RSPO comes un­der fire from ac­tivists

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

KUALA LUMPUR: Some ac­tivist groups are with­draw­ing sup­port for the palm oil body that pro­vides sus­tain­abil­ity cer­tifi­cates for the in­dus­try, say­ing it is bi­ased to­wards pro­duc­ers and its com­plaints panel is flawed.

Ai­den­vi­ron­ment, an Am­s­ter­dam-based green group, could be­come the lat­est to cut ties with the Roundtable on Sus­tain­able Palm Oil (RSPO) over what it calls poor han­dling of a com­plaint against ma­jor palm pro­ducer IOI Group.

RSPO – a body of palm pro­duc­ers, con­sumer com­pa­nies, and ac­tivist groups – has long faced crit­i­cism for weak en­force­ment stan­dards. Some faith was re­stored ear­lier this year when RSPO sus­pended IOI’s cer­tifi­cates, which then dis­si­pated when RSPO re­voked the suspension four months later.

A with­drawal by green groups, long seen as the con­science of the RSPO, could un­der­mine the cred­i­bil­ity of the in­dus­try body, es­pe­cially for con­sumer man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies un­der pres­sure glob­ally to en­sure they have a sus­tain­able sup­ply chain.

It would also cre­ate a larger dis­par­ity at the RSPO’s al­ready skewed roundtable – NGOs make up less than 2% of the RSPO’s 3,080 mem­bers world­wide.

“We’re go­ing to have a meet­ing with the RSPO,” said Eric Wakker, se­nior con­sul­tant at Ai­den­vi­ron­ment Asia, who wants the watch­dog to pub­licly ad­mit they’ve made “se­ri­ous mis­takes” with the IOI case. “If the RSPO is not go­ing to come up with a real com­mit­ment to change, we’re go­ing to throw in our mem­ber­ship.”

“The RSPO sec­re­tariat is more in­ter­ested in sell­ing cer­ti­fied palm oil than they are in se­cur­ing the cred­i­bil­ity of their sus­tain­abil­ity claim,” Wakker told Reuters

RSPO is fo­cused on its pro­cesses and is not go­ing to make de­ci­sions based on sen­ti­ment, said Ste­fano Savi, global out­reach and en­gage­ment di­rec­tor of the RSPO. “Over­all, the num­ber of NGOs that con­tinue or have started sup­port­ing RSPO in the past year is far greater than the num­ber of those who have un­for­tu­nately de­cided to dis­en­gage from the process,” he told Reuters.

IOI Group did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Ai­den­vi­ron­ment’s threat to quit comes as RSPO mem­bers and in­dus­try play­ers be­gan gath­er­ing in Bangkok yes­ter­day for the group’s an­nual con­fer­ence this week.

Palm oil is the most widely used ed­i­ble oil in the world, found in ev­ery­thing from mar­garine to cook­ies and from soap to soups.

Palm oil plan­ta­tions op­er­at­ing in re­mote rain­forests have come un­der un­prece­dented scru­tiny the past few years, not only from the mount­ing in­flu­ence of ac­tivists, but from their cus­tomers as well.

Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tally sound be­hav­ior is re­quired by some ma­jor palm oil buy­ers in the West, in­clud­ing ma­jor food and candy mak­ers such as Nes­tle, Unilever, Mars and Kel­logg.

RSPO ini­tially sus­pended IOI’s cer­tifi­cates in April based on an AidEn­v­iorn­ment com­plaint that the com­pany had il­le­gally chopped down rain­forests in the In­done­sian prov­ince of West Kal­i­man­tan and planted oil palms on peat­lands, which are highly flammable when drained. Peat­land fires across In­done­sia in re­cent years have led to a mas­sive haze of dan­ger­ous pol­lu­tion across large parts of Southeast Asia.

Green groups who had hailed the RSPO move were dis­ap­pointed when the body lifted the suspension be­fore IOI’s pro­posal to im­prove its op­er­a­tions had been ver­i­fied on the ground. Lead­ing global palm oil buy­ers had yet to re­sume buy­ing from IOI after the April suspension. – Reuters

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.