The RSPO has recently announced an additional voluntary addendum to its existing Principles and Criteria certification.
The addendum known as RSPO NEXT was developed by a Working Group of a cross section of Board of Governors members comprised of Growers, Processors & Traders, Retailers, Social and Environmental NGO’s. The group developed guidance on the themes of No Deforestation, No Fire, No Planting on Peat, Reduction of GHGs, Respect for Human Rights and Transparency.
It is an initiative to engage with RSPO member companies (producers, suppliers and users of palm products) that have met the current requirements of the RSPO Principles and Criteria and, in addition, through their policies and actions, exceeded them. RSPO NEXT will provide the credibility that only on the ground 3rd party verification of actions can bring, on issues such as Deforestation, Peatland Development and Indigenous Peoples rights.
Within each category there are requirements for implementation that will be audited for compliance by an RSPO-approved Audit Organization. Any review will require both assessment of the scope and content of a global company policy as well as an on-the-ground assessment of actions at the palm oil mill and supply base level. Going beyond policy, the programme will deliver an environment of transparency for the results on the ground.
Coupled with this program will be a set of clear requirements that will guide claims in line with a high transparency process as to progress toward a goal of 100% compliance. These are being developed following RSPO procedures in a parallel process.
To understand the RSPO NEXT better, we spoke to Ms Liza Murphy, who coordinated the effort to develop this new initiative with the RSPO.
Why is there a need for this additional addendum at this point of time?
RSPO is the global leader in developing responses to the challenges of sustainable development of palm oil production. We believe in continuous improvement and as we have learned in the last 10 years, improvement is always possible, this is part of that effort.
The markets are constantly demanding increasingly high levels of sustainable production and we are helping RSPO producers meet those demands through this voluntary opportunity to submit their practices to rigorous third party review.
There is always a way to do a thing better, it does not mean that what has been done to date is not appropriate, rather that we are always collectively looking for ways to improve and be responsive to the needs of the earth and the demands of the market.
Will this addendum improve transparency of RSPO’s policies? How is that possible?
This will definitely increase transparency of the information provided by those implementing RSPO NEXT. The guidance contains several points that require increased public reporting on various items.
I would add that this will continue the transparency of RSPO policies, as it will be readily available for anyone interested, just like the rest of RSPO’s policies, and it will be clear who has met these criteria, as it is for the current P&C.
How will RSPO’s stakeholders benefit from RSPO NEXT?
Overall all RSPO stakeholders will benefit from having RSPO continue to be a global leader in developing “best in class” approaches to sustainable Oil Palm production. A vital part of this platform is the credibility of claims that comes from RSPO process of mandatory independent third party audits.
This means that end users who are concerned with the issues addressed in the guidance can be assured that implementation is happening in a credible manner and, this is not simply a policy that may not have been fully implemented, and could rely on self reporting or non independent party reviews.
An important benefit is also the credibility that comes from development of consensus based solutions coupled with rigorous 3rd party audits that protect all stakeholders. We are developing additional guidance to the existing Claims and Communication guidelines so that a clear and understandable message will be delivered by participants and in the market.
What are the options available for members that do not agree to the additional addendum?
It is again important to note that RSPO NEXT is a voluntary process.
We do not anticipate that every operation will be able to meet the requirements. It is meant to recognize the emerging baselines on the important issues we face, and allow us to collectively learn how to best respond. Producers who follow the core RSPO P&C are not required to add this on and their production will still represent strong leadership in sustainable palm oil production.
What are the challenges that you foresee in implementing this?
By definition, credible systems with all their checks and balances are complex systems for those who engage in them.
Providing clear guidance for potential participants is mandatory and ensuring accredited Certification Bodies (CB) are properly trained, building the support systems and delivering a strong administrative platform via the RSPO Technical Team is equally as vital.
Additionally, we are working on the challenge of building the appropriate supply chain demand to ensure that the efforts of those who participate in this new program are recognized and rewarded in the global market. When end users are asking for evolution of standards, it is important that those requests, when met, are followed through with active purchases.
What are this addendum’s further benefits to the environment and local communities?
This platform will benefit local communities via the enhanced focus on Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), mandatory public information sharing and the benefits that accrue from enhanced ecosystem services. These will be delivered through a focus on eliminating deforestation, no use of fire, and reduced GHGs.
Additionally, there is a strong component that focuses on local economic development, including delivering trainings and access to opportunities on oil palm plantations, and elsewhere for employment.
Does RSPO NEXT mean CSPO NEXT?
That will be determined by RSPO members as we go through RSPO processes of regular updates to the RSPO P&C. Remember, RSPO is an organization that reflects the will of its members in a collective manner.
The evolution of the rules we follow is led by RSPO members who respond to the evolution of knowledge, best practices and global market demand to develop leadership positions in the sustainable production of Oil Palm. The only thing that we do know for sure is that RSPO is the global leader, and wants to remain so. Collectively we take that responsibility seriously and will continue to honor it.
Is RSPO NEXT going to be the toughest available standard in respect to Environmental and Social guidelines on sustainable palm oil?
Yes, as of now, we believe that it will be the toughest. Our development process for the draft that has been published for public consultation included a review of a wide universe of programs and guidance being discussed by many today.
There are many people out there that ponder the questions we face, and as a learning organization, we are open to taking the best of ideas and practices and formulating them in ways that add credible review and reporting as needed via RSPO’s audit mechanisms.
Leadership is a moving target. We remain committed to being open and flexible enough to ensure RSPO retains its global leadership role and are thrilled to have RSPO membership supporting learning and innovation as we face the future.
Please explain what will happen once the 60 days public consultation comes to an end?
Just as with all other RSPO’s public consultations, we will reconvene the Working Group of RSPO NEXT, and collectively review the inputs we have received. This will then be used to fine tune, or if appropriate, amend the draft language.
Once approved by the Board of Governors, it will move to the implementation phase. This will be led by RSPO’s Technical team and will have a strong focus on ensuring that accredited CB’s are ready to deliver and that procedures and documentation are up to date. There will also be a strong program of outreach from RSPO’s Communications Team to members, the media to be sure that uptake can be well supported.
We invite comments from all members and interested stakeholders. We also encourage you to forward this notice on to all interested parties for their participation.
The RSPO NEXT Public Consultation is open for comments until (GMT+8) on Tuesday 6 October 2015.
You may find the proposed draft (DOWNLOAD HERE) for review and we encourage you to provide your comments by responding to the online survey available here in English. Spanish, French and Bahasa versions will be added soon.
If you experience issues with the survey, please feel free to provide comments via email to [email protected].