With a demand for better assurance in the sustainable palm oil industry, the Assurance Standing Committee (ASC) continued to improve the current RSPO Assurance System.

Assurance Breakout at RT2023 – An Opportune Moment to Learn the Delegates’ Thoughts

Over 150 RT2023 delegates participated in the Assurance Breakout session on 21 November 2023, to gather input on some of the main concerns in RSPO’s Assurance System. The delegates split into 11 groups facilitated by the session’s panellists, a few members of the ASC and NGOs. The groups discussed the following key questions:

  • “What measures can RSPO implement to strengthen social assurance? For example, how can we prevent the recurrence of cases like human rights and labour rights violations?”

The participants suggested enhancements to the audit process, such as conducting more unannounced audits, allocating more time for interviews, and increasing auditors’ capacity to detect social non-conformities. Another suggestion was to engage stakeholders like labour unions and smallholders in RSPO’s governance. Also, participants suggested that RSPO should disseminate interpretation of the P&C across all levels and enhance regulatory collaboration.

  • “Many social issues are linked to environmental issues such as the creation of hotspots and the clearance of high conservation value (HCV) areas by local communities and/or companies. What can RSPO do to overcome these challenges?”

Some of the suggestions included were to conduct awareness programmes tailored to the respective communities and to improve RSPO’s hotspot monitoring systems to align with growers’ mechanisms. Additionally, RSPO could investigate poor land acquisition practices and collaborate with local governments to develop engagement programmes for land acquisition-related issues.

  • “What is the best way to garner support and acceptance of the strategies or best practices identified among RSPO Members and the communities they operate in?”

Some unique strategies suggested by the participants included developing a mechanism to gather input/complaints from CBs regarding standards implementation. Other approaches included encouraging shared responsibility among all stakeholders and providing economic incentives.

These inputs will be mapped against the Secretariat’s ongoing and future work plans to ensure the necessary improvements happen.

Labour Auditing: Improved Set of Guidelines

The RSPO Labour Auditing Guidance is a voluntary guidance document that has been undergoing its 18-month trial period, ending in May 2024. To thoroughly analyse the feedback received throughout this trial period and ascertain the feasibility of making the Guidance mandatory in the future, the ASC approved the Terms of Reference for an independent review of the guidance implementation. The review is set to start in the first quarter of 2024 and conclude in October 2024.

Potential De-linking of CBs and Auditees

To raise the credibility of RSPO’s Certification scheme, the ASC has advised the Secretariat to explore the option of de-linking business relations between CBs and auditees by conducting an initial study.

The focus of this study will be to review the practicality and gaps of the current model wherein auditees pay for the auditing services of the CBs, to explore other models that attempt to remove this financial link, and to evaluate the impacts on the businesses of said CBs and auditees. The ASC endorsed the appointment of a consultant for the initial study in December 2023, awaiting the results for when the study is to conclude in April 2024. The Secretariat will continue to work with the ASC to determine the next steps of the de-linking project following the upcoming results of the study.

To learn more about the Assurance Standing Committee, click here.

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