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The Assurance Standing Committee (ASC) discussed its work plan for the upcoming financial year at its fourth meeting, held virtually, on 1 September 2020. The proposed work plan was developed, based on the recommendations by former RSPO Board of Governors (BoG) member, Adam Harrison, who conducted an independent review of the activities undertaken by the now retired Assurance Task Force (ATF), earlier this year.
Commenting on the report findings, Golden Agri Resources Managing Director for Sustainability and Strategic Stakeholder Engagement and ASC Co-Chair, Agus Purnomo, said: “Continuous improvement is key to maintaining relevance and market acceptance. The Assurance Forum provides a wide range of feedback that enriches not only the concept, but also helps to prioritise improvements that RSPO needs to focus on. Only by seriously listening to the concerns of its stakeholders can RSPO achieve a preferred status in both producing and consuming countries.”
As the ASC was established to effectively replace the ATF, it was also tasked to take over the outstanding deliverables of the ATF, many of which were pending when it was formally dissolved in July 2019. An RSPO report from December 2018 highlighted that roughly 55% of the ATF’s actions were still pending, calling attention to the fact that the number of tasks expected to be carried out by the ATF in a short period of time was not feasible.
Another key task on the ASC’s agenda is to seek to develop and implement a quality system for New Planting Procedure (NPP) submissions and monitor trends of complaints on completed NPPs. Furthermore, the ASC aims to develop a framework for improving the quality of audits and avoiding conflict of interest between Certification Bodies (CBs) and clients in the next three years, as well as liaising with the Complaints Panel (CP) for lessons learnt.
RSPO’s new CEO, Beverley Postma, said: “Providing assurance is at the heart of everything we do at RSPO. We are committed to continuous improvement across all pillars of our assurance system, spanning certification, audit, accreditation and grievance. As demand for certified sustainable palm oil continues to grow, the RSPO will work with our independent certification and accreditation partners under the guidance of the ASC to rapidly scale up the skills, capacity and internal resources that are urgently needed to provide the full spectrum of assurance services to our members and stakeholders worldwide.”
Michael Guindon, Global Palm Oil Lead at WWF and new Co-Chair of the ASC added, “Robust auditing and cutting-edge technologies will be the keys to RSPO's success moving forward, as these will further strengthen the confidence of consumers and other stakeholders that RSPO certified palm oil is indeed produced sustainably. Investing in the best available satellite monitoring tools and adopting other innovative verification methods are critical to ensure RSPO's scalability without undermining the credibility of its assurance system.”
The ASC, one of the four Standing Committees reporting to the RSPO BoG, is tasked to provide direction in contributing to the credibility and accountability of RSPO’s Assurance Systems. It was established following the endorsement of the RSPO Governance Review for the ‘Reorganisation of Standing Committees, Task Forces and Working Groups’ by the RSPO BoG in March 2019. The next ASC meeting will be held in November 2020.
To learn more about the Assurance Standing Committee, click here.