To achieve its mission and goals, RSPO believes that having strong relationships with key stakeholders is crucial. A need was identified to have a dedicated person with the technical knowledge of the RSPO system to handle the tasks of building and maintaining healthy stakeholder relationships with those in Malaysia, the ASEAN region and beyond, to enable us to better identify opportunities, strategic partnerships, and other viable initiatives. 

With this objective in mind, the Strategic Stakeholder Relations position is established. We caught up with the Director of this newly created role, Salahudin Yaacob, formerly RSPO Assurance Director, to find out more.

First of all, congratulations! As this is a newly created position at the RSPO Secretariat, can you tell us more about how this role developed and why it’s an essential position for RSPO at this time?

This position has been created primarily to support the key palm oil stakeholders in Malaysia, particularly government authorities and experts in the industry. Despite having the Secretariat headquartered here in Malaysia, there has never been a dedicated role or team to focus 100% of their time on Malaysian stakeholders, until now. Interim CEO Bakhtiar Talhah felt that the RSPO needs to be closer to these important stakeholders and thus, the focus will be on three groups, namely; government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and RSPO members.

It is crucial for us to develop and maintain close relationships with government authorities, which include local, state, and federal bodies/agencies. By working with the relevant players, we will be better informed on matters pertaining to legal requirements and policies, and this knowledge can be used to not only strengthen RSPO standards, but also our members engagement with government authorities.

On the other end of the scale, another group that we need to strengthen our engagement with are NGOs. As RSPO is a multi-stakeholder organisation, a lot of our activities are supported by NGOs, both environmental and social. However, more work can be done with local NGOs in Malaysia, and this is a great opportunity to come together to develop and deliver programmes and activities on the ground, such as joint events, impact programmes, or bringing representatives in to advise on RSPO working groups.

Additionally, our membership in Malaysia is extremely important to us and it’s a vibrant group. We want to build closer relationships with them so they have someone at the top of the organisation to connect with on complicated matters – someone to help them assess their progress, find out more information on RSPO programmes, and for us to understand how we can serve them better. 

What are the top three priorities/actions you will be taking up in the first few months of the year?
First, we need to know who are the stakeholders we’re not yet speaking with – that we need to be speaking with today. We will identify these key individuals or organisations from different sectors, and bring them into the larger conversation that we’re having with other stakeholders. It is important for us to find out their priorities and programmes, and whether there is an opportunity for us to find common ground and work together. This  will better position the RSPO to co-design programmes that benefit all parties involved while fostering fruitful relationships that scale up the impact of the work we do together, be it a targeted programme or activity, a working group, or something new we haven’t yet explored. 

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about your new role?
Support from governments is essential if we want to see the production and uptake of sustainable palm oil increase. I believe the scope of the role is a mountain to climb. And although initially, it will not be easy, once we reach the summit, we will achieve success.

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