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Key Changes in the ACOP 2019 Including Shared Responsibility Indicators

It’s that time of the year again where all Ordinary and Affiliate members submit their Annual Communication of Progress (ACOP) reports. If you fall under either of these two categories and have been a member for at least one year, you are required to submit the ACOP 2019. The ACOP is a really important tool as it helps us gauge members’ progress towards achieving 100% RSPO certified sustainable palm oil amongst other vital insights, while also increasing the transparency of members’ operations.

We spoke to RSPO Data Scientist, Yen Hun Sung, to find out more about the  enhancements in this latest ACOP reporting period.

We understand the ACOP 2019 will incorporate some important changes. What are those?

The RSPO Secretariat and Board of Governors (BoG) reviewed the questions in the ACOP 2019 and streamlined its structure. So questions that were considered redundant or where data is available elsewhere (within RSPO) were removed. Essentially, it’s simpler, but we are still capturing the necessary information. 

Besides this, volume declaration is now mandatory for all members. In the past, there were no sanctions or penalties if a member refused to declare volumes. We instituted a change last year to make all volumes mandatory but provide members with the option to redact their data from public view. However, this was not ideal. So, this year, all volumes are mandatory and must be declared as part of our efforts to attain more accurate data.

Another major change is that we are asking for estimated volumes by region in order to promote the uptake of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) in developed regions like Europe and North America, plus key developing regions; China and India. Members are tracked based on their countries or headquarters, not region of consumption. For the ACOP 2019, we are asking members to report their volumes mandatorily and estimate how much of the volumes go where, to track regional consumption more accurately. 

The ACOP 2019 will incorporate a new set of basic Shared Responsibility indicators. Tell us more.

The RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) governs the production of RSPO certified oil palm growers, but we know from the ACOP data that not all of the CSPO that’s produced is purchased. There are gaps and leakages within the market. Therefore, the new rules on Shared Responsibility are an attempt to address this across several elements, including increasing CSPO uptake. 

I would like to stress that Shared Responsibility is still under development though. We have developed the skeletal framework, which will be further improved. However, based on the timeline that has been set for the RSPO Secretariat, we have implemented a set of basic Shared Responsibility indicators that are captured in the Shared Responsibility section of 2019 ACOP reporting. It touches on the key points that the Shared Responsibility policy should cover, such as human rights, smallholders, greenhouse gas, labour issues, and environmental and water management.

The Shared Responsibility component of the ACOP 2019 is not an implementation of Shared Responsibility. It is the gathering of data to establish the baseline for Shared Responsibility in the years to come, and is for members to understand where they are currently, in order to implement Shared Responsibility in the future.

What did we learn from the previous the ACOP?

The credibility of the ACOP data has always been an issue in the past. Therefore, last year, we started a verification process where we managed to raise the accuracy level of the ACOP. This year, we are also instituting a more rigorous verification system to enable us to catch and fix errors as they come in, and increase the credibility of the ACOP data. With more accurate data, we will have a better understanding of the industry and we can address gaps as we see them, rather than react to gaps as they are identified.

What do you hope to achieve for ACOP 2019?

Part of our efforts with the ACOP this year is to reduce the number of inaccuracies in the data reported to us, and to request all members to submit their volume data so that we can have access to a full set of data.

I also hope to see better interaction between the RSPO Secretariat and members during this ACOP period so that a higher level of accuracy can be achieved. We encourage members who are facing any issues with their data to seek assistance from the ACOP team by contacting us at acop@rspo.org. As the reports are coming in, we will also be performing verification in order to reach out to members as soon as possible if there are any discrepancies.