RSPO RT15 Bali: Why did RSPO volume drop in 2016? P&C new policy watch. Sabah-MSPO discord?


20 Dec 2017: Why did RSPO volume drop in 2016? P&C new policy watch.

Editor's note: I had readers asking why RSPO volume dropped in 2016. A few reasons are cited, including the switchover from GreenPalm. Also, I keep an eye on volume from the big buyers. Notably the biggest buyer submitted volume reports as follows:
So eyes will be on return of volume in 2017 and that spreads volume (very big) under new owner KKR holds up well. 

For those wanting to hear the side-lines chatter on RSPO, please get in touch for direct briefing. Please note specialists point out that the new P&C has many new policy proposals, including one that conflict estates cannot be sold. FGV investigation on over-priced purchase (considering that 40% unplantable under enviro-social voluntary rules).

Unilever Sells Spreads Business to KKR for $8.1 Billion By Thomas Buckley December 15, 2017

International NGOs Condemn IOI Group’s Plan to Divest from Conflict Palm Oil Plantation -- If IOI divests, communities of Long Teran Kanan risk losing their lands, culture and livelihood December 14, 2017

Newsbreak: FGV investigating overpriced Asian Plantations purchase - The Edge Malaysia  December 18, 2017

12 Dec 2017: POIG charter for processors, AOMG update notes RSPO reports loss of 0.55 million tonnes of demand, Sabah-MSPO discord?

Editor's note: 

Glad to have chatted to AOMG's Mr Qua who was in Bali. He comments: "At the RT the release of the 2017 Impact Report was announced. Here we saw that total CSPO sales in 2016 had decreased to 5,632,731 MT, down by 549,963 MT from 2015.  At RT 14 we heard the oil palm growers co-chair of RSPO, Dato’ Carl Bek-Nielsen in his welcome address hitting out at RSPO members who were using the “no palm oil” label on their products...". Please read here, 

Checking the more recent data, reported sales up to Sept 2017 is 4.5 million (the chart below seems not to have been updated). The dampening impact on non-certification traceability on RSPO volumes has been increasingly apparent; but hopefully, yoy volume expansion can pick up again for 2017. For 2018 onwards, European and global buyer demand and supply from MSPO will be worth watching. Also, Sabah is aiming to come on strong with RSPO supply, it will be good to see what demand commitments they have for this. Sabah says that it will compete on governance, and the discord between Sabah's policy plan and MSPO has hit the news headlines. 

source: RSPO

SFD: Sabah palm oil should compete via governance  November 18, 2017

(Sabah) ‘RSPO is one man’s wish list’ Sangeetha Amarthalingam / The Edge Financial Daily November 14, 2017

POIG publishes charter for sustainable palm oil processors 11-Dec-2017 By Niamh Michail --
The Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) has launched a charter for traders and processors of sustainable palm oil that will "break the link between palm oil production and the destruction of forests and peatlands".

RSPO Investigating Reports of Ongoing Labor Abuse at Indofood Plantations By Sheany, December 11, 2017

8 Dec 2017: Post-RT News flow (more added)

Editor's note: Keeping an eye on post-RSPO RT newsflow. Some who were at the Bali meeting report "not more than 200 in the hall". There were various side meetings going on too, but some NGOs did not make it or left pretty fast. A couple of people were there are now complaining about insurance not covering the travel glitches. A more substantive post-mortem to emerge when participants have time to report.

RSPO Must Respond to Complaints Against Sime Darby: Rights Group By : Dames Alexander Sinaga December 05, 2017 -- Sime Darby said in a statement on Monday (04/12) that the land dispute has been discussed at the RSPO's annual meetings since 2012. "Throughout this period, RSPO complaint manager also visited the communities four times. As of December 2017, SDP [Sime Darby Plantation] management has held 25 meetings with the communities surrounding MAS to earnestly resolve the outstanding issues," the statement said.

Labor abuses persist in RSPO-certified palm plantations, report finds by Hans Nicholas Jong on 8 December 2017

Deforestation in Sumatra carves up tiger habitats into ever smaller patches
by Basten Gokkon on 5 December 2017

The palm oil industry promises reform, but there’s still no sign of change, Blogpost by Bagus Kusuma - 4 December, 2017 -- In 2013, Wilmar became the first palm oil trader to adopt a No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) policy. Others followed suit, and by the end of 2014, most household brands and big palm oil companies had sworn to protect Indonesia’s rainforests...Not one of the traders could prove it wasn’t buying from palm oil companies that destroyed rainforests. Most could not even say when there would be no deforestation in their supply chains. Instead of cutting out dirty palm oil, traders have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy...

Palm Oil Giant Vows to Reform After Indonesian Child Labour Probe By : Beh Lih Yi, November 30, 2017 -- The world's biggest palm oil processor Wilmar has launched fresh measures to improve conditions of thousands of children living on its plantations, but campaigners said on Wednesday that it was not doing enough to tackle widespread use of child labour. ilmar was targeted in an Amnesty International probe last year which found children as young as eight were working in "hazardous" conditions on plantations run by the Singapore-based firm and its suppliers in Indonesia.

Indonesia Says Palm Oil Key to Achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals By : Sheany, November 29, 2017 -- "The palm oil industry is key to Indonesia achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including poverty eradication and narrowing the development gap," said Mahendra Siregar, executive director of the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC), as quoted in a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Indonesia has criticized a resolution on palm oil and deforestation the European Parliament adopted in April, which the country said discriminates against palm oil manufacturers and disregards efforts to introduce sustainable practices in the industry. Mahendra also cited the Amsterdam Declaration, which he said, if adopted, would be an example of discriminative policy, because it does not apply to other vegetable oils. "There have been negative marketing campaigns by several companies, including one by KLM [Royal Dutch Airlines], which demanded that its suppliers not use any palm oil in their products," he said. He also referred to ongoing antidumping policies and subsidies in Europe and said they are unreasonable, because they are not based on any clear evidence. ...

30 Nov 2017: RSPO RT15 Bali (from afar) - newsflow and comments, Wed and Thurs (Day 2 and 3) 

Editor's note: For various reasons including the more obvious (I don't have substantial corporate expense budget for non-insured travel to Bali), I am looking at RT15 Bali from afar. Am hearing lots from industry friends. Quite a few didn't make it before airport closure and also some left pretty quick once the eruptions escalated. A note on the travel dilemmas here, The airport reopened Wed afternoon, as the winds shifted! Look forward to catching up with participants on and offline. I've updated for Day 2 items, (Day 1 cancelled)  and have added Day 3. Those interested in "commensurate effort" should be interested in Ferrero's estimates in the newsflow link.

The great thing is that you can follow RSPO RT15 here...  Video of the opening here, Thanks to RSPO and those posting! These are official channels. For wider opinions channel, try #RT15 on twitter,

Report is of 300  participants remainung at RSPO RT15 as per yesterday afternoon. Compared to 800 participants at RSPO RT14 last year (according to AOMG's write-up, 

Related newsflow

Here are newsflow and chat items related to RSPO and contemporaneous (these are also in my LinkedIn, RSPO RT time is widely regarded as that time of year when negative newsflow is especially high for palm oil:

  • Wilmar International reports some positives with green finance and child labour policy. Read and its Child Protection Policy.
  • Greenpeace   complains on palm oil traders. Read and its report. 
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines  slammed over inflight magazine for ‘campaign’ against palm oil  
  • So I am hearing from Bali that some teams are leaving Wed and Thurs (Tues program cancelled and abridged RT15 program set for Wed-Thur). The Surabaya route seems the choice for most. About travel to Surabaya, 
  • Ferrero and sustainable palm oil: ...sourced 180,000 tonnes of palm oil or 0.3 per cent of the total global production annually. Out of which, 90 per cent came from Malaysia and the rest from other producing countries. "So, if all edible palm oil used in EU has the same premium as Ferrero, the extra cost would be 500 million euros per annum - that would go to the upstream of Malaysia and Indonesia. "Assuming this extra cost is fully passed to EU consumers, that would mean one euro per capita per year," he explained....
  • RSPO Secretariat leaves out Malaysian palm oil concession maps, says it infringes OSA TheEdge Nov 29, 2017--  “We have been told by our lawyers that the Malaysian maps are under the OSA (and) we want to be on the right side of the law, so we will leave it at that. “However, Sabah has told us categorically that it is absolutely okay with the maps being made public, because its land is a state matter. So for Sabah, members’ maps are published on our website,” he said. 
  • In chat groups: 1) issue of HCV assessment system (HCVRN-ALS) at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and 2)  Greenpeace's allegations rebutted by Aksenta Socio-Enviro Management Consulting (refer to tweet: A response to Greenpeace).

Khor Report's synopsis and some comments on RSPO RT15 

(screen shots, sources: RSPO Tweets and Linkedin sources as indicated)

RSPO P&C 2018 to include HCS Approach? But what about RSPO Next. Market uptake for this has really muted expectation, and so "commensurate effort" view is gloomy? Some see HCSA inclusion as necessary for survival, some have the very opposite view and ponder demise of interest from non-integrateds.

On Africa - Liberia, Gabon presentations. Was plantable area in forested Africa 41 or 63%? I had my eye on the incremental areas in Africa. Added HCV 13,405 ha and is that plantable 22773-13405= 9368 ha for 41% plantable in total area in forested settings? Oh hang on, maybe they calculate HCV+certified=total; so 13,405+22,773=36,178 so certified (planted) ratio is 63%.  

On Smallholders. Talk of RSPO Smallholder Academy,  of RSPO Smallholder Empowerment Platform. Mr Sutiyana was the first smallholder in Kalimantan to get RSPO certified. It took a year and a half to become certified and he hopes the 1% of certified independent smallholders will increase to 5% in the next few years. A study reports says that independent smallholders can increase premiums through certification as FFB quality increases and they can sell direct to mills. If profit-NPV is so good for smallholders, I'm just wondering: a) why supply-chain experts report that 1/3 of early certified RSPO smallholders have chosen not to stay on (lead farmers already had better practices!) and b) why I hear year-in year-out from so many working on this their worries about smallholders renewing (and moreover, trouble to convince them to join) and NPP for smallholders? We need studies covering of larger number of certified (and no longer certified) smallholders, done over time. In contrast, some other supply-chain efforts in cocoa and others report much better numbers, even approaching 100,000 of independent smallholders (Indonesia scheme oil palm smallholders are relatively easy to certify as large areas are even fully managed by the inti). Worth checking these other approaches perhaps? Also, it is not accurate to negatively depict smallholder zones as being weak links and black boxes. In reality, a lot of the old-customary use areas are smallholders (post independence decades), and it is in fact expansion in more recent decades that is led by corporate expansion. Well, okay, so smallholders aren't good at documentation and reams of paperwork... so bad.

On HCV. Report that HCV patches smaller that 200 ha are still important for biodiversity and connectivity. 70 plantations NPPs reports were digitised and studied.

On GHG. Faizal Parish presented Impacts of GHG assement and reporting: "Of the 3% peatlands identified in assessments,  100% has being conserved; leading to 308,000 mtVO2/yr of peat oxidation avoided.... 194,100 ha assesses with 30% set aside for HCV, HCS and social."

Panel – Simon Lord, Ben Vreeburg, Faisal Parish: On ‘weak-link’ companies - remove or rehabilitation? One to one basis? “Use a carrot, not a stick”. Certification and beyond to NDPE - how can can RSPO deliver on these. More philosophical question on whether certification is successful if it merely distinguishes leaders from laggards (and not 100% inclusive). "It’s not about beyond certification. It’s about certification AND beyond," said Dr Simon Lord. On addressing the haze, a gloomy statement "national rules will not impact action on the ground". WRI asks about an accountability framework? (remark from a reader: yes, there already is RSPO Next, but are buyers interested?).

End of Wed, Day 2 (Day 1 cancelled), some side events cancelled.

Update on complaints procedures:
  • further alignment with the dispute settlement made, strengthen relations with certification + accreditation bodies, separation of power 
  • GA13 resolution has been fully passed - Complaints Panel no longer need endorsement of the Board. CP have power for suspension and termination
  • How is a successful complaint filed? CP need clear info and evidence to proceed
  • Complaints Panel invite authors of reports to put an official complaint forward. This will enable the full expertise of the CP to investigate. The result is a faster, more transparent resolution
  • In response to why complaints are prolonged, the Complaints Panel explain standard operating procedures must be followed. Delays in responses and waits for investigative reports must also be taken into consideration
  • Q from @lizajmurphy: what mechanisms are in place for Complaints Panel to learn from past cases? A: CP learnings over the last year are now moving into the P+C review 
(quotes from:

RSPO P&C 2018
A collection of items, I think are relevant on the new Principles & Criteria 2018 above. "Theory of Change" is important, I am told. Also there is reference to HCS Approach being included? 

In the RSPO Tweets:
  • Panelists discuss one thing they are proud of being achieved in #RSPO P&C revision, with simplification of text being a highlight for Perpetua George - Wilmar #RT15
  • Rosemary Addico @Solidaridadnetw shares a that highlight from the P&C Review is the further inclusion of #smallholders. #RT15 
  • There are now more specific indicators for implementation, and for auditors says @daryll_reads. #RSPO Criteria is now nuanced #RT15 #sustainable #palmoil
  • .@darrelwebb ‘Our vision was to make this the most inclusive P&C to date. Over 10,000 people were reached and given the chance to comment on the review.’ #RT15 #RSPO
  • Olivier Tichit ‘P&C is now looking beyond the production of palm, and instead looking at how to achieve the goal of industry transformation’ @ortichit #RT15 #sustainable #palmoil
  • “We are going in the right direction [with P&C Review], but we need to communicate what we are doing” @ortichit
(quotes from:

Some audience voting items (n=61, n=30+):

The sponsors; note the US-based conglomerates. Some relationship with the rise of US membership at RSPO?

The General Assembly

  • Resolution GA14-6a: To confirm the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers as the auditors of the RSPO for the financial year ending 30 June 2018. ADOPTED
  • Resolution GA14-6b: Relocation of the De Facto RSPO Executive Office to Jakarta, Indonesia,;  NOT ADOPTED
  • Resolution GA14-6c: Strengthening the RSPO Executive Office,; NOT ADOPTED
  • Resolution GA14-6d: Generation of sustainability practices and fair trade for independent mills,; RESOLUTION REMOVED 
  • Resolution GA14-6e: Enhancing credibility of the "Annual Communications of Progress",;  NOT ADOPTED
  • Resolution GA14-6f: Balanced representation in the RSPO General Assembly voting process based on membership category,; ADOPTED.
  • Resolution GA14-6g: Official recognition of IGC endorsed Indonesian RSPO grower member representatives within all RSPO forums, as formally representing the Indonesian Growers Caucus (IGC),; ADOPTED
  • Resolution GA14-6h: Relocation of the RSPO Secretariat Office to Jakarta, Indonesia,; NOT ADOPTED
  • Resolution GA14-6i: Resolution to Amend The Statutes of the RSPO and the Code of Conduct for members to formalise the role of the Complaints and Appeals Panel,; ADOPTED

Source: and

End of Thurs, Day 3

Mount Agung volcano erupting in Bali – in pictures

RSPO news: Leaving Bali? Investigative report features anti-corruption issue

28 Nov. Bali. I had no plan to join RSPO Roundtable this year for several reasons. I was in touch with palm industry friends there. Others had flights cancelled and did not make it there.  Earlier this evening, I started to hear some teams plan evacuating tomorrow/ Wed and Thurs. Now, I am hearing some more teams leaving/left. Is the  pace is picking up on evacuation? The land to ferry to Surabaya seems choice of most.

11-12 Oct 2017: Investigative report features anti-corruption cum FPIC issue

Editor's note: Sustainability issues heighten with new investigative reporting in "The palm oil fiefdom." It features anti-corruption cum FPIC issues in environmental and social compliance. Experts tell us that RSPO has been picking up complaints without a formal submission (by another party), as its approach has evolved. Sustainability watchers note with disappointment that this affects the new set of 'jurisdictional approaches' as the strong allegations in this report may spoil its reputation at an early stage:"Yes, it looks like a mockery now." Some also ask if this will be a litmus test for the RSPO. Some Jakarta observers tell us that this is part of the "cyber war" and  the implication within Indonesia is "nothing". It is notable that the cases mentioned seem to date back well over a decade. However, things can change (E.g., corporate corruption in South Korea, and the sudden no-go of sexual harassment in Hollywood), but we don't know when.
[First published 11 Oct 10pm, added comments from expert sources, 12 Oct, 10.50am]

The palm oil fiefdom - A politician in Borneo turned his district into a sea of oil palm. Did it benefit the people who elected him, or the members of his family? BY THE GECKO PROJECT AND MONGABAY ON 10 OCTOBER 2017

WWF's latest Scorecard report has found poor transparency from Singapore and Malaysia palm oil users. The campaign on more local users of palm oil is ramping up. See petition below. 

Scorecard by company here,  Two out of three brands in Singapore and Malaysia not transparent about palm oil use, 21 September 2017


20 Sep 2017: ISPO-UNDP, MSPO-India, WALHI complaints on RSPO/ISPO Indonesia-CEPA. Data-sets are coming for NDPE and more.

Editor's note: The fight for market recognition is ongoing. ISPO seeks UNDP support and MSPO is in the India sustainable palm oil framework. Country authorities are active as stakeholders in drafting new frameworks. Amidst this push for time-consuming efforts for RSPO/ISPO/MSPO, NGOs also decry their limitations. There are also post-RSPO/MSPO/ISPO trade approaches, and these emphasise "no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation". The next stage of this evolution will have countries and companies producing proper data-sets to demonstrate all these items - some country-data efforts are led by a couple of Latin America origins while core producers lag for various reasons. Company-led initiatives will prove an interesting horse race. Specialists are disappointed with jurisdiction/landscape efforts so far, but the results of Sabah's LiDAR is keenly awaited. Other market trade strategies include G2G deals or efforts such as palm-for-jets, palm-for-satellites for Indonesia-Russia, Indonesia-France and others.

Indonesia seeks UNDP support for ISPO palm oil standard, The Jakarta Post, New York, United States | Wed, September 6, 2017 

India's National Palm Oil Sustainability Framework (IPOS), BusinessWire India, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, Sep 15, 2017

Walhi Requests Issue on Palm Oil to be Omitted from Indonesia-EU CEPA Negotiation 15 September 2017 "The implementation of RSPO or ISPO is a fake solution in the palm oil sector because it does not change the structure of land tenure that is still dominated by corporations.The government should develop an economic justice map for oil palm and small-scale farmers and reduce land tenure by corporations through accelerated reform program agrarian, "Yuyun said....

11 May 2017: RSPO freezes Goodhope’s operations in Papua

RSPO freezes Goodhope’s operations in Papua 4 May, 2017 -  Indonesia: Following a detailed joint submission by FPP, Pusaka, Greenpeace and EIA last month, the Complaints Panel of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has issued a Stop Work Order to Goodhope Asia Holdings Ltd.

RSPO Sends Ultimatum to Goodhope Press release - May 5, 2017 Greenpeace Indonesia Statement

RSPO freezes palm oil company’s operations in Papua 7 May 2017 / Alice Cuddy - A stern action from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which has not always enforced its standards for sustainable production of the commodity. -- The RSPO ordered Goodhope Asia Holdings to stop work in seven of its concessions in Indonesia, citing "poor quality" audits commissioned by the company to ensure it follows RSPO rules. High Conservation Value assessments for all seven of the concessions were conducted by a team of Bogor Agricultural University lecturers led by Nyoto Santoso. The assessments are being treated as suspect by the RSPO. While Goodhope opposes the measures, they have been lauded by environmental NGOs as a positive step.

2-3 May 2017: Rumours

Editor's note: Rumours of a temporary walk out or stop at RSPO. Could this be to do with the P&C revision process? Update is that the members of a caucus/working group at RSPO may have to temporarily step away if their organisation/ company is under public campaign pressure. If so, there are many in that position?

28 Mar 2017: A new Rainforest Action Network report

Nestlé "very concerned" over deforestation links to Wilmar palm oil By Louis Gore-Langton, 27-Mar-2017 Nestlé says it is "very concerned" by allegations that its palm oil supplier Wilmar International has again been implicated in sourcing palm oil from the protected Leuser ecosystem in Indonesia, according to a report by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

Rainforest Action Network report here:

18 Mar 2017: Non-RSPO efforts (Indonesia mandatory, fire-free scheme), "proofs of sustainability" problem, questions on transparency, recent news on biodiversity concerns

Editor's note: Indonesia's policy and enforcement upgrades move its mandatory stance and will benefit leaders in non-certification traceability and points to gaps (especially on legality) in certification schemes and add to challenges for its volume outlook, please refer to our posting here: But, the "proofs of sustainability" question (i.e. double-selling or worse) rises as schemes proliferate

Fire Free Alliance Welcomes Malaysian Palm Oil Giants - Muhamad Al Azhari | March 16, 2017 -- The Fire Free Alliance, a voluntary multi-stakeholder platform to aid in the resolution of land and forest fires in Indonesia, has welcomed aboard Malaysian corporations Sime Darby and IOI Group, thus further extending the reach of their program across Indonesia and Malaysia.

Growth in deforestation commitments hides transparency issues By David Burrows, 17-Mar-2017 -- The number of manufacturers using one of the four key commodities linked to deforestation has increased from 67% to 71%, but a worrying number of targets have been missed or forgotten, according to a new report.

Paichit – the baby elephant saved from a palm oil plantation in Indonesia - Orphaned at a few months old and nursed back to health by a local wildlife centre, Paichit’s story has serious implications for critically endangered Sumatran elephants - Kate Lamb in Indonesia,  16 March 2017

An impact analysis of RSPO certification on Borneo forest cover and orangutan populations

19 Feb 2017: Kapuas orangutan killing-feasting, Greenpeace gathers 228k Malaysia signature on forest fires funding (vs. HSBC) campaign

Three named suspects for feasting on orangutan in Kapuas | Sat, February 18, 2017 -- Kapuas Police chief Sr. Comr. Jukiman Situmorang said on Friday that after 10 people had been taken in for questioning on Tuesday, investigators had decided to name three plantation workers, identified by their initials AY, 30, EMS, 39 and ER, 23, suspects. The case is believed to have occurred at an oil palm concession owned by PT Susantri Permai,... in Tumbang Puroh village, on Jan. 28. The incident reportedly began when a worker was harvesting fruit before encountering and being chased by an agitated orangutan. The worker later told the story to AY who then went out to hunt down the animal, where he purportedly killed it with an air rifle and machete. The animal was then taken by AY and his two colleagues EMS and ER to a nearby camp to be dined on...

Indonesian orangutan brutally killed and eaten by AFP Sonny TUMBELAKA

Wilmar grabbed indigenous lands in Sumatra, RSPO finds 16 February 2017 / Rachel Diaz-Bastin - The leader of the Kapa community said he hoped the palm oil giant would ‘quickly restore our right to the lands that it took without our consent.’

NGOs Slam IndoAgri Over Labor Rights Abuses and Poor Sustainability Policies

Malaysian customers urge HSBC to stop funding forest fires in Indonesia 14th February 2017 -- Dissatisfied Malaysian customers on Tuesday presented HSBC with a mock cheque with 228,434 signatures urging the bank to "Stop Funding Forest Fires in Indonesia." ..."We are asking customers to join this movement to urge HSBC to stop funding deforestation. In the past five years alone, HSBC has been part of banking syndicates that arranged $16.3 billion of loans to six companies whose palm oil operations have destroyed vast areas of rainforest, peatland, and orangutan habitats in Indonesia," said Octyanto Bagus Indra Kusuma, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest Campaigner....Last year, the IUCN changed the classification of the Bornean orangutan from endangered to critically endangered, citing destruction, degradation, and fragmentation of their habitats, including conversion to plantations, as a main reason for the decline in population

10 Feb 2017: RSPO rules on community complaint against Wilmar unit 

RSPO concludes Wilmar violated indigenous rights  February 09, 2017 -- The indigenous community, who live in West Sumatra, Indonesia, filed the formal complaint against Wilmar in October 2014. The complaint said Wilmar had taken over part of their customary lands and established an oil palm plantation without the community’s consent, Forest People’s Programme reported....The RSPO ruled that Wilmar had violated its sustainability standard, and had not met the requirements of Indonesian law. Wilmar must now take steps to respect the Kapa’s land rights.

RSPO rules on community complaint against Wilmar unit - In a milestone ruling, RSPO has said that a Wilmar-owned company violated the land rights of the indigenous Kapa community in West Sumatra. By Vaidehi Shah 8 February 2017 -- In a decision announced on February 1, the industry association for sustainable palm oil said that Wilmar-owned PT Permata Hijau Pasaman I (PT PHP1) had not followed the proper legal process for obtaining land from the indigenous Kapa community and beginning to plant oil palm on it.... In the complaint against Wilmar, filed more than two years ago, the Kapa people and FPP raised an alarm about PT PHP1’s application for a land cultivation certificate—known as a Hak Guna Usaha or HGU—for the right to develop plantations in the community’s customary lands.... Rather than asking PT PHP1 to terminate its operations, the Kapa community asked to negotiate an alternative tenure agreement which did not require them to hand over land management rights to the company, while still allowing them to develop oil palm—a request that was not met.... RSPO responded in March 2015 with a preliminary decision that it was satisfied that PT PHP1 had complied with the law in its HGU application, and added that the indigenous communities should resolve the land boundary conflicts with the government.... This claim was contested by the Kapa community leader, Gampo Alam, who was then jailed for two months in May 2015 on charges that he had misappropriated community funds. This sparked an outcry from FPP, which claimed that Wilmar was behind the arrests, and was using its clout to intimidate and threaten Alam. Wilmar quickly rejected these allegations, arguing that Alam had been arrested based on a police report filed by his relative, which accused him of misappropriating funds from a smallholder group scheme in the community.... In light of the assessor’s recently announced findings, Alam noted that “for the Kapa, our customary land cannot be sold as it is our identity.” “We hope that Wilmar International will now honour the ruling of the RSPO, and will quickly restore our right to the lands that it took without our consent,” he added.

Documenting the consequences of palm oil production beyond Southeast Asia 6 February 2017 /  -- Oil palm plantations are rapidly mushrooming throughout the tropics. A new film, Appetite for Destruction: The Palm Oil Diaries, looks at some of the consequences of that expansion. This is an interview with the film's director, Michael Dorgan.

25 Jan 2017: RSPO 2016 credits unusual price behaviour. Wilmar expects NO DISRUPTION of its RSPO business as it works on labour issues alleged in Amnesty International report

Editor's note: Looking at Greenpalm prices 12-13 days ago, unusual prices behaviour was evident, perhaps also on the market missing Felda certificate supply. Wilmar expects its RSPO business to be unaffected by Amnesty International's allegations against it (and it will retain certification status for the two mills supply bases in featured). Fortunately, it was clear in data cited by in the Amnesty International report that Wilmar had alredy been working on some labour issues, E.g., it had already reduced its casual labour ratio from the 60% territory to 20% in 2010-2012. Many big plantations are looking to a 20% ceiling for casual labour, but some say they can go to almost zero. Plantations have to demonstrate labour improvements including for fair wage system and treatment of migrant workers, freedom of association and more.

Looking at RSPO Greenpalm / B&C credits market:

The latest 2016 premia information:

My question: Earlier this month, Jan 2017 price for 2016 CSPO certs is off the Greenpalm chart that tops out at $5. Market summary for the said $5.50. Could it average over $5 for this month? I think the last time we saw CSPO B&C / credits above $5 was Feb 2011. The market is obviously moving unusually with the switch from GreenPalm to RSPO's new platform.

Reply from Bob Norman at Greenpalm: Hi Yu Leng, the compare like for like I've shown the certificate year with the average price traded in the January of the following year. You can see a steady decline in value over the years. Different supply/demand dynamics have been evident during 2016 - this perhaps is latest manifestation. It will be an interesting close to the 2016 market.
Cert Year Month Ave Price
2012 Jan-13 $2.29
2013 Jan-14 $1.44
2014 Jan-15 $0.60
2015 Jan-16 $0.42

2016 Jan-17 $5.48 (currently)

Wilmar's announcement:

WIL-Sustainability Dashboard Enquiry - Progress Updates in Addressing the Grievances Raised Against Us in the Amnesty International Report 23/01/2017: The external review of labour practices in both of these estates was also completed by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) on 15 December 2016. The assessment methodology involved visual observations, interviews, focus group discussions and documentation reviews. More than 100 Wilmar employees, almost all of whom are non-management workers, were interviewed by BSR. The preliminary findings have been submitted to Wilmar and have also been uploaded into our sustainability dashboard (here). BSR is scheduled to submit the full report by end January 2017 and it will also be made available on our grievance dashboard in February 2017...., our proposal for solutions will also need to be jointly agreed by our unions before it can be adopted across our operations. We remain committed to continue with this process until we are able to address all the issues highlighted....Engagement within the RSPO and the RSPO certification process.... We have been transparent and cooperative with the RSPO and the certification bodies in question with regard to PT Milano and PT DLI which are both RSPO-certified. We do not expect any further implication on our RSPO certifications or membership outside of the regular certification process. Both PT Milano and PT DLI will be assessed again as part of our ongoing RSPO certification in 2017.....
Note: 22575/38173 or 59% temporary workers ratio in 2010 to 7821/36218 or 22% in 2012 

11 Jan 2017: RSPO 2016 sales volume drops 10%? Full volume for 2016 only known after end March 2017

Editor's note: I am looking at RSPO Impacts - Last Update 31 December 2016. RSPO 2016 sales figures shows a first time drop. Sales 5.6 million for 2016 vs 6.2 million for 2015 - this is down, -10% to end December, but the full volume for 2016 will only known after end March 2017, as there is trading allowed for another three months of the next year.

5 Jan 2017: RSPO Sabah jurisdictional approach faces forest deals issue

Editor's note: 2H2016 there was market chatter on more Sabah forest deals, and now this write-up talks about an October 100k ha deal.

 Sudden sale may doom carbon-rich rainforest in Borneo 2 January 2017 / John C. Cannon - Home to critical watersheds and orangutans, a 101,000-hectare forest located in the Trus Madi Reserve was on track to serve as a blueprint for a conservation economy, before the rights to log it were sold in October.....Before that, FMU5, part of the Trus Madi Forest Reserve in central Sabah, looked like an ideal proving ground for alternatives to one of Sabah’s historical economic lynchpins, the timber industry. Ong and her colleagues at Forever Sabah, a broad-based initiative to move the state towards a circular economy that includes LEAP, thought that the old-style logging and plantation models would be a short-sighted use of the unique area....In response to the diminished timber stocks from traditionally managed forests, most of the companies that hold forest management unit concessions in Sabah signed on to work with Forever Sabah and the Sabah Forestry Department to
explore new alternatives in 2015.....  Ong said

Related issues in Sabah:

Warisan challenges Sabah CM on forest cleared for oil palm by FMT Reporters | April 4, 2017 -- “In short, NBT was given a contract known as the FMU2 with the purpose to re-plant forests.” But Wong now claims that the land has been misused to plant oil palm and that he has documentary proof of this.

20 Dec 2016: NGOs Call Out 26 Palm Oil Companies for Illegal Operations in Riau 

Editor's note: Allegations in EOF report include several mills (total capacity of 285 tons/hour, perhaps producing 230,000 tonnes CPO per year) associated with estates said to be without HGU status.

NGOs Call Out 26 Palm Oil Companies for Illegal Operations in Riau - A number of palm oil plantations in Riau province have allegedly received under the table permits, according to a report by a coalition of environmental NGOs dubbed ... EoF. By : Ratri M. Siniwi | on 6:30 PM December 10, 2016 -- Earlier in 2014, the Forestry Ministry had converted 1.6 million hectares of forest areas into non-forest areas under a ministerial decree, but 26 companies have been found to be operating under the wrong type of license within the converted area as they are missing cultivation permits (HGU) and forest-estate release permits. “We urge the Corruption Eradication Commission [KPK] to investigate the land swap scandals of a forest area covering more than 1.6 million hectares,” Woro Supartinah, coordinator for Jikalahari NGO which is a member of EoF, said in a statement on Thursday (08/12)....“These plantations are not paying taxes, and do not have a tax identification number [NPWP]. We could lose up about Rp 170 trillion [$12.7 billion] in state losses,” Riko Kurniawan, WALHI executive director said on Friday.

Press Release 09 Dec 2016 Maraknya kebun sawit ilegal jadi pintu masuk pemberantasan korupsi yang tuntas di Riau

12 Dec 2016: WWF criticism of MSC Indian Ocean tuna certification has implications for RSPO assurance? 

Certification all at sea? 8 Dec 2016 -- The leaking of a WWF report critical of MSC highlights that such schemes need to be very careful how and what they certify.... Serious questions have been raised about the credibility of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) seafood sustainability scheme. A leaked report alleges “troubling, systemic flaws” in MSC certification, and accuses the MSC of certifying tuna from the Indian Ocean, even though “no Indian Ocean tuna fisheries should meet the MSC Fisheries Standard” because of the lack of even the most basic sustainability checks. The report was prepared by WWF, a founding partner of MSC, and seems to indicate that WWF is deeply unhappy with what its creation has become. The report says MSC ignored stakeholders in awarding certification to Indian Ocean tuna while listening to sustainability assessors who “repeatedly disregarded facts” and were prepared to approve certification for unsustainable fishing. When objections were raised, MSC relaxed the sustainability standards “despite WWF’s ardent resistance,” according to the report. ........Since the leaking of the report in late November, MSC and WWF have closed ranks to some extent. Both emphasised that the report is an internal document. WWF says that “elements of the paper are part of an ongoing dialogue that we are having with the MSC to drive positive change”, and that it continues to support MSC........ the MSC/WWF case could in principle be a test case for the ISEAL Alliance, the organisation of sustainability certification schemes that has created codes of practice intended to demonstrate that certification standards are rigorous. The ISEAL Alliance says it has a formal complaints mechanism in place but has so far received no complaint about MSC. But even if the ISEAL Alliance did investigate, it would be looking into one of its own....

WWF RETROSPECTIVE ON INDIAN OCEAN TUNA HARVEST CONTROLRULES:  -- ... From this retrospective, WWF concludes that the MSC scheme was not an accurate means for assessing the sustainability of IO tuna fisheries. Although in some cases WWF may be able to use MSC as a tool to effect change on the water, it is doubtful that the MSC scheme will provide stakeholders with a consistent and transparent mechanism for delivering the kind of change that is envisioned by WWF for IO tuna fisheries management. Furthermore, WWF’s experience with  MSC in the IO has revealed some troubling systematic flaws with the MSC scheme which undermines WWF’s confidence about the generality of MSC as a lever for improving the fisheries sustainability. Such concerns are only exacerbated by the aggressive efforts by MSC to penetrate the tuna industry with their certification scheme in accordance with the stated objectives of
MSC’s integrated strategic plan..... The experiences described in this account should inform WWF’s strategy on how to engage with the MSC scheme going forward. These lessons were learned through five years of intensive WWF activity, engagement and resources use and it is clear that this type of heavy engagement with the MSC eco-labelling system offers poor ‘value for money’ for conservation impact... This work is a ‘retrospective’ document. It is a case study. Scope covers WWF’s engagement as a stakeholder in MSC assessments of tuna fisheries in the Indian Ocean, with particular emphasis on how Harvest Control Rules (HCRs) were assessed. ... the relevant timeframe for this retrospective extends from at least 2009 up until the present – more than 6 years.

2 Dec 2016: Joint-Statement on Closure of the Ketapang Complaint - IOI RSPO case

Malaysia's IOI Corp to give up some land in deforestation settlement Dec 2, 2016 --  IOI Group said it will abandon some 430 hectares (1,060 acres) of land in Indonesia in part settlement of a dispute over allegations of illegal deforestation and planting. It will continue to cultivate the rest of the land under dispute - about 11,000 hectares - but would not market the palm oil produced as having sustainability certification for a period of about 30 years, the company said in a joint statement with Amsterdam-based green group Aidenvironment....In 2015, Aidenvironment filed a complaint to the RSPO against IOI Group over claims that the planter had illegally chopped down rainforests in Indonesia and planted palm crops on peatland. Aidenvironment said in the statement issued on Thursday that it had raised all other matters with IOI for perusal and had no further standing issues with plantation company....

Joint-Statement on Closure of the Ketapang Complaint  Dec 01, 2016 -- Settling past non-compliance: Although IOI will certify PT BNS and SKS under the RSPO time-bound plan, IOI undertakes not to market the palm oil produced from PT BNS and the affected areas of PT SKS with the RSPO certification claims for the duration of one planting cycle... 

1 Dec 2016: RSPO response to Amnesty International's report

Editor's note: Some readers from the plantation sector are not so happy with RSPO's blanket admission response on systemic problems in labour. There is also chatter about formal complaints arising from the rising tide of labour reports, but within two weeks of the Amnesty International report, there have yet to be any formal complain in the RSPO system (note four months between RAN et al. report and formal complaint at RSPO in 2015#)

#11 October 2016 - Secretariat received a formal complaint from RAN on labour violation issues against PT PP London Sumatra and its parent company PT Salim Ivomas Pratama Tbk and 9 June 2016 -  Secretariat received an information on the report published by OPPUK, RAN & ILRF, and informed the company on the matter. 

Amnesty report fallout: Another blow for RSPO? By Niamh Michail+ 30-Nov-2016 -- Amnesty International’s report is another dent in the reputation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as three of the suppliers on Wilmar's operations were RSPO-certi䈪ed. It has been a challenging year for RSPO....It’s a question of scale, according to RSPO’s CEO Darrel Webber.... “The absolute number of complaints against RSPO members is bound to increase, as the number of hectares covered by certi䈪cation increases,” he told FoodNavigator this morning. “We are glad to see that in the past years, the RSPO has received [fewer] complaints and has been better at resolving active cases. “RSPO is a system, and just like most systems, it falls short from perfection. This said, what the uptake of the RSPO scheme proves is that perfect alternatives are not available, and the RSPO remains the best available option to make concrete steps away from business as usual.”


The RSPO fully acknowledges the existence of serious problems in the protection of workers and human rights in the global intensive agriculture sector, including the oil palm sector. These problems are exacerbated when linked to poverty, weak law enforcement and the presence of legislative gaps - as underlined by Amnesty itself - contributing to the challenge of making agriculture and specifically the oil palm sector truly sustainable.... The report covers a series of labour and human right abuses affecting palm oil workers in two Wilmar subsidiaries, PT Perkebunan Milano and PT Daya Labuhan Indah, and three Wilmar suppliers, Sarana Prima Multi Niaga (SPMN), PT Abdi Budi Mulia (ABM) and PT Hamparan Masawit Bangun Persada (PT Hamparan). The report makes reference to employment practices that are not only non-compliant with the RSPO requirements but are also illegal. This publication  will encourage RSPO stakeholders to focus their efforts in eradicating labour practices that are not compliant with the RSPO requirements....

8-10 Nov plus RSPO news releases to end November: RSPO RT14 Bangkok. Big news on Marrakech Declaration by Africa palm producers (RSPO is not enough). RSPO GA resolution results. News from RSPO including RSPO STATEMENT ON DISCLOSURE OF RSPO MEMBERS’ CONCESSION MAPS

29 Sep 2016: Greenpeace report and blockade at Rotterdam - it's not just about own supply as focus turns to third party suppliers to mill and refinery

Editor's note: From own supply focus and RSPO Next pledges for own supply, the attention is shifting strongly to third party supply to mill and refinery.

What does Greenpeace's palm oil report mean for IOI & RSPO? By Niamh Michail+, 28-Sep-2016

Greenpeace's damning report on Malaysian palm oil supplier IOI, just one month after its membership of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was renewed, could be damaging for the certifier, according to one sustainability consultant.

(IOI's third party suppliers - Eagle High, Goodhope, TH Plantations and Korindo are alleged not to comply)

Greenpeace report that accompanies the Rotterdam port blockade of IOI refinery and a facility dedicated to Indonesia palm oil imports...

26 Sep 2016: RAN critiques WWF Scorecard

Naming and Shaming Palm-Oil Buyers to Stop Rainforest Burning - Indonesian farmers burn ancient rainforest to expand plantations. By Bruce Einhorn  --  -- Groups like Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists have taken to naming and shaming companies that they say aren't doing enough to make suppliers stop the destruction of rainforests and peatlands. On Sept. 21, WWF released its 2016 Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard, looking at the policies of 137 companies worldwide. The good news, according to WWF, "at least half of the companies we looked at" have made "gratifying progress" toward using sustainable palm oil that meets criteria such as a ban on the destruction of primary forests....

RAN: WWF’s Palm Oil Scorecard Rewards Companies With Links to Child Labor and Forest Destruction posted by GEMMA TILLACK,

UCSUSA palm oil scorecard 2015:

21 Sep 2016: Greenpeace campaign continues

Greenpeace Malaysia September 19 at 5:30pm · Don’t let palm oil giants like IOI get away with it! Join our global petition to #StoptheHaze >> #IOIcommitNow

15 August 2016: Buyers still leery of IOI

Palm oil buyers hold off mending ties with IOI Corp 15 August 2016 -- Food companies Nestle, Kellogg, Mars Inc and Hersheys, along with healthcare product makers Johnson & Johnson and Reckitt Benckiser told Reuters they had no immediate plans to return to business with IOI despite the latest step by RSPO. Procter and Gamble told Reuters it had ended its relationship with IOI, while Unilever said it was looking into the watchdog's decision.  "(We will not change our approach until) we see IOI's upgraded policies enacted, with improvements verified on the ground by an independent group of experts," Nestle said in an emailed statement....

8, 10 August 2016: IOI is back to RSPO! NGO reactions.

Destructive palm oil company IOI let off the hook too easily by RSPO - Blogpost by Annisa Rahmawati - 10 August, 2016.....However, many of IOI's ex-customers have said they will only start buying again once it has shown it can radically improve its approach to protecting forests and peatlands. A sensible decision, because until IOI proves it's serious about ending its role in deforestation and peatland drainage, resuming business with this toxic company will be a decidedly risky business.....

RSPO lifts suspension of Malaysian palm oil giant IOI -- Green groups condemned the "premature" action by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. 2016-08-05 -- NGOs have complained about IOI's operations in Indonesia for years. In April, the RSPO suspended the company's sustainable certification. On Friday, the RSPO lifted the suspension after IOI submitted an action plan to address the latest complaint. Green groups said the RSPO should have kept the suspension in place until IOI could demonstrate progress on the ground. It remains unclear whether consumer goods giants like Unilever and Proctor & Gamble, which moved to cut supplies from IOI in the wake of the suspension, will look to resume purchases from the company.....

RAN: RSPO Puts Credibility on the Line by Lifting IOI Suspension August 05, 2016 -- Gemma Tillack, Agribusiness Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network (RAN) issued the following statement:  "The decision to lift the suspension on IOI places the credibility of the entire RSPO certification system in doubt. The RSPO has once again risked its legitimacy by settling for half measures and has shown it is willing to certify companies that are operating in open breach of its own standards. "This move shows that despite the RSPO's efforts to strengthen its complaints procedure and adopt stronger standards via its flawed RSPO Next voluntary scheme, the body still falls short of the policy requirements of countless companies that have adopted robust no deforestation, no peatland, no exploitation policies.  Over two dozen companies have cut their ties with IOI Group following its suspension by the RSPO. These global brands and traders must continue to act independently to ensure that IOI addresses the violations of its sourcing policies prior to reconsidering the controversial company as a supplier."

Sime Darby Clarifies Position In Liberia’s Rain Forests Report Fri, 08/05/2016 - 02:17 tjohnson -- Maintains moratorium on logging activities since 2014. Sime Darby Plantation (SDPL) says it is not involved in logging or the extraction of timber that a recent report says is putting Liberia in danger. A release issued yesterday said regarding clearing of land for the cultivation of oil palm, Sime Darby Plantation has had a moratorium on any clearing of land since September 2014. The moratorium has allowed the company to study the need for the conservation of high carbon stock forests, an effort “we are undertaking with several stakeholders, including groups of growers, NGOs and scientists under the umbrella of the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Approach.” Prior to September 2014, Sime Darby Plantation said it also had strict policies and guidelines on the preservation and protection of High Carbon Value (HCV) areas, including Environment & Biodiversity Policy and Slope & River Protection Policy. The release said Sime Darby Plantation has observed both these policies for all new land development activities in Liberia. “Today, new land development is still put on hold as the HCS Approach pilot is currently being conducted in SDPL’s concession area,” the release said....

5 August 2016: IOI is back to RSPO!

Editor's note: Defying expectations for a six-months plus time out for IOI, the good news for the supply chain is that IOI is back! "Satisfy complainant" basis with IOI bouncing back fast. Also look out for other activist reactions. 

RSPO Board of Governors has endorsed the recommendation made by the Complaints Panel (CP) to lift the suspension of RSPO certification for the entire IOI Group....The lifting of the suspension of the RSPO certificates will be effective from 8th August 2016.....

Joint-Statement on Progress Regarding the Ketapang Complaint

29 July 2016: TFT view on IPOP failure, are NGOs better off working outside the RSPO?

Failure of Indonesia’s palm oil commitment ‘not bad news’ [commentary] 27 July 2016 / Commentary by Scott Poynton Scott Poynton is the founder of The Forest Trust (TFT), an international non-profit that works with corporations to address environmental challenges. In this editorial, Poynton says there is “no time for NGO Handwringing: IPOP was a distraction. Its demise is not bad news”. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

Study concludes conservation NGOs might be better off working outside the RSPO 26 July 2016 / Mike Gaworecki Conservation non-governmental organizations, palm oil producers, and other players in the industry have all promoted the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s efforts, but a new study published in the journal Conservation and Society looks at how effective NGOs’ participation in the RSPO scheme truly is.

Palm Oil: The worldwide movement to make it sustainable Posted about 10 hours ago -- You have probably heard a lot about palm oil and the movement across the world to make its production sustainable. It is considered a major environmental issue because as an ingredient palm oil is used in a lot of supermarket products, but cultivating the plants it's extracted from has historically led to major deforestation and displacement problems.

Sustainable Palm Oil in Australia:

25 July 2016: Situating smallholders at the fore - need to transfer the rewards upstream in the value chains 

Situating smallholders at the fore - Empowering smallholders is essential for economic development – and to protect forests  Deanna Ramsay  19 Jul 2016 --  But the fact is that now companies are making commitments to source supply that is clean, that is deforestation free. And I think that’s one of the main issues that they’re struggling with is how to build these clean sources of supply that involve smallholders. But that is going to imply for them to build some kind of agreements with these groups of smallholders that are supplying these companies. So that’s the big issue. Because the majority of smallholders are independent smallholders, like in the oil palm sector in Indonesia.....I think what is needed is business models that are able to share those costs – share the cost, share the risks and share the benefits. Because in most of the cases you have business models that then transfer the costs to the producers that are upstream in the supply chains. So they are the ones who pay for the cost. In an ideal situation, the companies also should be able – if they are targeting deforestation free in markets – they should be able if there is some reward to transfer the rewards upstream in the value chains.... So the smallholders can also benefit or receive some compensation on the costs that they are investing in improving the production systems. But that is still an open question, and we don’t know if that’s going to work in that way....

Cargill latest to drop IOI Corp as palm oil supplier after RSPO suspension By Supriya Surendran /   | July 19, 2016

Affin Hwang lowers IOI Corp earnings forecast 22 July 2016 - o recap, IOI submitted a status update of its quarterly progress report on June 27 and is now awaiting an official reply from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Complaint Panel on its application to lift the certification suspension.  “The decline in market capitalisation since March seems disproportionate to the potential financial impact. A positive outcome on its application hence is expected to result in a share price rebound, in our view,” it said.

Worst may be over for Sime Darby’s, but upturn yet to be seen  July 16, 2016 -- As for Sime’s plantations business, it noted that Sime is leading in sustainability compliance and it believed risk of non-compliance is low. “As at end-2015, 100 per cent of its Malaysian upstream and downstream business units, and 96 per cent of its Indonesian upstream and 77 per cent of downstream business units are RSPO-certified. “All of NBPOL’s upstream operations (including all smallholders) and its downstream unit In Liverpool are also RSPO-certified. SIME now supplies approximately 20 per cent of the global CSPO market. “In plantation development, the group complies strictly with RSPO Principles & Criteria (RSPO P&C); Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) processes; and Social & Environmental Impact Assessments (SEIA) standards. Development in High Conservation Value (HCV) areas is avoided and a Zero Burning Policy has been implemented since 1985,” it explained.

GAR Podcast: The challenges of achieving traceability, access to markets and sustainability targets for smallholders farmers -- Ian Welsh from Innovation Forum talks to Anita Neville, Vice President, Corporate Communications and External Affairs at GAR about the challenges of achieving traceability, access to markets and sustainability targets for smallholders farmers. Listen to the podcast here.

Can palm oil be sustainable?  July 21, 2016 Source: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis Summary: A new study shows to where and to what extent palm oil plantations could be expanded, while avoiding further deforestation in pristine and carbon-rich tropical forests.

11 July 2016: KLK benefits from IOI's RSPO suspension, do scorecards work? RSPO auditors are back.

Following on the RSPO auditor sanctions period in early 2016, things are easing with PT SGS Indonesia accredited since 5 July 2016 and Control Union (Malaysia) SDN. BHD.  and PT Mutuagung Lestari  back on since 26 June.

KLK benefits from IOI Corp’s RSPO suspension, sees rise in CSPO sale  July 8, 2016, Friday KUCHING: Analysts believe planter Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK) stands to gain from competitor IOI Corporation Bhd’s (IOI) Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) suspension. RHB Research Institute Sdn Bhd (RHB Research) noted that KLK managed to do some forward sales in the first quarter (1Q), albeit not a significant amount of 25 to 30 per cent of 1Q’s output. “However, it is currently benefitting from the sale of more certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) products as a result of IOI Corp’s suspension from the RSPO,” it said in a note earlier this week. “Currently, close to 50 per cent of its products – from 30 per cent previously – are sold with a CSPO premium. Read more:

IPOP disbands: A step backwards for sustainable palm oil in Indonesia? By Niamh Michail+, 05-Jul-2016 After less than two years in existence, the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge has disbanded to the dismay of environmentalists who say its member companies were bullied by the Indonesian government into adopting weaker standards.

Do NGO scorecards that 'name and fame' or 'name and shame' actually work? By Niamh Michail+, 04-Jul-2016 WWF's Soy Scorecard or Oxfam's Behind the Brands are high profile - but do such reports really trigger a race to the top or are they too simplistic to be of any use?

7 July 2016: Oil palm and HCV corridors with few results? WWF launches new Singapore alliance on sustainable palm oil. Bunge demands more details from IOI.

Bunge joins ranks of palm oil users to sanction Malaysia’s IOI 7 July 2016 -- In March, IOI lost its sustainability certification from the world's largest association for ethical palm oil production over allegations of environmental destruction in its Indonesian operations.  Since then, a number of IOI's customers have moved to disengage with the supplier.  Among Bunge's demands is for IOI to issue a more detailed sourcing policy.

IOI damage raises questions about RSPO standards By David Burrows, 10-Jun-2016 The damage caused by IOI’s deforestation and peatland drainage is “far greater” than that detailed in the complaint that led to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil suspending the supplier back in April, says Greenpeace.

Scientific American. Can Oil Palm Plantations and Orangutans Coexist? To forestall such a public relations disaster, industry-leading oil palm companies have tried a series of conservation initiatives to show that orangutans and plantations can co-exist--hence the RSPO, the HCV enclaves and the relocation of orphaned apes to rehabilitation centers for later reintroduction back to the forest. The latest scheme is to interlink isolated HCV patches with migration "corridors" so that orangutans and other forest-dwelling creatures can disperse in accordance with their natural behaviors.....Compounding matters, the RSPO and its ilk are agonizingly slow at investigating complaints, and their findings are no more than advisory, with no ...To implement such measures (and garner some third-party credibility), many companies have partnered with environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs). But results have so far been elusive. Part of the problem is a general lack of data. But companies can also ignore or skimp on the NGO recommendations. Compounding matters, the RSPO and its ilk are agonizingly slow at investigating complaints, and their findings are no more than advisory, with no force of law. Moreover, Indonesian licensing laws can undermine conservation by reallocating forest leases of companies that do not exploit their allotted tracts fully or quickly enough. And with RSPO covering barely a fifth of the world’s palm oil operators, there is always a queue of wildcat planters ready to take up rescinded leases.

WWF launches new Singapore alliance on sustainable palm oil - Consumers are “masters” of the supply chain and the alliance aims to signal clearly to consumers which companies are truly committed to sustainability.
WWF Singapore has launched an alliance of organisations committed to promote the uptake of sustainably-produced palm oil. Image: WWF-Singapore/Xcalibrephoto By Jessica Cheam 29 June 2016

25 June 2016: Cargill sets IOI a July 16 deadline, Solidaridad to work with MSPO, RSPO members accused of regularly flouting community land rights

Cargill steps up pressure on palm oil trader JUNE 23, 2016 by: Emiko Terazono Cargill, the leading agricultural trader, has given Malaysian palm oil producer and trader IOI until July 15 to produce a responsible sourcing policy following allegations of unsustainable practices in Indonesia among its subsidiaries.

Palm oil shows need for socially aware research by Kaz Janowski is editor at SciDev.Net. -- Robert Guimaraes Vásquez, a leader of the Shipibo-Conibo indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon, who made an emotional statement calling European consumers to realise they are “drinking our blood” when they consume products derived from palm oil.   Vásquez said deforestation research is based on satellite data, but this is far removed from a real understanding of how deforestation and palm oil plantations affect people on the ground.  ... His lament was that governments currently rely on data from palm oil companies to decide which parts of a forest to give to which firms, but this data is tinged with bias....  

MPOB signs MoU with NGO to enhance adoption of sustainable standard  17 June 2016 -- The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and Solidaridad Network Asia Ltd have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance the effective implementation and adoption of the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) standard.

Activists from Indonesia, Liberia, Colombia and Peru to EU tells of palm Horror June 24, 2016 -- A delegation of indigenous people from Indonesia, Liberia, Colombia and Peru did a tour of European capitals last month to give policymakers and investors first-hand testimony of what they said were escalating human rights and environmental abuses linked to the rapid spread of palm oil cultivation. The delegation, which visited the Netherlands, Germany, Brussels and London during the 10-day tour, said that members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) frequently flout the voluntary group’s requirement to respect community land rights, and are involved in human rights abuses and destructive plantation development. At a press conference in London, Tom Griffiths of UK NGO Forest Peoples Programme, which sponsored the tour, said while the RSPO is beginning to crack down on malpractice by its members, it has a long way to go before all RSPO members’ palm oil is conflict-free. “The key message of the mission is that these [palm oil] operations should be suspended until land rights are secured and proper protections are in place,” he said....

23 June 2016: RSPO to toughen audits, FGV video on commitment to RSPO

Under scrutiny: Palm oil watchdog to toughen sustainability audits - Reuters News 23-Jun-2016 -- .... The RSPO - a body of consumers, green groups and plantation firms that aims to promote the use of sustainable palm oil products - now plans to make the certification process more transparent and allow reassessments of initial audits to ensure standards are being met, said Paul Wolvekamp, the head of an internal task force reviewing RSPO's auditing process. The task force was formed late last year after a scathing report from UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)that said auditors hired by plantations were conducting "woefully substandard assessments" and in some cases colluding with growers to disguise violations of the RSPO standard. It has called for the RSPO to address loopholes in the audit process. "One component is to increase transparency and to give access to parties who are concerned to detect weaknesses," Wolvekamp, also a member of the RSPO board of governors, told Reuters. He added that a public register with details of the auditors' performance will be worked on.....A key part of the audit reform will be a move to empower Accreditation Services International (ASI), an independent group that monitors auditors, to conduct a rigorous surveillance and reassess findings of the initial audit, Wolvekamp said.... ASI, which is headquartered in Germany, will also create a platform for third parties to submit any complaints against the auditors and improve training for the auditors with a focus on tackling labour issues. RSPO is also looking for ways to address conflicts of interest between growers and auditors, he said. Currently, plantation firms directly hire auditors to assess their compliance with the RSPO standards, a method critics say could force auditors to give a verdict their clients want. To avoid this, the EIA has recommended that RSPO members pay into an escrow account that is held by the RSPO and then the watchdog selects and pays auditors directly.....

FGV komited terhadap kemampanan operasi by FGV

social media comment: Felda CEO...making his full commitment to RSPO public. And some extent...why they've taken one step back.

20 June 2016: Confectionery accounts for 1% of food with sustainable palm oil label, Grenpeace -  IOI’s deforestation and peatland drainage is “far greater” than that detailed in the complaint, EU Aims For 100% CSPO By 2020, Availability of RSPO CSOI drops by 18.5%

Confectionery accounts for 1% of food with sustainable palm oil label By Douglas Yu+, 14-Jun-2016 Confectionery products account for 1% of total packaged food that carries a sustainable palm oil label, according to new ethical labels data from Euromonitor--; Confectionery News quoted Euromonitor as saying that confectionery products accounted for just 1% of total packaged food that carried sustainable palm oil labels. Total sales of packaged food products carrying sustainable palm oil labels amounted to US$220.4mil in 2015. These are expected to increase to US$239.9mil by 2020. Of the seven key food categories, breakfast cereals accounted for 40% of US$92.1mil of sales while only US$2.5mil worth of confectionery products carried sustainable palm oil labels. 

IOI damage raises questions about RSPO standards By David Burrows, 10-Jun-2016 The damage caused by IOI’s deforestation and peatland drainage is “far greater” than that detailed in the complaint that led to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil suspending the supplier back in April, says Greenpeace.

EU Aims For 100% Certified Sustainable Palm Oil By 2020 Jun 15 2016 --

L’Oréal first Palm Oil Progress report highlights positive steps June 16, 2016by  Louise Prance Miles -- L’Oréal has released its first Palm Oil Progress report, which looks at the company’s ongoing progress in achieving its aim of 100 percent responsible sourcing of palm oil and palm oil derivatives.

Availability of RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm Oil drops by 18.5% 15th June 2016 -- The combined result of Felda’s decision to voluntarily withdraw its own RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certification, and IOI’s certification suspension by the RSPO, will be to reduce the global supply of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) by 2.5 million tonnes – 18.5% of the total. This is likely to be good news for those with CSPO to sell, including those with GreenPalm certificates. However, buyers would be well advised to consider their on-going requirements and act quickly to secure the CSPO or certificates they need, before supply is squeezed further.

14 June 2016: Report calls on review of implementation of "living wage" and other RSPO labour policies, IOI suspension-boycott issues (adds RSPO Milan commentary and Greenpeace release)

Palm Oil's Human Cost Alleged in New Report - Indonesian plantations are accused of exploitative labor conditions and other harmful practices by a coalition of nonprofit groups. By Laurel Neme PUBLISHED JUNE 8, 2016

Cargill and Bunge refuse to cut ties with palm oil trader by Emiko Terazono June 12, 2016 -- The decision to continue trading with IOI Group is in marked contrast to large consumer groups, including Unilever, Nestlé, Kellogg and Mars, as well as traders Archer Daniels Midland and Louis Dreyfus Company, which have ceased trading with the Malaysian group after its sustainability certificates were suspended in March....
Note: feedback from a reader on this graphic is that it is "wildly inaccurate" as it misses out many key players

Damning Report Reveals Palm Oil’s Human Cost - Two certified “sustainable” Indonesian plantations, both linked to PepsiCo, allegedly exploited workers and turned a blind eye to child labor.  06/09/2016

Unclear if France will revisit ‘discriminatory’ palm oil tax 6 June 2016 / Loren Bell -- The proposed tax became a controversy in Indonesia and Malaysia, the two largest palm oil producers, which lobbied hard to get it rescinded. France consumes less than two-tenths of a percent of the palm oil produced globally, most of which goes to India and China. Palm oil is crucial to the Southeast Asian nations' economies but leads the way in damaging the environment.

PanEco resigns from RSPO over ‘sheer level of inaction’ 3 June 2016 / Philip Jacobson  A key NGO member loses faith in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

10 June 2016: RSPO European Conference, 9 June 2016 - review of tweets (adds on reader and other comments)

Editor's note: Selected excerpts from,, accessed noon 10 June 2016. I went as far back as 31 May 2016. There's only slight edit to clean up the hashtags unless pertinent. Notably, no tweets on IOI Group and Felda/FGV suspensions. However, there was a press release by Greenpeace to coincide with this on the IOI case.

From reader who was at the Milan conference, downstream perspective: "There's high awareness of the subject of palm oil with strong supporting and opposing camps in Europe. And some recognition that market pull alone is not enough.... RSPO is trying to involve governments more but it is early days, some of which may lead to legislation. This is from panel discussions."

Wild Asia writes: "Wild Asia used the opportunity at RSPO EU (June 2016) to share its ideas and approaches for small producers. Whilst I am glad for the attention, I am a bit worried that we are being misled to believe that the problem lies with the small holders (the very small micro farmers). The reality is that the smaller producers (SMEs, independent estate owners and this middle-level producers) are where the largest risks in palm lie today (labour, safety, expansions)." 

From another reader who was at Milan: The issue for RSPO Next was whether buyers would be allowed to join this scheme if they were not fully buying physical traceable oil i.e. whether GreenPalm Book & Claim credits would be included. Clearly, buyers want all options to be counted, but suppliers do not.

RSPO news and views

  • Stakeholders hear the latest from RSPO NEXT team 
  • Retailers clarify role in RSPO NEXT 
  • Opening remarks from Stefano - Great to see Italy is now part of RSPO global movement to promote certified sustainable palm oil
  • Paolo de Castro keynote begins by welcoming ambitious goal of converting all palm oil production into sustainable palm oil - Member of the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture & Rural Development 
  • Good news: awareness of palm oil in Italy is increasing (graphic above, blue columns)
  • Italian Union for Sustainable Palm Oil has signed the Declaration "100% Sustainable Palm Oil Supply Chain in Europe by 2020” 
  • 'Our members are committed to using only certified sustainable palm oil by 2016' says Giuseppe Allocca
  • Fact: Palm oil is most productive oil seed crop of the world by factor of 4 to 10. More on how we make it sustainable at #EURT2016.
  • DYK becoming RSPO certified helps smallholder farms produce more palm oil, using less land.
  • DYK there are 800 different definitions of forest? Follow #EURT2016 to hear more from our panel members as we discuss CSPO
  • Q to Panel: Are RSPO standards good enough? Generally pos responses & note RSPO NEXT sets good new targets.  
  • By supporting initiatives such as Guardian Sust Biz debate, RSPO is helping to increase awareness of palm oil in Europe
  • Big step forward to see the trend in the concern generated by news about palm oil is now decreasing
  • Feisty discussion on whether RSPO is doing enough on Climate Change. 1st panel.
  • Forest Peoples PROG says RSPO has challenges but positive action being taken …. More on palm oil debate at #EURT2016
  • RSPO RT14 is Bangkok, 8-10 November 2016.

#GoodBadPalmOil social media 
screenshot of images going in social media

  • @RSPOtweets launched a new campaign.Please share #GoodBadPalmOil and ask your followers to say YES! to good palm oil 
  • There's a big difference between good & bad palm oil … @simplyselma_ #GoodBadPalmOil
  • What are your cookies made of? Say Yes to Responsible + Sustainable Palm Oil #GoodBadPalmOil 
  • How can farmers harvest more oil & use less land? Find out from @BSDHotDeal  #GoodBadPalmOil
  • Share this video and say YES to GOOD Palm Oil #GoodBadPalmOil #rspo #palmoil  

Global Forest Watch upgrades on oversight

  • Global Forest Watch - WRI-Proforest palm oil risk rating, with a tagline "companies can now spot deforestation in their palm oil supply chains before it happens"
  • Globalforestwatch working with RSPO to help monitor fires – RSPO cert areas are performing better than non-certified areas. 
  • Anne Rosenbarger, World Resources 'Thrilled to see commitments to No Deforestation becoming the norm' 
  • Citigroup uses Global Forest Watch to monitor client compliance with no deforestation requirements. RSPO; convening solutions 
  • Citi contributing to system of accountability by working with Global Forests to establish client plantations in GFW system 

Market and buyer news

  • Significant progress achieved in Europe on uptake of sustainable palm oil but more needs to be done says paolodecastro 
  • 'In Europe demand for palm oil increased significantly since 2006. Switch over in demand between food & non-food'
  • Update on National Commitments for 100% CSPO 
  •  Guide for Overseas Investment and Production of Sustainable Palm Oil by Chinese Enterprises
  • Seeing growth of palm oil in margarine, esp in Poland - analysis of data ensures RSPO can become more targeted says Daniell Morley
  • Qs frm floor: How can RSPO leverage @COP21 to increase uptake in CSPO
  • UK food & personal care consumption looking better but still a way to go before 2020 targets are hit 
  • Home and personal care low. How can we work together to increase CSPO in this market?
  • "We expect productivity & access to market for smallholders" on long term - Nsirine, L'Oreal
  • L'Oreal committed on the direct sourcing of certified products from smallholders 
  • Clariant - L'Oreal present joint SPOTS initiative for sustainable palm oil 
  • Informal Roundtable discussions between UK retail & Chinese delegation 
  • RSPO is delighted to announce first CSPO product in India 
  • Ferrero, maker of Nutella, uses 100% sustainable palm oil since 2014, enforces no planting on high carbon stock forests and peats 
  • Strong statements from Laurent Cremona Ferrero 'We cannot wait for growers to take the lead on sustainable development' 
  • Great to see Ferrero's commitment to real No Deforestation through the High Carbon Stock Approach and POIG.
  • Cremona, Ferrero: brands have to drive responsible chains and lead industry transformation. Traceability to plantation is key.
  • Ferrero: consumers more and more want products according to their values. The way to go is industry consensus (and data).
  • Consumers expect brands to do homework on sustainability to have clean supply chains says Nutella Ferrero 
  • Karin Kreider from ISEALalliance  says govt role models are critical in supporting implementation of sustainability standards 
  • John Buchanan Conservation Org - "Important that policy measures in Europe also focus on improving palm oil production"
  • Norway & Switzerland interested in Amsterdam Declaration for 100% sustainable palm oil 
  • Exciting to hear about new Trademark app, which will help to find RSPO trademark products.
  • Governments should recognise the contribution of the RSPO to SDG 15 and assist by increasing import taxes for non-cert oil 

Supplier news and issues

  • Gabon committed reduce GHG by 50% & palmoil growers cld do more 2 support producer government climate change commitments
  • Christopher Stewart, Olam says "Positive outcomes for biodiversity, social & carbon can be achieved through RSPO tools"
  • Tulip Diaz of Agropalma SA "Good behaviour gives companies a competitive advantage"
  • "Certification is expensive for us find that perfect dream where it is easier" - Jose Maria Madrid, smallholder from Honduras
  • "You cant isolate palm issues from the real social issues", Reza Azmi ED & Founder, Wild Asia - Smallholders: Up Close & Personal 
  • Discussion on HCSA/HCS+. Greater clearity needed.
  • Smallholders need degraded forest to plant - don't make arbitrary carbon thresholds.
  • Interactive session at #EURT2016 on developing stepwise improvement system for independent smallholders.
  • We’re looking at palm oil social accountability. We’ll be exploring human rights plus lessons learnt from our complaints panel.
  • RSPO members embarking on new planting must take into account FPIC - wise to allow 2 years to complete FPIC procedures adequately.
  • Henry Barlow, Chair of RSPO Complaints Panel discussing breakdown of complaints cases
  • Guide for Traders: To take part in the RSPO supplychain you need to acquire a trader licence
  • More detail on 4 “types” of RSPO certification - single site, multisite, group & micro users certification
  • Training session forrefiners to learn about the new functionality in RSPO eTrace
  • Dr Cecile Bessou: PalmGHG is based on LCA & captures >95% GHG emissions along the supply chain up to oils

IOI’s Indonesian forest fire legacy revealed at European palm oil summit, 9 June, 2016 at 3:40 - Jakarta, 9 June 2016 - New analysis reveals the scale of fires in and around the IOI Group’s palm oil concessions in Indonesia. The findings, published today by Greenpeace International, come as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) meets in Milan for its European Summit.

Is that palm oil mill “sustainable”? A new tool can tell 9 June 2016 / Morgan Erickson-Davis  --  Analysts have created a new dataset that predicts the deforestation risk of palm oil processing mills.

9 June 2016: Mill risk rating by WRI-Proforest goes online, IOI pulls away from lawsuit and will do detailed chronology and LUC analysis and start implementing RSPO Next by year end

Editor's note: The online data is really moving up on palm oil. WRI-Proforest now gives risk rating of palm oil mills. This is the expected upgrade for non-certification traceability (lacking of such data) and will provide added info to distinguish even certified mills. This has been expected for some time. Risk rating may influence feedstock pricing over time. Other news is that IOI Group reverses its lawsuit plan and pledges RSPO Next.

New PALM Risk Tool from Global Forest Watch can identify palm oil mills with high historical deforestation and high potential for future deforestation,

2006-2014 tree cover loss is in pink. Mapping and identification of a lot of palm oil mills. I clicked on a few "unknowns" to try out (image above). The blue circles are "50km mill sourcing radius." Image below shows details of a "low risk" mill.

Malaysian palm oil giant IOI drops lawsuit against green group - Former Unilever and Nestlé supplier says it now aims to comply with the RSPO’s highest level of accreditation by the end of the year 7 June 2016

Note: IOI's complainant reports that a joint study of chronology and LUC analysis will start 2H July 2016. This usually points to concerns about the RSPO HCV Compensation Liability.

3 June 2016: IOI ready to drop lawsuit once suspension lifted - completed information submitted to RSPO

IOI ready to settle RSPO issues 3 June 2016.... submitted documents to comply with conditions set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) for the lifting of the suspension. CIMB Research expect this case to be deliberated at RSPO’s complaints panel (CP) meeting in June 2016 and the suspension could be lifted if the CP was satisfied with IOI’s submission....“However, should there be queries by the CP on the submissions, the lifting of suspension may be delayed until the next meeting,” CIMB Research said.....IOI Corp has submitted to the RSPO CP a completed action plan, quarterly progress report, together with group sustainable resource allocations and policy initiatives document, endorsed by IOI Corp’s board of directors. It has also completed and submitted to the RSPO the peer review assessment of the three high conservation value (HCV) reports between 2009-2014. It added that there was a possibility that the challenge in Switzerland would be dropped once the suspension is lifted......“We estimate that the suspension may reduce FY6/17 net profit by up to 7% (assuming the group is suspended for a year). Maintain ‘hold’ and sum-of-the-parts (SOTP) target price of RM4.52, as we think the market has priced in suspension concerns at today’s price. Potential upside is higher CPO prices and key risk is prolonged RSPO suspension,” it said.  

30 May 2016: French "non-sustainable" palm oil tax likely? BBC World Service feature.

French palm oil tax, pesticide ban likely to pass this year | Reuters, A proposed French tax targeting palm oil will most likely be approved later this year after a meeting between both parliamentary assemblies on Wednesday failed to agree on a wider biodiversity bill, members of the Senate said.... The National Assembly, dominated by the ruling Socialist party agreed in March on a tax starting at 30 euros ($33.5) a tonne in 2017 that would rise by 20 euros a year to 90 euros in 2020. It excluded oils made in a sustainable way... Senators scrapped the tax in mid-May, saying it could be against international trade rules and it would be more appropriate to include it in finance legislation. Barbara Pompili, Secretary of State for Biodiversity, confirmed in Le Monde newspaper on Wednesday that the government would back a tax with an advantage for sustainable oil, but insisted that producing countries should be supported in their fight against deforestation... French wheat exports to Indonesia have been on hold for weeks with exporters blaming the delay on a retaliation by Indonesia against the palm oil tax plan....

The Price of Palm Oil - Business Daily, Listen in pop-out player, Mon 30 May 2016 15:32 Local time BBC WORLD SERVICE.... Murder and theft, as well as environmental destruction, lurk behind this staple ingredient of supermarket foods and toiletries - as presenter Manuela Saragosa discovers. A Colombian farmer recounts the crimes committed against his own family in order to take control of his land, while Agus Sutomo of the pressure group Forest Peoples Programme explains how palm oil farming goes hand-in-hand with human rights abuses in many parts of the world....

27 May 2016: Mondelēz urges IOI Group not to sue RSPO 

EXCLUSIVE: Mondelēz urges IOI Group not to sue RSPO By David Burrows, 26-May-2016 Mondelēz International has called on palm oil supplier IOI Group to withdraw its legal action against the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Palm oil battle spreads beyond ethical investors - Nestlé, Unilever, Kellogg and Mars cease trading with IOI May 26, 2016 by Emiko Terazono in London and Avantika Chilkoti in Jakarta... High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email to buy additional rights.

Courts, controversy and CSR – the palm oil story By David Burrows, 13-May-2016 There were more twists and turns this week in the controversy surrounding the IOI group, which was suspended by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) last month.

RSPO – it’s hard to live with it BY HANIM ADNAN 14 May 2016

What will it take to make sustainable palm oil the norm? New study examines the factors driving commitments to responsible production of a controversial global commodity.  JACK HEWSON  10 May 2016

12 May 2016: IOI sues RSPO and FGV decertifies 58 mills, map data 

  • IOI sues the RSPO

  • The suspension was seen as an indication the RSPO might finally be getting tough on the oil palm growers that make up the bulk of its membership, as the roundtable has been criticized for failing to enforce its standards. But the lawsuit — as well as a surprising move by palm oil giant Felda Global Ventures to decertify 58 of its mills, and the continued refusal by Malaysian and Indonesian growers to hand over their concession maps — are perhaps signs of a backlash against stricter oversight by the RSPO, whose membership also includes palm oil traders, retailers and banks.
  • Malaysian palm oil companies say their concession maps are state secrets

Earlier commentary pointed out by a reader: Glenn Hurowitz -  RSPO: Completely Worthless, or Just Mostly Worthless? (UPDATED)  03/31/2016 

27 April 2016: RSPO orders company to halt Peru planting

RSPO orders company to halt Peru planting 

25 April 2016: Reactions to President Jokowi's call for Indonesia moratorium on oil palm concessions and Singapore comment to buy certified

Editor's note: On the IOI Group suspension at the RSPO, talk at Invest Malaysia Conference (12-13 April 2016) was that the time-frame for lifting of certificates suspension would be "within three months" 

Review moratorium on oil palm plantations by Edi Suhardi, Vice President of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil April 22 2016.... There are two key factors contributing to the organic decline of new palm oil plantation expansions. The first is its falling price. The most extensive new development took place in the period of 2007 to 2014 when the crude palm oil ( CPO ) prices ranged from US$600 to $1,200.... The second impediment is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s ( RSPO ) stringent standards for its members on developing new plantations. RSPO members from Indonesian palm oil growers control the largest concessions and operations on plantations....The high pace of new plantation development has fallen sharply due to the introduction of strict and stringent RSPO standards preventing plantation development on high carbon stock ( HCS ) areas and high conservation-value ( HCV ) areas and implementation of free, prior and informed consent, which became effective as of 2014......The sustainability standards, which RSPO members have fulfilled, have created an earnest impact to new plantation development in Indonesia toward an environmentally friendly and socially-sensitive commodity. All primary forest and peatland areas over HCS and HCV areas will be left intact.... But there are hundreds of palm oil companies who have yet to abide by such sustainability standards and still aim to develop on HCS or HCV areas.... This is where the government has to act to change the way these companies operate and to enforce such sustainability standards in operations, particularly in new expansions...

To fight haze, step up certification of palm oil firms. commentary. BY TAN YI HAN PUBLISHED: 10:00 PM, APRIL 22, 2016... When Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya was reported as telling Singapore to “focus on its own role in addressing” the transboundary haze instead of “commenting too much on the part Indonesia is currently playing”, it unsurprisingly led to angry rebuttals by readers in Singapore.... It is time for companies in Singapore that buy palm oil such as food outlets, consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, to start by at least committing to go haze-free. Consumers can then play a part by supporting these responsible companies. We all can play our part to make Singapore haze-free....Tan Yi Han is from PM.Haze (People’s Movement to Stop Haze)

18 April 2016: IOI statement of 17 April


IOI Group is deeply concerned with the impact of the temporary suspension of IOI Group’s RSPO certification on all our stakeholders. In addition to the necessary Action Plans to address the complaint, we have also taken immediate actions to review and enhance our sustainability practices.

A more formalised Sustainability Governance Structure:

  • Sustainability Team
  • Sustainability Steering Committee

Other activities that we are actively pursuing, to ensure we are adhering to our commitment to sustainability:

  • We are identifying all necessary actions to address the complaint relating to our Ketapang development areas, including mitigation and restoration for the affected HCV area in PT BSS.
  • IOI will put measures in place to ensure that our policy commitments with regard to HCS, HCV, FPIC and peat are implemented on the future PT KPAM new development.
  • Appointment of internationally reputable implementation partner and sustainability consultant: IOI is in the process of engaging with Proforest in relation to the PT KPAM development and the verification of IOI’s commitments with regard to HCS, HCV, FPIC and peat
  • We are also in contact with the complainant to work on other topics, which are not part of the complaint. These topics include the development of PT KPAM, and a review of the fire monitoring and mitigation systems that IOI has put in place since last year

For further information, please contact:  Dr Surina Ismail, Group Head of Sustainability

Glenn Hurowitz - RSPO: Completely Worthless, or Just Mostly Worthless? (UPDATED)
1. Over 300 RSPO members...are currently taking [palm oil] products from IOI Loders Croklaan. These products are specialised food ingredients used in thousands of branded goods sold to millions of consumers around the world. 
2. In many cases for these members, IOI Loders Croklaan is a sole supplier; and in some cases the RSPO member is using the RSPO logo on their products.

17 April 2016: Will the jurisdictional approach help? REDD+ experience says surprisingly this was not the case

Local projects shape national REDD+ strategies - To save forests, apply local lessons. by TARA 

LOHAN 13 Apr 2016; ... “One of the advantages of a jurisdictional approach, in theory, is that it houses the purview of environmental stewardship and economic development, along with ostensible mechanisms of accountability, in one place,” said Ravikumar. “You’d expect that proponents from jurisdictional programs would be quite happy with policies from their own jurisdictions.”

Yet surprisingly, Ravikumar said, this was not the case. “Our evidence suggests that the conventional wisdom that jurisdictional approaches make it easier to solve these types of political issues may not be well founded,” he said.

16 April 2016: Eyes on the Forest - companies with zero-deforestation pledges still using illegal palm oil, IOI Group suspension disarray to Europe refineries and sustainability premia

Editor's note: Investigative research by Friends of the Earth - Walhi Riau, Jikalahari and WWF Indonesia allegedly show non-sustainable (illegal) product entering the supply-chain of large processor-traders with (non-certification) traceability efforts. Since Dec 2013, these have been regarded as distracting from RSPO certification efforts (refer to Excerpt - Eyes on the Forest recommends, from its April 2016 report).  While recommendations are to step back into RSPO and step up to high-end RSPO certification, this sector has recently been thrown into disarray by the suspension of the IOI Group (probably the largest supplier of such material). In these early days of the suspension (confirmation of the suspension came late March/early April with serious sanction not to handle nor process certified material), serious impact in the Europe refinery sector and impact on sustainability premia are reported.

Excerpt - Eyes on the Forest recommends:
1) RSPO finalizes its FFB due diligence tool as soon as possible.
2)  RSPO audits compliance of its members and certified clients.
3) CPO mills start disclosing percentages of FFB received from owned plantations, plasma and scheme small-holders, and traders and independent growers.
4) NGOs monitor RSPO members and SCC certified mills and inform RSPO about purchases of illegal and/or non-compliant products.
5) Buyers not waste their resources on “mills to end user” traceability schemes but use that money to buy segregated oil based on RSPO “Identity Preserved (IP)” or “Segregated (SG)” Supply Chain Models as:
          o “Identity Preserved Supply Chain Model” ensures that CSPO from a single identifiable certified source is kept separately from non-certified oil throughout the supply chain.
          o “Segregated Supply Chain Model” ensures that CSPO from different certified sources is kept from non-certified oil throughout the supply chain.

Palm Oil Analytics, 15 April 2016: Traceability problem linked to top palm oil firms - A study by Indonesian NGO coalition Eyes on the Forest (EoF) has identified palm oil sourced from illegal plantation in pro-tected Sumatran forest areas in the supply chain of some of the world’s top palm oil firms, including Wilmar International, Golden Agri-Resources, Royal Golden Eagle and Musim Mas. The study covered five conservation areas in Indonesia, including Tesso Nilo National Park, with fresh fruit bunches or CPO from illicit plantations in these areas appearing in the books of the named firms. This highlights the complexity in tracing sources of palm oil, as various independent mills and smallholders all sell their output to one of more of these firms, which may not have full traceability of product origin. All the named firms have pledged to practice sustainable environmental policies, but have little control or oversight over third-party operators. It is a gap that needs to be addressed and taken seriously, with the potential fallout being severe, as seen in the recent suspension of Malaysia’s IOI by the RSPO.

Companies with zero-deforestation pledges still using illegal palm oil - An investigation by Indonesian activists has shown that palm oil grown on destroyed tiger and elephant habitats is present in the supply chains of industry giants such as Wilmar, Musim Mas, and Golden Agri-Resources. CPO truck EOF By Vaidehi Shah  8 April 2016

Reports on illegal FFB bought in 2012-2015 via investigative research

Indonesian forest fire and haze risk remains high  By Nigel Sizer, Fred Stolle and Susan Minnemeyer  18 July 2013

12 April 2016: Indonesia worries about sustainability "cartel," Sabah starts 3D mapping for RSPO goals, SGS reapplying via SGS Indonesia

Govt looks to disband zero-deforestation pledge - The Jakarta Post 12-Apr-2016 by Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post; ..."The point is that we oppose the IPOP. The Business Competition Supervisory Commission KPPU has issued a letter saying that there are indications of a cartel in the IPOP. We will coordinate with the KPPU first and that letter can be used as a basis for its disbandment," the ministry's plantations director general, Gamal Nasir, told The Jakarta Post.... The Agriculture Ministry has joined with the Environment and Forestry Ministry to attack the IPOP, with the latter officially stating its opposition to the pledge last year. The KPPU letter, issued in October 2015, said the IPOP might lead to cartel-like activities as it could create barriers to entry for palm oil farmers who conduct business with IPOP members. The signatories to the pledge are Asian Agri, Astra Agro Lestari, Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources, Musim Mas and Wilmar.... However, IPOP legal team member Ibrahim Senen said the government had to prove that the pledge violated the law. "There's no law that bans people from creating a higher standard," he said. Ibrahim also questioned the legal basis for the IPOP's disbandment because the IPOP was simply a pledge, and not a legal subject in the country. IPOP management team director executive Nurdiana Darus said the pledge did not aim to drive small farmers out of business.

Sabah: 3D mapping to decide on land use  April 6, 2016; A mapping campaign using scientifically advanced technology took off on April 4 this year in Sabah to gather data that will feed into making the best decisions for land use and management of the state’s biodiversity.... Carried out by the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO), a facility under the Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford University, the high resolution and three dimensional mapping will provide a good understanding of the structure and quality of Sabah’s forests, carbon stocks and biodiversity patterns – and help with conservation and restoration decisions.... The CAO aircraft is scheduled to collect data until early May 2016 as part of a partnership between CAO and the Sabah government through the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD). The partnership was initiated and facilitated by Forever Sabah.... Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan was quoted as saying, the maps derived from this campaign, unlike past experiences where such maps were viewed as “treasure maps”, will be a useful tool for making sound decisions in relation to land-use planning in the State, especially now that the State Government has twomajor 10-year goals.... By 2025, the State is expected to increase its current 24% of Totally Protected Areas (TPAs) to 30%, and to achieve 100% [RSPO] Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) for all palm oil growers in Sabah.... Read more:

SGS Malaysia's RSPO accredition was terminated because SGS Malaysia carried out audits while it was suspended | REDD-Monitor
We have re-applied via another SGS affiliate office i.e. SGS Indonesia and ASI has accepted our application and we are now permitted to conduct audit for the purpose of witnessing by ASI. The result of the witness audit leading to successful or non-successful accreditation will be announced by ASI/RSPO tentatively in May/June 2016.....

30 March 2016: IOI announces its action plan in stock exchange filing

IOI summarised a few of the initiatives in its action plan in the Bursa Announcement, These include:-
 1.Preparation of legal register detailing all Indonesian legislation and regulations 2. Conduct stakeholder engagement with the relevant authorities 3. Preparation and compilation of standard operating procedures and a checklist of compliance of legal and regulatory requirements 4. Conduct internal capacity building for all relevant personnel 5. Provide records of all completed compliance of licences and permits

29 March 2016: Appeal of suspension by IOI Group, key issues by CIMB and AmInvestment 

Editor's note: IOI Group was recommended for suspension by the RSPO Complaints Panel and this was fairly quickly endorsed by the RSPO Board of Governors. The views of the consultant  Aidenvironment who filed letters to the RSPO Complaints Panel is included in the 25 March Mongabay article link below.

RSPO case tracker - 
  • 28 September 2015 RSPO has sent letter on preliminary decision to IOI
  • 10 October 2015 IOI has sent their response on the RSPO preliminary decision.
  • 26 October 2015 Aidenvironment has sent their final response on the RSPO Complaint against IOI Group
  • 14 March 2016 RSPO  has sent letter on final decision to IOI . IOI sent their response to RSPO final decision.
  • 23 March 2016 Aidenvironment sent a letter to RSPO regarding RSPO final decision to IOI.
  • 25 March 2016 RSPO BoG made decision on the case. "We wish to inform that the Board of Governors endorses the recommendation made by the Complaints Panel (CP) to suspend RSPO certification for the entire IOI Group, until such time the CP is satisfied that IOI has met the conditions set out in its letter to IOI dated 14th March 2016. The suspension of certificates will be effective from 1st April 2016..."
  • 28 March 2016 IOI Group and IOI Loders Croklaan sends Appeal of suspension to RSPO.
RSPO Complaints status page:

CIMB - IOI Corp update - RSPO certification suspension from 1 Apr; This is negative as it could affect the group’s ability to earn certified sustainable palm oil premium and dent its image as a sustainable palm oil producer. Preliminary estimates reveal a potential earnings impact of 3.5% for FY6/17. Maintain Reduce due to its rich valuations and concerns over the suspension.    

AmInvestment Bank Research, 25 March 2016: IOI Corporation: Board of Governors’ suspension was based on letter dated 14 March 2016 and not IOI’s action plan, which was submitted a few days ago: .... IOI themselves are unclear on the effective date and scope of the suspension. IOI is currently seeking clarification from RSPO.... We estimate that if IOI is unable to sell its certified oil to the customers in Europe, then the group’s net profit may fall by 5%. IOI would have to find other customers, which would not be concerned over sustainable palm oil. We believe that these include companies in India and China. Europe accounts for 25% of the production capacity of the specialty fats unit while specialty fats accounts for about 42.5% of the manufacturing division’s EBIT. The manufacturing division recorded an EBIT of RM398.1mil in FY15. This implies that Europe may have accounted for about RM40-50mil of the manufacturing unit’s earnings in FY15. This would be about 4.7% to 5.5% of IOI’s core net profit (ex-unrealised forex loss) in FY15. 

Malaysian palm oil giant IOI suspended from RSPO 25th March 2016 / Philip Jacobson - Strict action from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

16 - 17 Mar 2016:  Rumours of suspension to come - knotty issues

Editor's note: 16 Mar - Rumour of suspension meted out on unresolved complaints cases. 17 Mar - Thanks to readers for pointing to source documents dated 14 March 2016. Excerpts below. 

Company writes: We also seek clarity on the scope of the above mentioned suspension and the implications to the company as a whole, including the downstream operations and the CSPO trade, how are our current CSPO stocks affected? or is the suspension only applicable to the certification of new developments?

RSPO writes: The Complaints Panel will recommend to the RSPO Board of Governors that ..... RSPO certification be suspended at least until such time as the above action plan has been submitted and accepted by RSPO, and until the Peer Reviews of the HCV assessments have been performed.

Note: Specialists point out that RSPO certification system clause 4.2.4 is often a major issue, this was revised in more recent P&C document, which may be found here:

15 Mar 2016: SUSPENSION is the word. RSPO Complaints Panel suspends mill pending re-audits

Editor's note: Thanks to readers for pointing out Complaints Panel update and also feedback that auditors need to have SA8000 qualifications in order to be a social auditor for RSPO. The issue of re-audits relates to this news too, 28 Jan 2016: News alert - CB disruptions to RSPO. **The update heard at POC is re-certification (resulting from CB sanctions) now 6 months not 3 months.

7th March 2016 - RSPO Complaints Panel reviewed the independent assessment reports and decided to suspend Pasoh palm oil mill owned by Felda until full clearence is given based on the re-audits:

13 Mar 2016: GreenPalm traces to mill

GreenPalm palm oil goes greener – or does it? By Niamh Michail+, 11-Mar-2016 GreenPalm sustainable palm oil certificates will now offer buyers traceability back to the mill, meaning it is now the only fully inclusive supply chain open to all growers, says the trading platform. But campaigners are still calling it a "false solution" to sustainability.

The Palm Oil Innovation Group Charter, verification indicators, and summary of the public consultation can be reviewed here. 10. MARCH 2016

PALM OIL INNOVATION GROUP ANNOUNCES NEW MEMBERS, LEADS CHANGE FROM PLANTATIONS IN INDONESIA TO SUPERMARKET SHELVES ACROSS THE GLOBE 16. NOVEMBER 2015 ADMIN Leading brands like Ferrero, Danone, Stephenson and Boulder Brands and Indonesian palm oil giant Musim Mas Group, have recently joined innovative growers Agropalma and DAABON, along with international NGOs including Greenpeace, WWF, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), to build upon the RSPO standards and commitments.

3 Mar 2016: UK users switching to other competing oils, away from palm oil

Editor's note: In EU food usage, palm oil tonnage has dropped significantly in recent years across major EU countries and in many key food sectors including snack foods.

UK palm oil imports see huge drop By Emile Mehmet 01 March 2016; Palm oil imports by the UK have significantly declined over recent years, due to negative portrayal of the commodity in the media, uncompetitive prices, and a subsequent switch to other competing oils.

2 Mar 2016: Who pays for conservation? Sabah landowners say no to Kinabatangan conservation project.

Editor's note: The issue of rural livelihoods also comes to the fore in the reported problem in Sabah about unwillingness of enough local peoples to contribute their land to a Kinabatangan environmental project - state politicians sound neither keen to pay for the land and nor push for compulsory land acquisition. Big plantations have to implement FPIC for their new plantings - not an easy thing by all accounts. NGOs also seem to also be having a problem in FPIC process for their projects. Interesting mention of compulsory land acquisition (presumably at less than market price). Politicians may neither have the money nor the political will to push aside social FPIC for sake of conservation? Again the question arises: who pays? This will also be a question for how the RSPO-Sabah deal for 100% RSPO certified palm oil will be implemented and paid for.

Feedback from a reader:  One NGO has a RM4 million fund to buy land for a wildlife corridor in Malaysia, but likely has depleted this. They are asking for land free from companies too. There are probably a few such funds. 

Sabah’s ‘Corridor of Life’ hits snag as landowners say no to acquisition BY JULIA CHAN March 1, 2016; Sabah is facing a major stumbling block in its Kinabatangan “Corridor of Life” wildlife conservation project as landowners in the highly cultivable region are unwilling to give up their plots for conservation purposes....  the state was not keen, however, to use the Land Acquisition Act to compel the landowners to give up or sell their land as they do not want to upset any party. “We want them to be partners in conservation but they won’t be good partners if we force them to sell their land. We want it to be as amicable as possible, through friendly persuasion. “The other option is land acquisition but buying land is not cheap and we hope to avoid this. We feel the best situation is when the people feel they have ownership of the programme, so that they are willing to help and want to contribute to the success of the programme.“We are not giving up. Sooner or later, the owners will see the logic in the corridor,” he said....

20 Feb 2016:  Green palm oil sales far from impressive, ISPO and RSPO Can Complement Each Other, no point "shifting problems onto another commodity"

Giving Up Palm Oil Might Actually Be Bad for the Environment - The trouble with the maligned crop isn’t its popularity, but where it’s planted By Joe FasslerSmithsonian Magazine  March 2016; ... On its 2015 sustainable palm oil scorecard, the Union of Concerned Scientists gave high ratings to such companies as Gerber, Kellogg’s, Unilever, General Mills, PepsiCo, Dunkin’ Donuts and Safeway. Environmental NGOs ultimately hope to see oil palm growers planting on already-deforested land. In the meantime, they warn against boycotting palm oil altogether. “That would mean shifting problems onto another commodity,” says Katie McCoy, the head of forest programs at CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). Moreover, from a health perspective, palm oil is the ideal substitute for partially hydrogenated oils, the “trans fats” that food processors love and health experts hate. ... Read more:

Joint Study Facilitated by UNDP Shows ISPO and RSPO Can Complement Each Other - The United Nations Development Program has facilitated a joint-study between the the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil Standard (ISPO) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). By : Tabita Diela February 18, 2016

Despite push for green palm oil, sales far from impressive By Meena Lakshana / The Edge Financial Daily   | February 15, 2016 However, he said, only a small percentage of sustainably produced palm oil enters the retail brand space, while the majority is unbranded, and sold in drums and tubs.... “They (retailers) are not the big-volume users of palm oil. A great example of this is the volume of palm oil used in India,” he said.“Pressure on brands to move from one supply chain to another, for example, from GreenPalm to Mass Balance will also not create organic demand growth. You are simply shifting demand from one supply chain option to another,” he added..... According to the RSPO, the Mass Balance system sees palm oil from certified mills being mixed with conventional palm oil during transport and storage. Chrismas said what is needed is new demand markets for sustainable palm oil. “Within these markets, they (sector) need to bring all industries to the table,” he said....

19 Feb 2016: IPOP in disfavour is a problem for RSPO 50% goal targeted at refineries  

IPOP in disfavour is a problem for RSPO 50% goal targeted at refineries

17 Feb 2016: SGS Malaysia termination

Transparency and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil: Why was SGS Malaysia’s accreditation terminated? By Chris Lang 10 February 2016
Is this Malaysian palm oil firm still destroying forest in Borneo — and selling to Wilmar? A Greenomics report finds deforestation in the supply chain of Genting Plantations, a supplier of Wilmar International. By Jonathan Vit, Mongabay 11 February 2016

10 Feb 2016: RSPO Next standard published 9 February following rising pressure but others fear exclusion of smaller companies, WWF to partner with food firms in sustainability think tank

Critics fear RSPO's stricter palm oil standards will create two-tier system A man harvests palm fruits at a plantation in Aceh province, Indonesia by Emma Howard 9 February 2016; While some believe the palm oil certifier is taking a significant step forward, others fear the creation of a system that excludes smaller companies..The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) published the RSPO Next standards on 9 February following rising pressure from industry and campaigners who claim that certified firms are still participating in deforestation, land-grabbing and the destruction of biodiversity, such as the loss of habitat for orangutans....

RSPO Next draws mixed reactions over environmental stance By Niamh Michail+, 10-Feb-2016 The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil's RSPO Next allows manufacturers to demonstrate a tougher stance on deforestation, forest fires and peatland clearance – but it has been slammed by Greenpeace which says many progressive companies and governments have already gone further.

WWF to partner with food firms in sustainability think tank By Niamh Michail+, 08-Feb-2016; The World Wildlife Fund has launched Markets Institute, a platform bringing together large industry players and small SMEs to boost sustainability using market-based approaches, winning praise from global giant Mars.

28 Jan 2016: News alert - CB disruptions to RSPO

Specialists are reporting sustainability market disruptions for RSPO as two certification bodies (CBs) have been suspended for 6 months (14 Jan) and 1 CB has been withdrawn (19 Jan, clients have to be transferred to other CBs). This is the part of a “clean-up” following the ARI October 2015 negative report from an investigation of a plantation group and two CBs. Traders report that many sustainability supply-chain participants have been affected. Some market participants say that certificates from the start of certification are affected and that some re-audits are needed.

20 Feb 2016: Back news review

Wilmar new CPO policy effective next month BY HANIM ADNAN 5 December 2015; Oil palm planters in Sarawak are bracing themselves for the impact of Wilmar International Ltd’s new crude palm oil (CPO) sourcing policy, which is expected to take effect early next month. Wilmar is the largest CPO buyer in Sarawak, purchasing almost 50% of the state’s total CPO production or about 3.3 million tonnes annually for its palm oil refinery in Bintulu....  On Dec 5, 2013, the agribusiness group had declared a “no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation” policy to take effect in 2016, whereby Wilmar would only source CPO from sustainable oil palm plantations.... The policy created discontent among Sarawak oil palm planters, particularly those who were heavily involved in cultivating oil palm in high carbon stock forests, high conservation areas and peat land. Close to 42% or 504,000ha of the state’s total 1.2 millon ha of oil palm plantations are planted on peat soil.

Palm Oil – the long road of the RSPO standard toward impact by Denis Ruysschaert, SWISSAID Genève and Helga Rainer, Arcus Foundation 13 Jan 2016

Plantation firms in a fix January 04, 2016 Kuala Lumpur: Plantation firms are in dilemma on whether the newly-formed Council for Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) will benefit them or should they ditch the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards and adopt new ones. The new council is supposed to supersede current RSPO standards, but most large international buyers of crude palm oil (CPO) and its products choose RSPO as a benchmark.

ADM Takes First Step Towards Full Implementation of No-Deforestation Policy 13 Jan 2016

Felda signs MoU to develop smallholder risk assessment model 30 December 2015 - See more at:

FGV, P&G and others to develop jointly model for sustainability 30 December 2015
The top 5 food and agriculture stories in 2015 - Is there enough food to go around, and is it safe? And has it been produced at the expense of deforestation and loss of biodiversity? These were some questions the global community grappled with this year. A thick haze covers Singapore's Marina Bay district on 23 September 2015. Image: Eco-Business By Vaidehi Shah 28 December 2015

Towards a Global Definition of Sustainable Palm Oil  Dec 20, 2015 by Robert Hii Sustainable Business Consultant

RSPO to publish members’ plantation maps in wake of Indonesia’s forest fires By Niamh Michail+, 22-Dec-2015 The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) will publish maps of all its members’ palm oil plantations – with the exception of Malaysia – in the hope closer monitoring will prevent forest fires and peat land destruction. But is this enough?

Proofs of sustainability question as schemes proliferate

Editor's note: A timely alert from the European Commision via ISCC, to avoid the problem of double-selling within the ISCC system and between ISCC and national mandates in Indonesia, Malaysia and others. The risk of inadvertent double-selling between ISCC and RSPO was already apparent several years ago. With the relative rise of non-certification traceablity (that has high pledges for "no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation") and shifts among big buyers to accept traceability, apparent preference for tracing to low risk and certified mills also raises similar questions. The jumble of certification rules and markets (including biofuels mandates) as well as non-certification B2B approaches gives rise to concerns with Proofs of Sustainability. The issue is likely to be led by mandatory sustainability (energy sector) while voluntary (non-energy) has had more latitude. Issues of multi-layering or multi-selling also arises in conservation areas and is being reviewed by the ISEAL Alliance with regard to say a conservation area for palm oil being used for logging business. Policy leakages abound in the complex world of sustainability. Note that EU politicians are already considering a single certification scheme.

ISCC System Update - 14 March 2017: Letter from the European Commission on the Issuing of Proofs of Sustainability. The European Commission recently sent a letter to all voluntary schemes recognized by the Commission. In this letter, the Commission clarifies that it is not allowed to count a batch of biofuel towards biofuel quotas in more than one EU Member State. To avoid the risk of such multiple counting it should not be possible under recognized voluntary schemes to issue Proofs of Sustainability (PoS) for deliveries or sales of sustainable biofuel, if the biofuel has already been used for any of the purposes of Article 17 (1) of the RED, including the fulfilment of a national quota obligation. This means, once a batch of biofuel has been counted towards a national biofuel quota it is not allowed to issue a PoS for the respective amount of biofuel. This is also not allowed if the PoS itself includes an explicit statement that the respective amount of biofuel was already used to fulfil a national biofuel quota.

On 9 Mar, European politicians backed (56 to 1) a non-binding report on sustainable palm oil (to be put to full House vote in April for phase-out from biofuel usage of deforestation producst by 2020 and a single certification scheme)... -- In her report  Konečná  calls on the European Commission to strengthen environmental measures to prevent palm oil-related deforestation and phase out the use of palm oil as a component of biodiesel by 2020. Products should also be able to be certified for the socially responsible origin of their palm oil. “I believe that the European Parliament should be very ambitious," she said. "There should not be any palm oil in biofuels." The environment committee votes on the report on 9 March. It will then be up to all MEPs to vote on it during an upcoming plenary session.

On fire activity and carbon emissions: Doubts on transparency in corporate commitments, Indonesia Fire Free Alliance of plantation groups

18 Mar 2017: Doubts on transparency in corporate commitments, Indonesia Fire Free Alliance of plantation groups

Growth in deforestation commitments hides transparency issues By David Burrows, 17-Mar-2017 -- The number of manufacturers using one of the four key commodities linked to deforestation has increased from 67% to 71%, but a worrying number of targets have been missed or forgotten, according to a new report.

Fire Free Alliance Welcomes Malaysian Palm Oil Giants - Muhamad Al Azhari | March 16, 2017 -- The Fire Free Alliance, a voluntary multi-stakeholder platform to aid in the resolution of land and forest fires in Indonesia, has welcomed aboard Malaysian corporations Sime Darby and IOI Group, thus further extending the reach of their program across Indonesia and Malaysia.

22 Feb 2017: On fire activity and carbon emissions - some article and links

Cattau et al. (2016) write: “Fire activity peaks during the dry season months (August–October) both within and outside of concessions. Fire activity was higher in dry years 2014 and 2015… both within and outside of concessions... The total number of fire detections (N = 205 749) on Kalimantan and Sumatra 2012–2015 located outside of oil palm concession boundaries and within concessions boundaries. 16.6% of all the fire detections during the study period are located within oil palm concessions... A disproportionate percentage of the total fire detections (52.3%) occur on peatlands considering the percent land area in peatland (13.7%)... RSPO has the potential to reduce fires, but is currently only effective when fire likelihood is relatively low and thus fewer fires occur and are presumably more easily controllable…  in order for this mechanism to reduce fire, greater efforts may be needed to control fires in dry years and on peatlands.” The indication of fire detections so far may support the dominant narrative in the industry that attribute fires more to smallholders and small producers (in non-concession areas, see below).

Fire detections in Sumatra and Kalimantan, 2012-2015 by Cattau et al. (2016)

Looking back to the earlier 1997/98 fire-haze that drew the world’s attention to palm oil sustainability, Page et al. (2002) write: “The amount of carbon released from peat and forest fires in Indonesia during 1997: estimate that 0.19–0.23 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon were released to the atmosphere through peat combustion, with a further 0.05 Gt released from burning of the overlying vegetation. Extrapolating these estimates to Indonesia as a whole, we estimate that between 0.81 and 2.57 Gt of carbon were released to the atmosphere in 1997 as a result of burning peat and vegetation in Indonesia. This is equivalent to 13–40% of the mean annual global carbon emissions from fossil fuels, and contributed greatly to the largest annual increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration detected since records began in 1957.” The 2014/2015 El Nino dry period is associated with the 2015 wildfires, Huijnen et al. (2016) conclude that: “With a mean emission rate of 11.3 Tg CO2 per day during Sept-Oct 2015, emissions from these fires exceeded the fossil fuel CO2 release rate of the European Union (EU28) (8.9 Tg CO2 per day). Although seasonal fires are a frequent occurrence in the human modified landscapes found in Indonesia, the extent of the 2015 fires was greatly inflated by an extended drought period associated with a strong El Niño….we derive total emissions of 692 ± 213 Tg CO2 and 3.2 ± 1.2 Tg CH4... Our fire carbon emission estimate for Sept-Oct 2015 represents the largest seen over the Maritime southeast Asia region since 1997, but still it is only a quarter of the most recent estimate for the Sept-Oct period of that El Niño year”

Cattau, Megan E, Miriam E Marlier and Ruth DeFries (2016), 'Effectiveness of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) for reducing fires on oil palm concessions in Indonesia from 2012 to 2015', Environmental Research Letters (19 Oct. 2016), 11 105007,

Huijnen V., M. J. Wooster, J. W. Kaiser, D. L. A. Gaveau, J. Flemming, M. Parrington, A. Inness, D. Murdiyarso, B. Main & M. van Weele (2016), 'Fire carbon emissions over maritime southeast Asia in 2015 largest since 1997', Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 26886 (2016), doi:10.1038/srep26886.

Page , Susan E., Florian Siegert, John O. Rieley, Hans-Dieter V. Boehm, Adi Jaya & Suwido Limin (2002), The amount of carbon released from peat and forest fires in Indonesia during 1997, Nature 420, 61-65 (7 Nov. 2002). doi:10.1038/nature01131.

The Global Peatland CO2 Picture - Peatland status and emissions in all countries of the world (draft)



At RSPO RT14 Bangkok - big news Marrakech Declaration by Africa palm producers. GA resolution results.

News from RSPO


13TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY SUMMARY REPORT Announcements, 30 November 2016




Day 3 (10 Nov): 9 Africa producer nations to pledge no net deforestation. GA policy resolutions results.


RSPO GA key policy resolution tracking with results:

I just had glance at the GA resolutions.They rightly focus on streamlining for cost-efficient smallholder certification:
- On downstream  and NGO commensurate efforts e.g. "no palm oil" by RSPO CGM a bug bear. Indonesia Grower Caucus (IGC)
- Fixed period for key documents. IGC.
- Compensation procedure. To publish cases and action for transparency. Current is voluntary declaration without public disclosure.
- Whistleblowing mechanism.
- NPP for indep smallholders. Solidaridad and SRT Jambi and many plantations.
- Exempt NPP for independent and scheme smallholders. IGC.
- Group certification system suspension. As smallholders face complicated process for GHG and HCV Comp. IGC.

News updates

Day 3 (10 Nov) tracking

Regional Perspective session. Shows major efforts include governments to shift to private-public efforts. Amsterdam Declaration is for RSPO certified or equivalent but palm oil in food use has been dropping. Upcoming 9 Africa producer nations signing of Marrakech Declaration will promote RSPO certification amidst smallholder focus; crucially pledges zero net deforestation. Sees RSPO as insufficient coverage and need to raise the floor.

Have smallholder seen improvements session. Struggling for metrics from Amanah case and focus more on issues and policy by the speakers. There is floor feedback on capacity shortcomings. Oxfam (EB member) says need more than just the "certification tool" and draft snallholder strategy paper received by EB last week is to stay ambitious but keep it simple.

Closing address talks about global inequality and that no one should be left behind. Points to working with local governments e.g.  Sabah where carbon stocks are found to be 40% higher than in the Amazon (per ha?), South Sumatra and Kalimantan projects. Ecuador commitment just came. Marrakesh Declaration for sustainable development is big. Needs to be on an equitable basis. RSPO has a role as a convenor. Simple step of exclusion must be minimised. RSPO to work closely with Singapore to pull this region along.

Day 2 (9 Nov) tracking

What are implications of Brexit-Trump victories for sustainability? Review your political-economic structure and mitigate negative economics for small suppliers.   

RSPO Updates session: 

Monitoring impacts session: 
Buzzword/catch phrase abundant e.g. theory of change. Hmmmm.

Assurance session closes Day 2: 

RSPO is highlighting twitter to follow events, but it seems to have lot of anti-RSPO (e.g. licence to kill) comments too:  

Day 1 (8 Nov) reflections

As I look at news on the US elections rolling out it is interesting to reflect on the so-called elite vs non-elite concerns embedded in this and having more prominence in policy making. These are apparently also high among the concerns of some senior RSPO observers. Recall that IPOP was disbanded by Indonesia on fears of outcomes for smallholders from  "economic cartel" behaviour risks ie. exclusion and added price discounting. RSPO watchers are also concerned about a surprise Brexit-type risk for this certification club (that covers the best or top 20% of production)  well organised by regional/international interests but that has struggled to include smallholders on a large-scale. Could national administrations try to intervene in some way? In KL, there is market talk that high politics also has its eyes peeled.

I have covered palm sustainability since 2009, highlighting the need for economic trickle down. It is heartening to see a rise in RSPO smallholders within the last two years; as the big plantations finished covering their own processing and estates first. Our checks on smallholders is that independent smallholders covered may be former scheme projects, suggesting that an inclusionary approach is hard to come.

A positive will be the jurisdictional RSPO certification move. But commercial players see this as some way off as the lead Sabah programme is said not to have a detailed plan yet. The RSPO consultant presenting on this yesterday said as much. That the Sabah administration is mooting legislative change to make RSPO a legal requirement underlines the limits of voluntary buy in.

Corporates were cheering the HCS Convergence. But I think questions remain on the hard vegetation threshold (what is the equivalent carbon ceiling in each region) and the important issue of suquencing the social aspect. Greenpeace represented the steering committee and mentioned a timeframe of "months if not years" on social and FPIC. We would need to read the details of this appatently work-in-progress policy. On a related issue, RSPO Next's support has to be determined.

At the carbon emissions cluster, it was good to see two years worth of carbon data. From 1 Jan 2017, public disclosure starts. This comes amidst the coming into force of the Paris Climate Agreement. It is voluntary and the reported drop in carbon prices is worrying. Nevertheless, experts are looking out for carbon trading / taxes in the future. Experts say they have yet to consider these in the RSPO context but it likely has to considered. The ultimate question is this: where do premiums go?

I also attended the cluster on Thai palm sustainability. Interesting point discussed afterward is the lack of reported data on land use change to palm. Is it well under 10% forest conversion as Thai observers tell me? Thai palm should say this out loud.

The finance cluster focussed on rising demands by international financiers and laggard regional banks and FMCG. Other clusters were on FFB traceability (legality an issue in Indonesia and Thailand) biodiversity and PKO. The premium and availability issues are top of mind for its buyers. Other issues are the politics of the RSPO complaints system.

The big silent problem is the HCV Complaints Liability. I am told by commercials that this and other costs are pricing out independent smallholders from RSPO. It is also likely impacting potential corporate M&A at a time when sector consilidation is expected. I covered this Compensation at the policy development stage at some detail. I was surprised by the then sanguine views and lack of a legal reading.

At RSPO RT14 in Bangkok, there are likely 800 participants. Key stakeholder representatives are familiar friendly faces.  Very glad to be here in 2016 for palm sustainability that I first started to attend seven years ago.