A message from the Interim Chief Executive Officer 

Dear Members,

I wanted to quickly update you on the RSPO Secretariat’s response to the COVID-19 situation. As this situation has morphed from a regional outbreak to a global pandemic, we have been working around the clock to assess its impact on our operations as a Secretariat and as a global multi-stakeholder organisation, and certification scheme. 

First and foremost, our thoughts are with those that have been affected by this unprecedented event and we greatly appreciate the efforts of healthcare workers, local communities, and governments around the world who are on the frontline working to contain this virus. With members in more than 90 countries, we know unfortunately that many of you, your family, friends and neighbours will or are being impacted directly. 

In terms of organisational continuity, I think it’s important to update you on a few aspects as we work to mitigate the impact of the virus.

Secretariat Operations

Similar to many other organisations, we halted international and domestic travel that does not meet “business critical” criteria, and we have adopted a strategy of work from home for our staff in the impacted regions and countries. We have implemented this policy globally, but be assured we are taking steps to ensure the continuity of the organisation. There may be some initial disruption while we implement this process, but we anticipate that it will be minimal. During this time period, the best way to reach specific departments will be through email: 

RSPO Certification Audits

While we fully assess the impact on the ability of auditors to travel to audit the plantations and mills, we would advise the Unit of Certification to request their respective Certification Body (CB) to submit a Request for License Extension in Palmtrace for a maximum of three months. This is unprecedented for the RSPO, but is necessary to protect the health of those involved in the certification process. A further extension of time will be considered on a case by case basis. The CB will need to inform the RSPO Secretariat of such cases.

At this time, we are allowing the CBs to decide on whether on-site or remote audits of their clients are to be conducted. The CB have also been advised to request a three month license extension in Palmtrace. The CB will request necessary documents from the certified facility for remote audit purposes.  After the remote audit has been conducted, the CB is required to submit the audit report and certificate in Palmtrace as usual.

Again, for questions on any of the above regarding P&C and SC Certification audits, please contact [email protected].

Convenings, Events and Public Consultations

One of the most important aspects of the RSPO is our ability to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders from all aspects of the industry and civil society. This is extremely valuable, but in light of the current situation we have taken steps to postpone events or extend public consultations. We will not risk the health and wellbeing of our important stakeholders at this time and will heed WHO and local governmental recommendations.

We recognise the uncertainty caused to your businesses or organisations by COVID-19 is distressing, and that this is being further compounded by other social and economic factors. We will do our best to react, and our team members globally are available if you have questions. We know that this is not business as usual, but we will attempt to service our membership and our communities as best we can during this time period.


Yours sincerely, 

Bakhtiar Talhah

Interim Chief Executive Officer

About RSPO:

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders. RSPO is a not-for-profit, international, membership organisation that unites stakeholders from the different sectors of the palm oil industry including oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs, and social or developmental NGOs.

This multi-stakeholder representation is mirrored in the governance structure of RSPO such that seats in the Board of Governors, Steering Committees and Working Groups are fairly allocated to each sector. In this way, RSPO lives out the philosophy of the "roundtable" by giving equal rights to each stakeholder group, facilitating traditionally adversarial stakeholders in working together to reach decisions by consensus, and achieving RSPO’s shared vision of making sustainable palm oil the norm.

The seat of the association is in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur with satellite offices in Jakarta (ID), London (UK), Zoetermeer (NL), Beijing (CN) and Bogotá (CO).

For further information, please contact:  

Name: Dan Strechay

Position: Interim Director of Outreach & Engagement 

[email protected]

Name: Sara Cowling

Position: Global Communications Manager – Asia

[email protected]

Name: Fay Richards

Position: Global Communications Manager – Europe and Africa

[email protected]


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