RSPO Roundtable (RT12) 2014 (update 6): WWF welcomes RSPO move to expel and suspend members over annual reporting

RSPO hosted its 12th Roundtable annual meeting, marking 10 years since its creation as a Swiss entity. The RSPO sponsors in The Guardian of the UK -  "The palm oil debate is funded by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labeled advertisement feature..."  (see links below). On the agenda were numerous topics. - listed here: http://rt12.rspo.org/c/rt12-programme/.

10 December 2014:

Thanks to a reader for pointing this out. RSPO has faced some issues in getting all its members to report on their annual data and progress. Some also ask about incomplete reporting.

Palm oil sustainability body to expel non-compliant companies, Posted on 21 November 2014  |    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:  "WWF has welcomed a move by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to expel member companies that have failed to keep even their most basic promises to the sustainability body.... At the organizations’ 12th annual meeting, the Chair of the RSPO Board announced that member companies who have ignored annual reporting requirements for the last three years will be expelled within six weeks and those failing to report over two years will be suspended.  Member companies are required to report annually on progress towards time bound plans to reach sustainability milestones.... This is a sign that the RSPO has finally lost its patience with those members who have been bringing the organization into disrepute by failing to make commitments, never mind keep them,” said Adam Harrison, WWF’s lead on its work on palm oil.... http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?233592/Palm-oil-sustainability-body-to-expel-non-compliant-companies

26 November 2014: what was missing from RSPO RT12 - post-event notes

Thank you to readers for pointing these out....

The Big Question: Will RSPO Officially Condemn 'No Palm Oil' Labels at RT12? 18 November, 2014;  http://palmoilfactchecker.org/2014/11/the-big-question-will-rspo-officially-condemn-no-palm-oil-labels-at-rt12/

Stop ‘no palm oil’ labelling; Updated: Sunday November 23, 2014 MYT 8:15:44 PM
 have not seen enough support for Malaysian small farmers from the Sustainable Alliances, especially in regard to the “No Palm Oil” labels. Whilst denigrating palm oil with these labels, the companies that use them such as Galler and Delhaize are risking the trade relationship between Belgium and Malaysia. They could also harm the image of Belgium in Malaysia. In my opinion, Belgians must respect Malaysian products if they want to preserve a good trading relationship at a time when we all need it. It is now a question of how Malaysia will choose to defend their small farmers against these attacks...."

NGO reactions to RSPO RT12:
20 November 2014: The General Assembly is always the exciting part after the RSPO Roundtable and this proved to be so to the end. The resolution to promote traceability within certification was a fascinating shift with possible deep impact on preferences and balances. Keep an eye on this!

Note: traceable GreenPalm, a winner?

UNEP-RSPO collaboration in the news:

Great apes facing 'direct threat' from palm oil farming; Updated: Thursday November 20, 2014 MYT 6:21:27 PM; "KUALA LUMPUR: The destruction of rainforests in Southeast Asia and increasingly in Africa to make way for palm oil cultivation is a "direct threat" to the survival of great apes such as the orangutan, environmentalists warned Thursday.... They said tropical forests were continuing to tumble at a rapid rate, with palm plantations a key driver, despite a decade-old drive by the industry's Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to encourage sustainable cultivation.... The concerns were voiced on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the RSPO, held this year in Malaysia and which concluded Thursday.... "Orangutan and ape habitats are being destroyed," said Doug Cress, Kenya-based programme coordinator with the UN Environment Programme's great ape protection campaign.
........The problem is most acute in leading palm oil producers Malaysia and Indonesia, which account for 85 percent of world production, conference participants said. But it is now also a looming threat in even more poorly regulated Africa, where the industry is set to "explode", according to Cress.... Harrison cited as an example Tesso-Nilo National Park in Indonesia, which was set aside as a preserve for tiger and elephant habitats. "Half of the national park was cleared for palm oil by small-holders. The small-holders then sold the fruits to RSPO members. This is unacceptable," he said.
Harrison said if deforestation continued at current rates, tiger and elephant populations in Southeast Asia could be wiped out within in a decade. -AFP..." http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Regional/2014/11/20/Great-apes-facing-direct-threat-from-palm-oil-farming/

19 November 2014: the smallholder inclusivity problem, more on UNEP deal, Unilever pledge, Cargill status
Good chat with rep from Better Cotton Initiative (cousin of RSPO in the WWF Roundtables stable). This Roundtable was explicitly designed to be highly inclusive of smallholders; the converse of RSPO as many specialists note its big corporation focus (about half percent of RSPO certified output is from smallholders). In four years BCI has a 4 percent global production market share and target 33 percent by 2020. It is not designed to generate a premium but large buyers pay a volume based fee to support ancillary services to support cotton farmers yield improvement and cost efficiency. The agriculture outreach was initially funded by donors. BCI looks to adapt its standard for corporate cotton farms.
RSPO reports $4 million funds to develop smallholder certification. Many NGOs are looking to assist on this. Smallholders represent at mid-2014 some 0.6 percent (with just over 14,100 hectares) of the total RSPO certified area. RSPO is in its tenth year of operation. Keep an eye on this!

News links:

Sustainable palm oil enters the UN environmental agenda by Vincent Lingga, The Jakarta Post, Kuala Lumpur | Business | Wed, November 19 2014, 12:16 PM; "The development program for socially, environmentally and economically sustainable palm oil is poised to accelerate following the signing of a cooperation agreement between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)... UNEP senior executive Douglas Cress noted on Wednesday that cooperation should be a model for the sustainable development of other farm commodities, as the RSPO engaged all representatives from the whole spectrum of the palm oil supply-chain.... He added that the UNEP-RSPO engagement aimed to raise global awareness about sustainable palm oil and generate market demand for an important commodity that has the potential to play a key role in preserving the earth’s biodiversity...."

Unilever to Use Only Sustainable Palm Oil in European Foods by End of Year
Company Pledges to Use Only Traceable, Sustainable Palm Oil World-Wide by 2020

Cargill Publishes First Palm Oil Progress; Cargill today released its first progress report on sustainable palm oil. The report lays out the company’s action plan to achieve a fully sustainable supply chain. "Sustainability has long been part of our palm ... http://wc4.net/t?r=1453&c=3870773&l=36989&ctl=4C3B20C:FCB2C9F06EB032236D766D156048A097F0CE68744B36A4D6&

18 November 2014: Food labeling context, UNEP deal and RSPO RT12 in the news
RT12 to look at preparing for sustainability and what comes next by Bernama. Posted on November 10, 2014, Monday; KUALA LUMPUR: "The 12th Roundtable Meeting on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT12), organised by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), will look at trends pointing towards the evolutionary path of sustainability and how to prepare for it... The annual meeting, set to take centre stage here on November 17 to 20, was previously held in Medan, Indonesia.... RSPO Secretary General, Darrel Webber, said the RT12, themed ‘Sustainability: What’s Next?’, would discuss current challenges faced by members and stakeholders such as multiplicity of standards and constant change in demand from the market.... “This year’s meeting will consist of four types of formats – small intense group sessions, plenary sessions, panel discussions as well as a more interactive session called World Cafe, where we go around the table and ask questions... The highlight of this year’s event is a keynote address and panel discussion led by award-winning scientist, environmentalist and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, Dr David Suzuki...RSPO now have over 1,791 members from from 72 countries including Germany, UK, the Netherlands, Malaysia and Indonesia. — Bernama..."  http://www.theborneopost.com/2014/11/10/rt12-to-look-at-preparing-for-sustainability-and-what-comes-next/#ixzz3JQHGzvM2
UN to promote RSPO-certified palm oil as conservation solution mongabay.com November 14, 2014; "The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has signed an agreement with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to promote eco-certified palm oil as part of the broader effort to conserve biodiversity.... The move, announced Thursday, commits UNEP and RSPO to work together to uphold standards for certified palm oil and encourage uptake in global markets. UNEP says RSPO-certified palm oil could contribute toward UN development goals...." http://news.mongabay.com/2014/1114-unep-touts-greener-palm-oil.html#sthash.UZ2BfqWc.dpuf
Borneo's industry-environment balancing act - Deforestation in Indonesia has led some to demand tighter standards for the multi-billion-dollar industry. Kate Mayberry  Last updated: 17 Nov 2014 06:30; "Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - The island of Borneo is on the front line of an ongoing struggle to find a balance between the environment and commerce.... At one time, Sanchez was hopeful that the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) would succeed in its goal to make plantation companies more responsible and slow the pace of deforestation. But orang-utans continue to be driven from their treetop homes.... Still, some industry insiders argue RSPO is dominated by Western NGOs and big buyers, and its stricter benchmarks are too demanding and expensive for smaller producers to implement... The RSPO's not just about a standard," Webber said. "We are about transparency. We add credibility. We are an avenue to seek recourse. We have global maps of our certified members that you can see online www.rspo.org now, check where they are, whether they've deforested in the past.... "We do terminate and we do suspend," he said. "But we try our best to mediate. Conflicts do not stop if we terminate a member. Conflicts will stop if a member operates within our framework and starts engaging with affected parties..... No other commodity, I think, has done the same. It's only palm oil that's done it and it's palm oil through the RSPO that's done it," he added...." http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/11/borneo-industry-environment-balancing-act-201411167578572422.html
Campaign for sustainable palm oil becomes more vigorous by Vincent Lingga, The Jakarta Post, Kuala Lumpur | Business | Tue, November 18 2014, 10:50 AM; "Some 800 delegates from 30 countries began a three-day meeting here on Tuesday to discuss the latest developments in the campaign for socially, economically and environmentally sustainable palm oil... The discussions within the 12th annual conference of The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) are taking place against the backdrop of some positive developments as industries in the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Belgium have all pledged to buy 100 percent RSPO-certified palm oil by 2015.... This pledge will coincide with Europe leading up to the entry into force of the new food labelling regulation at the end of this year, when palm and other vegetable oils will appear on product packs, RSPO Secretary General Darrel Webber noted.... The principles of sustainable management promoted and assessed under the schemes of RSPO, ISPO (Indonesia) and MSPO (Malaysia) for their respective certification are by and large similar: covering such elements as transparency, legal and regulatory compliance, best production practices, environmental responsibility and commitments to local community development, human rights, land rights etc....  Webber said efforts are now underway to develop synergy between the certification programs because their primary goal is the same: to develop palm oil as a major source of vegetable oil in socially, economically and environmentally sustainabe practices..." http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/11/18/campaign-sustainable-palm-oil-becomes-more-vigorous.html
12 November 2014: RSPO sponsored palm oil debate in The Guardian:
From rainforest to your cupboard: the real story of palm oil - interactive by Laura Paddison, Jenny Purt, Josephine Moulds, Oliver Balch and Yosef Riadi and Ulet Ifansasti in Riau province, Indonesia
Monday 10 November 2014 13.00 GMT; "You wash with it, you brush with it, you toast it, it’s in 50% of what you buy – but what’s the real story of palm oil? Use the interactive below to trace the journey of palm oil from the rainforest through to your kitchen cupboard... Does the story of palm oil affect your buying habits?... Put your palm oil questions to a panel of experts in our online live chat.. Produced for the Guardian by Nice & Serious..." http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/ng-interactive/2014/nov/10/palm-oil-rainforest-cupboard-interactive
Palm oil: the secret in your shopping basket - have your say; "Implicated in deforestation, the destruction of natural habitats and climate change, the ubiquitous oil is in 50% of what many buy - from shampoo and lipstick to bread and margarine - but do consumers care?... But where does this deeply controversial yet hidden ingredient come from? Our interactive tracks the journey of palm oil from the rainforests of Indonesia, Malaysia, and increasingly Latin America and Africa, to your kitchen cupboard.... It explores the complicated story of a commodity which has undeniably negative effects. Millions of hectares of virgin rainforest have been cleared in some of the world’s most biodiverse countries to make way for palm oil plantations. In the process people have been displaced, livelihoods undermined, endangered animals such as orangutans have lost their natural habitat and sometimes their lives, and the draining of peatland has released millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere exacerbating climate change...." http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/nov/10/palm-oil-secret-in-your-shopping-basket-have-your-say

RSPO RT12: Eye on resolutions (update 3a) - at the General Assembly,declaration of mills and ACOP reporting; 5.15pm

Note: Declaration of mills is a biggie! This sets stage for differentiation within certification and alters balances. 

20 November 2014 - at the General Assembly, declaration of mills and ACOP reporting; 5.15pm

Resolution: Declaration of mills.  Proposed by Unilever. To promote transparency, buyer has right to know which palm oil mills (and plantations) and PK crushers RSPO certified product comes from. This would help market transformation. Mass balance would be struggle, Unilever has identified 1800 mills in its supply chain and added information is needed.

Arguments against: This seems to make sense for non-certified product. But within certified sphere, this would create tiers of mills. IP and SG could be used instead (but even in SG trader might not provide information on mills; need this information to build roadmaps to increase origins to targeted). If you know mills beforehand, you can choose from whom to buy and this is not fair to RSPO members (in off-market deals you can ask for declarations of plantations; without transparency, hard to know whom to work with). Agropalma can be IP entirely. By tracing everything how does this affect MB? What is intention going forward with this added information - rather than buying from scattered pool of certified segregated, then will support identified mills and companies in supply base?

Supporting argument: With PalmGHG, let buyer decide which mill to buy from, lower versus higher emissions. Those with lower emissions has better market potential and price than those with higher emissions. An incentive for growers improve. Univanich supports this that mills that have gone beyond RSPO requirements can be recognized when selling Greenpalm certificates.

Outcome: 96 for 84 against. This was a tighter vote. Resolution passed.

Resolution: Change ACOP reporting period to calendar year and improve the ACOP. Proposed by German retailers.  Alignment to calendar year for consistency and reduce work load for most. Improved ACOP can do with more guidance to improve its quality - better explanation and terminology clarification. It is useful to have macro information to understand market progress and tipping point indicators.

Arguments against: Current period is 2-3 months lag on reporting and for Roundtable would end up with older data than what is current and might miss fast developments. Separately, what to do with the non-ACOP reporting members? Tighten to end of April, to accommodate March deadline for certificates.

Outcome: 131 for. Resolution accepted.

20 November 2014 - at the General Assembly, allow wider usage of RSPO trademark by non-SCCS members; 4.25pm

Resolution: Allow members not required to obtain supply chain certification to use trademark on pack. Proposed by a group of retailers. Covers cases where retailer own brand products made by OEM do not get limited by manufacturer permitting their information on pack and/or retailer not to disclose supplier. Asks RSPO to look into easing this usage limitation.

Arguments against: Taskforce is already discussing this, so we do not need this resolution at this time (proposer replies wants to prioritise this, a non-controversial issue, and get wider feedback from members on this). Risk that this might limit the work of the Taskforce (especially if rejected) - it should be left free to look at all possibilities.

Outcome: Request Taskforce look into this, and withdraw resolution.

20 November 2014 - at the General Assembly, seeking non-membership (avoids reporting) for small users; 4.10pm
Resolution: Supermarket retailers are making a case for small users of palm oil not to require RSPO membership while still allowing them to be supply-chain certified. The retailers report that 80% of volume with top 20 suppliers - own brand products by retailers; the rest average 5 tonnes palm oil per annum. They note it takes weeks or months to join RSPO and have to report ACOP and  other problems. September 2014, 606 Supply Chain Associates use less than 500 metric tonnes. If they do not renew it is 3% of RSPO membership income budget. Reduce burden on those with complex supply chains and low volume usage - they find reporting complicated and using many other ingredients.
  • Example 1: A supplier makes 6 x M&S cheesecakes - palm oil use = 13 tonnes/year. Palm oil footprint = 4.77 tonnes/year. Ingredients: cake margarine 0.99 tonnes/year, Arobake 1.82 tonnes/year, Digestive biscuit buttons 1.89 tonnes/year, paprika extract 0.01 t/year, Aeroplus duo 0.06 tonnes/year
  • Example 2: Supplier makes 11 different Ahold products (palm oil use = 89 tonnes / year). Product palm oil footprint 0.8 tonnes/year. Palm oil content 5%, 10.5 grams of palm oil per box. Many ingredients including fractionated PKO in vanilla yoghurt coating, and PKO in peanut coating.
Arguments against: This would lose information from these producers who use less than 500 tonnes. At the other end, grower smallholders have to be members and also go through tedious works and efforts in the P&C. Not fair to run away from the system. Compromises spirit of equality and fairness. 5 tonnes for cheesecake is equivalent to 2 hectares is same as smallholder farmer; his commitment should be matched as small user. Worrying signal on lower transparency. Concern that the high 500 tonnes bar encompasses so many RSPO members.
Outcome: Resolution withdrawn and request Board to look into it. 
19 November 2014 - mill risk zoning, info disclosure, ACOP, non-members, suspension
Start of Day 2. First chat with a downstream specialist. Concern on resolution to include mill and more info in RSPO systems. This would shift from a binary certified vs non-certified status of mills to open up to more nuance of mill and supply base attributes and logically to perceived risk status (traffic light labelling of mills).
Others are also concerned on resolution with info disclosure on both eTrace and Greenpalm to mill and beyond. But at the other end of the supply chain with a resolution for non -members to become chain of custody certified; does this mean they would be part of ACOP (which has a resolution to be strengthened) or not (if not asymmetry of information might grow with a lot more required from the upstream).
Also a resolution to empower the Sec Gen to have power to suspend members on recommendation of the Board. Suspensions on the mind?

RSPO RT12: On social and labour issues

We did not attend at these sessions yesterday but thanks to a reader for highlighting key issues:
a) A new Labour Working Group is being set up. This is expected to work on ultimately getting company-level worker collective bargaining in place.
b) In social assessments a new approach will come about. We think this will come to inform Compensation Liability on social issues. Currently only monetary and non monetary values and methods are set for environmental concerns.
We'll update as we hear and learn more. Likely these will be hot implementation topics to come as they get fleshed out. As ever, the devil is in the administration details.

RSPO RT12: On Compensation Liability and riparian reserves (update 1)

On Compensation Liability: RSPO reported that 35 companies submitted with 7 providing on LUC analysis. Observers ask if the previously cited $2500/hectare figure has now shifted to the higher end of $3000/hectare. Darrel Webber cites 280,000 hectares (globally) needs to be compensated.....

On riparian reserve remediation: These need to be 5 meters wide along small waterways. You need to measure at maximum width of the channel (ie. just before it floods, not the regular water's width). In some areas a wider reserve is appropriate if the waterway is upstream of communities (i.e. HCV 5) then the reserve width should 15-30 meters.

In areas of regular and extended flooding, the new RPSP P&C 2013 says there should be a review of suitable areas for planting. Thus, such areas should be left as natural vegetation.

Artificial waterways need not have a reserve. But since good water and soil management needed, for small channels which can transport pollution to natural waterways, there has to be reduced spraying of agro-chemicals within 10-15 meters of the edge of drainage channels linked to such natural water ways. Site planning should also reduce disconnected riparian zones which expand the risk of water pollution.

Restoration of degraded habitats.....