the palm oil supply chain, as they realise the importance of sustainable sourcing, which leads to increased market demand for sustainable palm oil. When the ToC is fully realised, it delivers change where it matters most - on the ground; a space where oil palm, the environment, and local communities can co-exist in harmony.

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Sustainable palm oil is the norm
These are the roles of RSPO in driving change
Standards System
Engagement platform
Sustainability leadership
Standards System

RSPO is responsible for leading the multi-stakeholder activities involved in the effective development, implementation, and verification of standards to drive impact.

Engagement platform

This role reinforces RSPO as the convener of civil society, government, business, and industry, who come together to tackle the challenging issues, innovate, develop, and invest in sector solutions.

Sustainability leadership

RSPO assumes the role of leading sector transformation through a shared vision, coordination, thought leadership, and acting as a catalyst for change.


RSPO brings together stakeholders and supporters through various mechanisms (roundtables, working groups, task forces, governance structures, etc.) around a common vision, opportunities to engage, and clear strategies for change. This mobilisation also extends to investments and resources to support implementation.

  • Innovation in standards and benchmarks

    Working with stakeholders and other systems to define the principles, criteria and practices that make sustainable palm oil production happen.

  • Credible certification, verification, and grievance

    Assurance that builds stakeholder confidence and trust that sustainability requirements are met.

  • Participatory approach for smallholders

    Inclusion of more smallholders in the RSPO system to produce sustainably and benefiting from sustainable palm oil production and trade.

  • Jurisdictional approaches for collective impact

    Catalysing a platform for collective impact.

  • Demand generation, commitments, and uptake

    Furthering commitments and uptake of sustainable palm oil to incentivise sustainable production.

  • Matching supply and demand

    Growing both the volume and diversity of the supply base and markets and matching them to shore up long-term security of supply for the market and market access for growers.

  • Engagement of the supporting sector

    Creating an enabling environment through being a catalyst, advocate, and partner for policies and incentives, investment, regulation, and enforcement.

Business Case
Research & Evidence

RSPO and all of the mobilised actors collaborate and implement the strategies and supporting activities. Actions include implementation of the P&C, verification/assurance, providing support, seeking solutions, learning, and measuring progress. As evidence and results become available, these are disseminated, leading to adaptive management and scale.

A key part of the process of change is for RSPO to build the business case for sustainable palm oil and ensure that ongoing research is conducted to get more evidence on RSPO impacts and drive continuous improvement.

More markets, new actors engaged, institutional support
Increased commitments, markets & uptake
Platform & dialogues
Increased membership
Increased promotion & awareness
Improved value chain traceability

With increased market uptake and improved enabling environment, there are more markets, new actors engaged and institutional support.

More growers, hectares
and volumes
Effective standards & implementation systems
Recognition & harmonisation
Implemented BMPs
Smallholder participation
Increased knowledge & capacity
Mobilised growers & actors

As more companies adopt the RSPO Principles & Criteria, and transparency and inclusion progresses, there are more growers, hectares, and volumes of certified sustainable palm oil.

Reduced pollution & GHG emissions
Consistent accountability & enforcement
Ecosystems better protected
Resource use minimised
Supportive policies
Productivity optimised
Increased investment
Improved risk management
Sustainable vs unsustainable distinguished
Safe & decent work
Global availibility of sustainable PO & PKO
Human rights upheld
Behaviour of actors shifts, and outputs and outcomes become tangible and measurable. As a result, markets and the actors that influence those markets behave differently, with the objective of making sustainable palm oil the norm.
Whereby greater volumes of sustainable palm oil from a variety of production setups are moving into more markets via more companies. This requires growers of all sizes across the globe to participate with greater volumes of sustainably produced palm oil, selling into more markets, with more actors buying, investing in, and using sustainable palm oil.
Market for Sustainable Palm Oil
  • Biodiversity protected

    Biodiversity, or the variety of life, forms the foundation of the health of ecosystem services and allows for ecosystems to adjust to disturbances (resiliency). Conservation of biodiversity includes the preservation of rare, threatened, and endangered species, and preservation of HCV areas.

  • Ecosystem services enhanced

    Essential ecosystem services from natural and managed ecosystems are preserved, contributing to planet and people well-being. These include clean air and water, food, fuel, and culture.

  • Land degradation neutrality

    A state whereby the amount and quality of land resources necessary to support ecosystem functions and services, and enhance food security remain stable or increase (SDG 15.3.1), considering land productivity, land cover and change, and carbon stocks.

  • Sustainable land use planning

    National/subnational practices and technologies integrate the management of land, water, biodiversity, and other environmental resources to meet human needs while ensuring the long-term sustainability of ecosystem services and a competitive, resilient palm oil sector.

  • Agency and voice

    All rights holders (e.g. workers, communities, women, migrants, indigenous people, vulnerable populations, etc.) can activate, access, and claim their rights through their engagement in palm oil production and trade.

  • Inclusive access to benefits

    Economic, social, and environmental value accrues to all involved in the palm oil sector.

  • Communities and companies in harmony

    There is dissolution of disputes and grievances between communities, palm oil growers, and other actors in the palm oil sector, which are replaced by shared understanding, dialogue, and amicable and peaceful resolution.

  • Sustainable and resilient businesses

    Businesses of all sizes and scales can compete in the long-term and weather economic shocks.

  • Level playing field

    Consistent, unbiased, and equitable policies and systems for all actors provide clarity of the rules and define the spirit of participation. A level playing field requires consistent application of rules and their enforcement. This creates a situation of fair competition, access to markets and finance, and opportunity for all.


Sustainable livelihoods and poverty reduction

Human rights protected, respected and remedied

The palm oil sector protects and improves rural livelihoods, equality, and social well-being. Human rights are respected. People participate in processes that affect them with shared access and benefits. Everyone engaged in palm oil production has equal opportunities to fulfil their potential in work and community, with dignity and equality, and in a healthy working and living environment.

Competitive, resilient, and sustainable sector


Sustainable palm oil reaches its full potential in terms of contributing to innovative economies and accelerated prosperity, and as a model for green and inclusive growth for emerging economies. A sustainable, competitive, and resilient palm oil sector ensures long-term viability of the entire supply chain and shared benefits for the private sector, as well as the livelihoods of the people and communities where palm oil is grown.

Conserved, protected, and enhanced ecosystems that provide for the next generation

Ecosystems and their goods and services are conserved, protected, enhanced, and made resilient through sustainable consumption, production, and management of natural resources [sustainably managing forests, combating desertification, halting and reversing land degradation, halting biodiversity loss (SDG 15)]. Climate change is addressed through continuous GHG reductions, and air and water pollution are controlled.


Resilient & healthy landscapes & communities

Protection and restoration of resources, and people have the means to provide for themselves and advocate for their rights.

Green & inclusive growth

Sustainable palm oil is a driver for economic growth and development at the local, regional, and national level, ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which well-being relies. Benefits accrue to all involved.

The guiding principles are the foundation that form the RSPO, anchoring how the RSPO works. They are headlined by Relevancy and Trust.
Continuous improvement

RSPO and its members engage in an ongoing effort to always better tools, systems, services, processes, transparency, delivery, and the organisation.


RSPO and its members seek solutions that meet new requirements, challenges, unarticulated needs, and opportunities.


Ensuring all aspects (leadership, programmes, staff, strategies, management) of the RSPO organisation and RSPO stakeholders are synched and focused with the vision, goals and priorities to achieve better results and drive impact.


Credibility is established via trustworthiness and expertise. To continue to gain credibility, RSPO and its members (we are all RSPO) can demonstrate this value through transparency, communication, sharing knowledge, and relying on the expertise of its members and partners as well as developing its own capacities.


All types of growers, businesses, supply chain actors, production systems, communities, geographies, NGOs, local authorities, etc., are welcome to be part of RSPO’s vision and missions.


All the actors commit to their contribution to transforming markets.


Recognising the need to work together and making that happen: transformation of markets can't happen without collaboration.


Commitments are to be fulfilled with a shared responsibility for impact. The expectation of partners and all members is that they actively participate and work together to transform the markets and that there is a mutual and agreed accountability for results.


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RSPO & other actors drive outcomes and impacts

Infographics Full Version


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Theory of Change Narrative Document


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