RSPO vs. soy roundtable

News: GAPKI, the key palm oil producer association of Indonesia withdraws from its membership and its Executive Board role in the RSPO. Source:

Khor Reports comment: There had been market rumours. Also, the growers' collective dissatisfaction with RSPO is well known. But, seeing is believing. It has happened; Indonesia is following the play book that Brazil has also used. Read about it here in our Khor Reports, Palm Oil Strategic Analysis newsletter #2:

Since the subject of soy crops up, let's do a quick comparison of some of the key features and achievements of RSPO and its sister organisation in the soy sector, the Roundtable for Responsible Soy (RTRS). RSPO and RTRS have some common Executive Board members - including WWF and Unilever.

Summary info
RTRS: Initiation of consultation in 2004, first certification c. June 2011. Current price of certificates is USD5. 90,500 ha currently certified.
RSPO: Initiation of consultation in 2002, first certification c. end 2008. Current price of certificates is USD1. Over 1 million ha currentl
y certified and 2.6 million ha promised in timebound plans by 2020.

Partial vs. full certification
RTRS: A producer can certify part of his production, but for his entire production area, he needs to implement some fundamental criteria e.g. not to deforest HCVA in non-certified areas. It is up to the producer to determine how much market demand there is for certified soy, so no specific percentage for certification is required (i.e. partial certification is OK).
RSPO: Since Nov 2008, growers have to timetable their adoption plans. Producers have to submit time-bound plans for their certification efforts; they are required to certify all their mills & supply bases (i.e. full / 100% certification is required). Clause 4.2.4 states: “A challenging time-bound plan for certifying all its relevant entities is submitted to the Certification Body (CB) during the first certification audit.” Source: “RSPO Certification Systems, Final document approved by RSPO Executive Board, 26 June 2007, Approved by Executive Board on 3 March 2011 on Revised clause 4.2.4.”

Principles & criteria

RTRS: 5 principles, 28 criteria, 95 indicators.

RSPO: 8 principles, 39 criteria, 118 indicators.

Phase-in compliance

RTRS: Gives producer 3 years to phase-in compliance. Allows partial compliance of 62% in year 1 and 86% in year 2, prior to 100% compliance in year 3.

RSPO: Phase-in not available.

HCV assessments
RTRS: Not required if expansion of soy cultivation is a) in line with an RTRS-approved map and system, or b) in non native forests areas and official land-use maps zone those areas for expansion or c) it is outside priority conservation areas.
RSPO: An HCV assessment, including stakeholder consultation, is conducted prior to any conversion. Also, refer to List of RSPO approved HCV assessors.

A quick glance indicates that on several fronts, RTRS is not as tough as RSPO. RTRS Standards also appears to better drafted, with a better categorisation of the P&C typology - this means fewer overlaps and confusions. When it comes time for RSPO to review its P&Cs (by 2012), it might look to the RTRS as an example.

Despite the more 'business-friendly' look of RTRS (vs. RSPO), Brazil soy association interests withdrew from RTRS. Brazil soy is slated to launch its own industry-led sustainability certification system, called "Soja Plus".