Major review fails to find positive impacts from certification schemes, calls for more studies

Effects of certification schemes for agricultural production on socio-economic outcomes in low- and middle-income countries by Oya et al. 2017, https://campbellcollaboration.org/library/agricultural-commodity-production-certification-systems-outcomes.html


We find that the available quantitative evidence does not give a clear picture of the impact – or lack thereof – of certification schemes:
  • Yields: We found no clear effect on yields. While certification is associated with a decrease in yields of 20%, the overall effect is not statistically significant (central estimate -20%, range from -52% to 19%)
  • Price: Prices for certified producers were 14% higher than for non-certified producers (range from 4% to 24%)
  • Income from certified production: Incomes from the sale of produce were 11% higher if the produce was certified (range from 2% to 20%)
  • Wages: We find that wages for workers engaged in certified production were 13% lower than for workers working uncertified employers (central estimate -13%, range from -22% to -3%)
  • Total household income: Effects on the total household income of farmers are unclear. While household incomes of farmers engaged in certified production were 6% higher than those of households not engaged in certified production, the overall effect is not statistically significant (range from -3% to 16%)
  • Assets/wealth: We found no statistically significant effect on wealth. Certified producers on average had slightly higher wealth levels than uncertified producer who had been selected to be similar to them, and the overall effect was a 3% increase in assets, but this effect was not statistically distinguishable from zero (range from -7% to 13%)
  • Illness: We also found no clear effect on producer’s health. Pooling the included studies suggests a 7% lower incidence of illness in certified producers compared to non-certified producers, but the overall effect is not statistically significant (central estimate -7%, range from -16% to 2%)
  • Schooling: Children in households of certified producers receive 6% more schooling than children in households of non-certified producers (range from 0% to 12%)

In most cases, disaggregation by type of CS did not yield conclusive results, although for some CS results were more mixed than for others. Such is the case of Fairtrade for yields and income measures.

The mixed and inconclusive quantitative effects, combined with the wide range of contextual factors to take into consideration, underline that CS operate in complex environments with multiple interventions, goals, actors and contexts, and as such they do not operate in a social, institutional and economic vacuum.

Sabah & Sarawak news (update 10): Plantation company link to Miri murder of activist Bill Kayong. Sabah pledges RSPO, 3D forest mapping by Lidar, 90 meter tree, other use of Lidar

17 July 2016: Plantation company link to Miri murder of activist Bill Kayong

Two charged over murder of Miri PKR's Bill Kayong BY KANDAU SIDI - 15 JULY 2016 MIRI: A 29-year-old car repossesor was among two people charged at the magistrate's court here today over the murder of PKR Miri branch secretary and activist Bill Kayong @ Mohd Hasbie Abdullah, who was gunned down last month. Mohamad Fitri Pauzi was charged with murdering Kayong at a traffic light intersection near the E-Mart Supermarket, Jalan Miri-Kuala Baram, at 8.20am on June 21. Pub owner Lie Chang Loon, 37, and three others who are still at large, were charged with abetting Fitri with the murder. One of persons who are still at large has been named as Lee Chee Kiang. It was learnt that Lee, 45, is attached with a plantation company. Fitri was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder, which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction. Meanwhile, Lie was prosecuted under Section 109 of the same Act. Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/07/158372/two-charged-over-murder-miri-pkrs-bill-kayong

Coupon system to overcome fertilizer distribution for smallholders in Sarawak: Uggah BY BERNAMA - 2 MAY 2016 -- BINTULU: The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) will introduce a coupon system to overcome problems in the distribution of fertilizer to oil palm smallholders. Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said the decision was made following claims by smallholders that they were facing difficulties to receive fertilizer. http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/05/143025/coupon-system-overcome-fertilizer-distribution-smallholders-sarawak-uggah

Kemena smallholders happy with Rundi’s efforts  May 3, 2016 --  Tuai Rumah Jimbai Saban, 65, was grateful that his longhouse’s request to expand the community’s oil palm farm had been approved. “Fifty-two residents of my longhouse will be involved in this programme. MPOB has approved RM936,000 to cultivate 104 hectares. “I am confident that Rundi if elected for a third term will do much more for the people. He is very sensitive to the people’s needs,” he said. For Rundi, close cooperation with the Plantation Industries and Commodities facilitated his efforts to help the farmers in the area. “We thank the ministry for helping the smallholders. This will provide a certain amount of satisfaction for them and I believe such aid would continue,” he said. Rundi also thanked the ministry for approving RM2 million to complete the gravel road connecting the oil palm estate with the main road in Kemena. The allocation was announced by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas while launching the Commodity Smallholders Transformation Programme at the Sebauh community hall here, today.....http://www.theborneopost.com/2016/05/03/kemena-smallholders-happy-with-rundis-efforts/

13 June 2016: Sabah 3D forest mapping by Lidar, 90 meter tree, other use of Lidar finds Cambodia medieval cities hidden beneath the jungle

Lidar system spots ‘tallest tree’ in the tropics 09 Jun 2016 -- At almost 90m, a Yellow Meranti is the tallest jungle tree ever discovered in reforestation research project. An 89.5m (293 foot) tall tree, equivalent in height to a column of 65 people standing on top of each other, has been discovered in Malaysia by conservation scientists using a laser-based system to monitor the impact of human activity on the biodiversity of a pristine rainforest. The tree, a Yellow Meranti (familiar to Minecraft players, who can create entire jungles of the variety) was spotted by a aircraft-borne lidar system an area of forest known as “Sabah’s Lost World” in the Maliau Basin Conservation Area, one of Malaysia’s last few untouched wildernesses. Its height pips the previous record-holder, an 88.3m example, found in the Tawau Hills National Park. The giant tree was discovered during reconnaissance flights by conservation scientists from the UK’s University of Cambridge working with the Sabah Forestry Department to help prot ct the area’s biodiversity. It comes at a crucial time, as the Sabah government takes measures to protect and restore heavily logged areas in the region....http://optics.org/news/7/6/16

3D mapping to decide on land use April 6, 2016 -- 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. CAO, which is the most scientifically advanced aircraft-based mapping and data analytics system globally in the civil sector today, will map forest and non-forest vegetation carbon stocks, 3-D vegetation structure, and canopy tree diversity across the state’s 7.4 million hectare land area. This mapping process will provide government decision makers, scientists and conservationists an understanding on how past environmental management decisions have impacted the land and biodiversity, and how current and future decisions can make their status better. The maps will also set a baseline against which land and biodiversity management can be assessed in the coming years. 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.... http://www.theborneopost.com/2016/04/06/3d-mapping-to-decide-on-land-use/#ixzz4BQVf2gFV

Revealed: Cambodia's vast medieval cities hidden beneath the jungle - Exclusive: Laser technology reveals cities concealed under the earth which would have made up the world’s largest empire in 12th century  11 June 2016 -- What is a lidar survey? An airborne laser scanner (ALS) is mounted to a helicopter skid pad. Flying with pre-determined guidelines, including altitude, flight path and airspeed, the ALS pulses the terrain with more than 16 laser beams per square metre during flights. The time the laser pulse takes to return to the sensor determines the elevation of each individual data point.  The data downloaded from the ALS is calibrated and creates a 3D model of the information captured during the flights. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/11/lost-city-medieval-discovered-hidden-beneath-cambodian-jungle

13 December 2015: Sabah pledges RSPO and to test HCS

Sabah To Test High Carbon Stock For Sustainable Oil Palm December 11, 2015   KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 (Bernama) -- The Sabah Forestry Department has committed to test the High Carbon Stock plus (HCS+) methodology for sustainable oil palm development in six months following the release of the HCS+ study's findings.  "We are very keen to pursue the offer from the Sabah Forestry Department which indicated that this would be very helpful for them.  "This shows that the state is very committed towards sustainable palm oil and a sustainable economy," said Forum for the Future founder Director Jonathan Porritt.http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/state_news/news.php?id=1198759&cat=sbe

Sabah's CSPO Pledge Will Improve Smallholders Yields: MPONGOC   KOTA KINABALU, Dec 1 (Bernama) -- Smallholders who lack knowledge and support for good agricultural practices or skills such as negotiating rates for their harvest stand to gain from the Sabah Government's move to fully produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) within the next 10 years. The Malaysian Palm Oil NGO Coalition (MPONGOC) said the move will also help secure environmental benefits such as safe water supply and soil conservation, as all producers in Sabah will be both obliged and assisted to meet globally-accepted standards such as those advocated by Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).  "The commitment to help Sabah's smallholders achieve RSPO standards will future-proof their access to top-flight international markets," MPONGOC representative, Cynthia Ong, said in a statement Tuesday. http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/state_news/news.php?id=1195489&cat=ess

Sabah’s move to produce sustainable palm oil hailed  November 12, 2015 Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/11/12/sabahs-move-to-produce-sustainable-palm-oil-hailed/#ixzz3u8F7AcRR


22 October 2015: Sarawak asks for more than "palm oil, palm oil, palm oil,"    PT Bank Mandiri - commodity-based provinces should find new sources of economic growth as the commodity boom is over

Sarawak has to industrialise: CM 22 October 2015 by Patricia Hului BPO Newsdesk; ...In an interview with Bloomberg TV Malaysia, ‘Spotlight on Sarawak: Playing Catch-Up’ broadcast on its website Oct 21, the chief minister addressed the need for the state to industrialise, diversify its agricultural sector and increase infrastructural development....On the need for the state to industrialise, the chief minister said that Sarawak was no longer satisfied with only producing raw materials as in the old days. “We want to process these products ourselves so that we can retain the added value.” About 40 per cent of Sarawak’s economy is reliant on commodities, but contribution from manufacturing, construction, services and other industries is on the increase. “I have decided no more timber licensing, no more plantations. For the time being, give ourselves a respite and then perhaps eventually we will depend on our industry.” .... On the state’s palm oil industry, Adenan is looking to diversify the agricultural sector in Sarawak. “Food production is very slow and now we insist on palm oil, palm oil, palm oil. It’s good, but why can’t we grow other crops for production, food crops and so on,” he said, foreseeing increased interest in this area coupled with Sarawak’s availability of land for food production. Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/10/22/sarawak-has-to-industrialise-cm/#ixzz3pHYAZ1CD
Analysis: The effect of commodity price changes on Sumatra and Kalimantan Mamay Sukaesih, Jakarta | Business | Wed, October 21 2015, 5:45 PM; .... Our analysis has revealed that commodity-based provinces should find new sources of economic growth in the future. The main reason is simply that the commodity boom is over, implying that they can’t rely on commodity-based development anymore. One of the alternatives is to promote resources-based industries such as manufacturing and adding the value of goods that have been produced in the regions. PT Bank Mandiri (Persero) Tbk. - See more at: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/10/21/analysis-the-effect-commodity-price-changes-sumatra-and-kalimantan.html#sthash.rdFSxar4.dpuf


20 October 2015: Smallholders to get stake in independent Beluru mill project, one of 5 independent mills planned for Sarawak, Sarawak rejects trade barriers

Sarawak rejects trade barriers  By OOI TEE CHING - 17 October 2015 @ 11:00 AM; Wilmar’s refinery in Bintulu, Sarawak, was the main buyer from 41 palm oil mills across the state, absorbing 1.7 million tonnes of CPO, or half of the state’s production. In sourcing CPO to feed its refinery, the Wilmar-Unilever pledge dictated to planters in Sarawak that starting January, it will stop buying oil from estates where there are allegations of land grabbing from natives. The pledge will also lead to a halt in the sourcing of palm oil from farmers who have planted their trees in areas of “high carbon stock” and peat swamp. In an interview at his longhouse in Silas Estate near Bintulu, village head Meikle Ding spoke about his people’s sentiment.  When asked if the native customary rights (NCR) landowners had seen any tangible benefits from the Wilmar-Unilever pledge, Meikle replied: “It looks protective of us natives, but in reality our genuine business partner is Ta Ann Plantation.” He said Ta Ann, as the 60 per cent shareholder in Silas Estate, had taken considerable risk in coming up with up-front capital to lay in infrastructure to plant oil palms.  From the start of planting, even before the trees have started to bear fruit, it had given incentive payments to landowners....“As rural folks, we are simple people, but we’re certainly not simple-minded. Many of our children are working as doctors, lawyers and high-ranking diplomats serving the government in overseas missions. When asked to comment on anti-palm oil campaigns run by green activists, Meikle explained that natives were landowners as well as shareholders in the business of oil palm planting... Meikle also questioned whether the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreements would address discriminatory and oppressive business dictates from buyers like Wilmar and Unilever. His query has struck a poignant chord on global edible oils trade politics.... Earlier this week, Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to harmonise and combine palm oil certification standards. Indonesia’s Chief Natural Resources Minister Rizal Ramli told the Parliament that it was time for Indonesia and Malaysia to fight and regain sovereignty on their own turf.... http://www.nst.com.my/news/2015/10/sarawak-rejects-trade-barriers
Smallholders welcome independent Beluru mill project September 19, 2015, Saturday; “This would be the first in Sarawak where smallholders can also purchase shares and be stakeholders in a palm oil mill,” Entri said during a project progress briefing to about 1,000 smallholders and representatives yesterday.... The projected cost of the mill would be between RM40 million and RM50 million, which would involve RM5 million worth of shares for smallholders. Entri said smallholders can enjoy multiple benefits when the mill is operational. Registered members of farmers organisations would enjoy dividends through SFO’s involvement apart from direct shares, while smallholders can also tap into technical advice, farm maintenance and production items such as weedicides and fertilisers without worrying about being fleeced by mills or collection centres while selling their fresh fruit bunches (FFB).... A special investment scheme would be set up to assist smallholders interested in purchasing shares, including loans where payment instalments could be made through deductions by the mill from FFB sales. Meanwhile, MPOB Sarawak regional head Sulim Lumong said Beluru will be one of five independent mills planned by Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas for the state... Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/09/19/smallholders-welcome-independent-beluru-mill-project/#ixzz3owZl0aXX

22 August 2015: Rimba Sarawak forestry study

Adenan hits out at ‘stupid’ forest policies BY DESMOND DAVIDSON Published: 20 August 2015 5:50 PM; Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem today described the  decision by the previous administration to bar foreign researchers, ecologists, conservationists and naturalists from conducting studies on the state's forests, particularly its totally protected forests, as “stupid”.
Launching a new study called Research for Intensified Management of Bio-rich Areas of Sarawak (Rimba) and later witnessing the signing of the memorandum of understanding on it, Adenan, who became chief minister last year, said it was “stupid” not to seek foreign expertise “when we don't have the expertise”. Rimba Sarawak will be the first collaborative international study to gather what the Sarawak Forestry describes as “credible scientific information on the status and health of our totally protected forests so that the appropriate management prescriptions can be formulated for these and other bio-rich areas”.
- See more at:

20 July 2015: Wetlands International - About 82% of the Rajang Delta in Sarawak (East Malaysia) will be irreversibly flooded within 100 years and substantial areas are already experiencing drainage problems

Wetlands International Press Statement - Peatlands of South East Asia are heading towards a socio-economic disaster 6 Jul 2015; Agricultural production in vast regions of South East Asia will be lost in the coming decades as a result of flooding of extensive lowland landscapes due to unsustainable development and management of peat soils. About 82% of the Rajang Delta in Sarawak (East Malaysia) will be irreversibly flooded within 100 years and substantial areas are already experiencing drainage problems. This will increasingly impact local communities, the economy and biodiversity and will develop over time into disastrous proportions unless land-use on the region’s peatlands is radically changed. Therefore Wetlands International calls for conservation and sustainable management of peatlands in South East Asia. A study commissioned by Wetlands International and executed by Deltares suggests that extensive drainage of peatlands for oil palm cultivation in the Rajang river delta results in such massive land subsidence that this will lead to extensive and devastating flooding incidents in the coming decades..... http://www.sarawakreport.org/campaign/wetlands-international-press-statement-peatlands-of-south-east-asia-are-heading-towards-a-socio-economic-disaster/

23 June 2015: Ta Ann new NCR JV for 60% stake in 17,000 ha (60% plantable; Sibu and Kapit area) replaces 2012 agreements revoked for lack of land owners' interest; BLD questioned over "no deforestation, no peatland" policy; Palm oil a matter of national security for Malaysia - opinion

Bunge palm oil supplier plans to clear peatlands for plantations by Rhett A. Butler June 22, 2015  BLD Plantation Bhd, a Malaysian palm oil company, plans to clear some 14,000 hectares of peatlands in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, potentially putting it in conflict with the deforestation-free sourcing policy established by American agribusiness giant Bunge, say campaigners who filed a grievance over the matter.  In a statement issued last week, Forest Heroes announced it has formally filed a complaint via Bunge's grievance system in anticipation of BLD Plantation's peatland clearance. The complaint urges Bunge to suspend sourcing from the company, which supplies the multinational with palm oil via the Kirana refinery in Bintulu, Sarawak. It also asks BLD to adopt a zero deforestation policy and restore an area of peatland equivalent to the 6,000 ha it has already cleared.... http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0622-bunge-forest-heroes-bld-sarawak.html#ixzz3dqUWCg1l Ta Ann and Sarawak state government in new oil palm JV projects Monday, 22 June 2015  By: M. HAFIDZ MAHPAR; KUALA LUMPUR: Ta Ann Holdings Bhd is making a second go at doing joint-venture (JV) oil palm development projects with Sarawak state-owned Land Custody and Development Authority (Pelita) after an aborted earlier attempt. Ta Ann had to cancel earlier planned projects with Pelita - a statutory body under the Sarawak Ministry of Rural and Land Development - to develop jointly three parcels of land in Mukah and Kota Samarahan totalling about 39,000ha. These agreements, signed on Sept 28, 2012, were revoked due to the land owners’ lack of interest. However, Ta Ann’s unit Ta Ann Plantation Sdn Bhd (TAP) signed two new agreements on Monday with the authority’s unit Pelita Holdings Sdn Bhd to implement oil palm development projects in partnership with the Sarawak state government and native customary rights (NCR) owners. In a statement to Bursa Malaysia, the company said it would have a 60% stake while Pelita H oldings as trustee of NCR owners would have 30% and Pelita itself 10%. (For the 2012 agreenment, the proposed equity interests had been 55%, 30% and 15% respectively.) This time the JV companies plan to develop the parcels of NCR land situated in Sibu, with aggregate gross area of 17,017ha (of which an estimated 10,210.2ha are plantable area) and NCR land situated in Kapit with aggregate gross area of 11,178ha (of which an estimated 6,706.8ha are plantable). http://www.thestar.com.my/Business/Business-News/2015/06/22/Ta-Ann-and-Sarawak-state-government-in-new-oil-palm-JV-projects/?style=biz

Background news:
  • Sarawak timber firms step up tree planting to ensure constant supply Monday, 8 June 2015  By: JACK WONG;KUCHING: Timber companies in Sarawak, hit by falling log production, are stepping up tree replanting efforts to ensure future supply. WTK Holdings Bhd is expanding its forest plantation area by 12% this year, as it targets to replant 1,000ha more with fast-growing commercial timber trees. “Effort is being made on research and development to increase the seedlings’ yields and reduce planting costs,” chairman Datuk Wong Kie Yik (pic) said. The group has planted 8,000ha and Wong said it was a long-term goal to replace timber from natural forest concessions with trees from the forest plantations for downstream products in line with the state’s sustainable forest management practice..... http://www.thestar.com.my/Business/Business-News/2015/06/08/Sarawak-timber/?style=biz
  • Chong blames ‘Big Six’ for deforestation Posted on May 29, 2015, Friday Chong who is also Bandar Kuching MP claimed concessions given to the ‘Big 6’ are: •Ta Ann Group of Companies:  433,003 Ha /1,069,935 acres •RH Group of Companies : 1,001,877 Ha / 2,475,604 acres; •Shin Yang Group of Companies: 500,904 Ha /1,237,716 acres; •Samling Group of Companies: 1,288,389 Ha / 3,183,565 acres; •KTS Group of Companies: 144,485 Ha / 357,017 acres  •WTK Group of Companies: 357,017 Ha / 882,176 acres.....http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/05/29/chong-blames-big-six-for-deforestation/#ixzz3dqShMjUW

Palm oil a matter of national security  By Dr Ahmad Ibrahim - 22 June 2015 @ 12:00 PM; MANY may not be fully aware that oil palm is a strategic crop for the region. Both Malaysia and Indonesia, which together control almost 90 per cent of the global supply of palm oil, depend to a significant extent on oil palm for their economic wellbeing.... Oil palm has, for years, been a lifeblood of the rural economy in both countries. In fact, it would not be wrong to suggest that any serious disruption to the palm oil market may even spell dire consequences for rural households in both countries. Many families are entirely dependent on the income from oil palm for their livelihoods..... Malaysia now has about 5.4 million hectares of oil palm. Indonesia has almost twice that. Production in Malaysia has been stagnating just under 20 million tonnes a year. It has been estimated that around 250,000 small farmers contribute towards the nation’s production. In fact, smallholders account for about 50 per cent of planted hectarage in the country. But the more important statistic is that close to 2.5 million people in the country make their living from the palm oil industry. The continued wellbeing of the industry is, therefore, important to them. It has been reported that some of the nation’s richest individuals owe much of their fortunes to activities linked to palm oil.... ....... In Malaysia, Sarawak is a good example of one such case. The plan by the state to expand oil palm cultivation was met with serious opposition by NGOs. Unsavoury tactics have been used to trigger negative market sentiments among palm oil buyers. The European Union (EU) market has been especially influenced. The EU has put up non-tariff barriers to palm oil export, using greenhouse gas emission as the criteria. This has been vehemently contested by the palm oil industry.... The industry has started questioning the sincerity of such groups offering sustainability schemes. Many among industry members have expressed concern about the changing criteria of their certification schemes. They keep moving the goal posts. It is as if the agenda is not at all about sustainability. Instead, it is about making it difficult for palm oil. Smallholders are especially worried. And smallholders are naturally the ones most affected if such actions lead to reduced demand for palm oil. The ultimate pain for smallholders is the risk of a decline in demand leading to big drop in palm oil prices. Which is what is happening now. Many small farmers are now suggesting that the negative campaigns by the NGOs may be tantamount to deliberate sabotage. And as a strategic crop for the nation, palm oil must now be viewed as a matter of national security for the country. The writer is a fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.....http://www.nst.com.my/node/89254

7 June 2015: Sabah to pledge 100% CSPO by 2025? Dolphin Int sees strong East Malaysia demand, CIMB- Plantations update- Minimal quake effect

23 June note: On Sabah CSPO plan - one industry expert reckons that this move was initiated by Sabah authorities.

Malaysian state eyes 100% certified palm oil by 2025  mongabay.com  May 30, 2015  Sabah, a state in Malaysian Borneo, is weighing a proposal to produce only palm oil certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an eco-certification initiative, by 2025. The move, if approved, would represent the first time a sub-national or state entity has committed to 100% certified palm oil production.  Sabah currently produces 12 percent of the world's palm oil, making it one of biggest global players. Production comes from a wide range of actors, from smallholders to some of the biggest palm oil companies. That diversity however, makes a state-wide certification approach challenging, since smallholders typically cannot afford the cost of certification.   But some officials think that obstacle may be worth overcoming if it enables Sabah to differentiate its palm oil from other producers, especially given the rise in the number of companies that have adopted social and environmental safeguards for palm oil sourcing.  “Both global demand and downstream industries will increasingly pull the supply chain for Certified Sustainable Palm Oil and Sabah must act to be ahead of the curve,” said Sam Mannan, Director of the Sabah Forestry Department, which owns about 100,000 hectares of palm oil plantations in the state. "With time, large competitors will inevitably outpace Sabah’s total output of palm oil but with certification, Sabah can build itself as a niche producer of a branded good – i.e. certified palm oil, and compete on the basis of governance and not size.”  Read more: http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0529-sabah-jurisdictional-approach-palm-oil.html#ixzz3cQFyLOmz

Upcoming listing Dolphin International sees strong demand from East Malaysia by Ronnie Teo Posted on June 4, 2015, Thursday KUCHING: Dolphin International Bhd, which aims to list on the main market of Bursa Malaysia next Tuesday, anticipates strong demand from Sabah and Sarawak for its palm oil machinery. As a company involved in the design, development, fabrication and sale of products for the palm oil milling machineries sector, Dolphin International is indeed in a unique position to tap into the many demands of the plantations sector. Within Malaysia, Dolphin’s role mainly focuses on machineries and automation in palm oil milling. As such, plantation owners, as well as commercial palm oil millers are key customers for the group, it told The Borneo Post in an interview yesterday. Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/06/04/upcoming-listing-dolphin-international-sees-strong-demand-from-east-malaysia/#ixzz3cQ8XKtJe
CIMB- Plantations update- Minimal quake effect: A strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the state of Sabah, prompting concerns that palm oil output from Sabah, which account for 31% of Malaysia’s palm oil production, could be affected. Our checks with the planters reveal that their palm oil operations have either been unaffected or just minimally impacted by the event as most of their estates are located some distance away from where the earthquake struck. We maintain our Neutral rating.
News links 

26 April 2015: Uggah: Sellers of FFB must include names - FFB thefts in Sarawak was a matter of concern

Uggah: Sellers of FFB must include names; Posted on April 18, 2015, Saturday; KUCHING: Sellers of palm oil fresh fruit bunches (FFB) are now required to put down their names and particulars to be sent to Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) for monitoring and checking purposes.
This is a new strategy introduced with the aim to curb the never-ending thefts of fresh fruits bunch in the state, says Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah.
He said mills and collection centres were only initially required to record the quantity of the FFB sold to them but now they had to get the names of the sellers as well. “Failing to get their names means the collection centres are committing an offence and stern action will be taken against them,” he told a media conference after chairing a second meeting to discuss FFB issues here yesterday. Deputy Home Minister Dato Sri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and representatives from other relevant agencies were also present; Uggah lamented that the FFB thefts in Sarawak was a matter of concern because despite the operation code-named Ops Sawit Kenyalang mounted from July 1 to December last year there was still no end to the problem. Ops Sawit Kenyalang 2015 was launched on April 2.
He said that from January to March this year the authority had received 82 reports of FFB thefts throughout the state involving a total area of 18,192 hectares including Samarahan, Sibu, Mukah, Kapit and Miri. “To prevent the sales of FFB from suspicious sources MPOB has issued a directive which restricts mills from buying more than two tonnes of FFB per hectare,” he said. Uggah said through the operation conducted by MPOB and various other enforcement agencies including the police from July to December last year a total of 278 compounds and 41 show cause letters had been issued to several operators to explain why their licences should not be suspended......
Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/04/18/uggah-sellers-of-ffb-must-include-names/#ixzz3YNfDyJHM

24 April 2015: Salcra to build new palm oil mill in Merindun

Salcra to build new palm oil mill in Merindun Posted on April 24, 2015, Friday; SARAWAK Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra) has obtained approval from Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to construct a new palm oil mill in Merindun in line with its development plan.
According to Assistant Minister of Land Development Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz, the new mill located near the old mill that was partly destroyed by a fire last year, would have a processing capacity of 60 metric tonnes (MT) per hour and upgradeable to 120MT per hour. “Site preparations and other civil works for the new mill commenced in July last year and is expected to be operational by the end of 2016,” he said in response to Johnichal Rayong’s (BN-Engkilili) query on whether Salcra would build a new palm oil mill in Merindun. On a related matter, Abdul Wahab said Salcra would continue to purchase FFBs from smallholders who have signed long-term contracts to sell their FFBs to Lubok Antu Palm Oil Mill..... Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2015/04/24/salcra-to-build-new-palm-oil-mill-in-merindun/#ixzz3YBVmqXWr

18 April 2015: Drag plantations to Environment Court over riparian says CJ of Sabah and Sarawak

Drag plantations to court: CJ April 18, 2015; Kota Kinabalu: The best way to get plantation bosses and others to ensure they respect riparian areas is to sue them for growing oil palm or other crops illegally right to the river bank, thus affecting wildlife movement and river quality. "Encroachment of riparian reserves is subject to challenge in court especially if the evidence is good now that the Environment Court has been set up since January 2015.  "If only anybody such as NGOs take an action in court and say 'look we want this to be declared a wrong action, get a judicial review or declaration in court, it's there," said Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum.
Malanjum said this when asked to clarify on Land Ordinance Sabah (Cap 68) Section 26 (1)(2) which specifies riparian reserves along all rivers , even small rivers must be kept.
He spoke at a joint press conference, Thursday, with State Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, in conjunction with the Workshop on Environment organised by the Judiciary-initated Sabah Working Group on Environment, at UMS.

18 November 2014: RSPO RT12: Sabah considering 100 percent RSPO by 2025?

Moderator Cynthia Ong on the Reaching the Market discussion reports that Sabah stakeholders are discussing 100 percent CSPO by 2025. She says authorities, industry, civil society and small holders are discussing. She is championing this move for Sabah.
Cynthia Ong asked Wilmar if they would support such a Sabah move. Wilmar notes that there are many who are not RSPO members abd that various types certification may be used.
Darrell Webber (RSPO Secretary General) notes there is more talk of jurisdictional approach as it's hard to certify smallholders.
MR Chandran (RSPO Advisor) suggests getting downstream players getting uptake commitment. He notes the Sabah Chief Minister has recently endorsed the RSPO. If Sabah can pull this off it would be an example for the rest of the world.
Companies who have cleared after 2005 may need to comply with the RSPO's Compensation Liability. Darrell Webber notes that 280,000 hectares (globally) need to be compensated for. He says that it would be good if the government is involved as they could help with conservation area planning for the RSPO Compensation if Sabah were to go 100 percent RSPO certified.
MR Chandran picks up on question on cost or cost sharing. He reckons the downstream players need to be involved in this cost share. On cost Cynthia Ong reckons that Sabah government, industry and RSPO could help fund Sabah smallholder certification. She asks if others would help too.

Singapore moves on "haze-free" products - apart from wood, paper makers, SEC plans to work with others such as palm oil industry

14 October 2015: Singapore moves on "haze-free" supply chain for wood and paper trader and makers. Supermarkets pull products.

Editor's note: APP has been in spotlight, but expects to meet pulp demand without clearing more forest, refer to write-up of independent assessment by TFT on associated Greenpeace approach: http://news.mongabay.com/2014/09/app-can-meet-projected-pulp-demand-without-clearing-more-forest/

Another 20 firms sign 'haze-free' declaration - NTUC FairPrice's staff removing Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)-related products from shelves at the supermarket chain's outlet at Nex mall in Serangoon on Oct 7, 2015.  NTUC FairPrice's staff removing Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)-related products from shelves at the supermarket chain's outlet at Nex mall in Serangoon on Oct 7, 2015. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI  Published Oct 13, 2015, 5:00 am SGT Twenty more firms have declared that their products are free of raw materials from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), which is under investigation over its connection to the haze. This brings the number of firms that have signed the Singapore Environment Council's (SEC) declaration form to 38. The latest firms to sign are those that sell wood-related products under the SEC's green label scheme. The online declaration form was sent to 210 firms in the wood-related product trade last weekend, said the SEC and the Consumers Association of Singapore in a joint statement yesterday. It was sent to    companies earlier this month, including major supermarket chain FairPrice and APP's exclusive distributor here, Universal Sovereign Trading. The move led several retail chains to pull APP products off their shelves.....SMF secretary-general Lam Joon Khoi told The Straits Times yesterday that the SEC approached the federation two weeks ago with the idea. The appeals were sent out last week and responses are trickling in. He said: "It's not something that we expect them to change overnight, but at least we have started the journey. "We really need to tighten the screws and increase the pressure to encourage firms to buy from more sustainable companies. "Some have said this will increase their costs. But my point to them is that we already pay a high price for the effects of the haze....Last month, the National Environment Agency served APP a legal notice to supply information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and in Indonesia. Six other Indonesian firms have been sent a notice asking them to take measures to  extinguish fires on their land, not to start new ones, and submit action plans on how they will prevent future fires. The sixth firm, PT Bumi Andalas Permai, was sent the notice yesterday..... http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/another-20-firms-sign-haze-free-declaration

More firms on board for 'haze-free' declaration Oct 8, 2015, 5:00 am SGT - Jessica Lim  Consumer Correspondent - Apart from wood, paper makers, SEC plans to work with others such as palm oil industry....There are other complications, said SEC's head of eco-certification Kavickumar Muruganathan. Retailers here typically obtain the rights to sell a product from distributors, which then arrange with overseas manufacturers to import the stock. "Manufacturers might own plantations, but some strike deals with landowners on the side to use their land. Some also ask other suppliers to sell the fruit to them on an ad hoc basis if demand spikes," he said, adding that errant firms pay farmers to use their land for oil palm. On paper, the land is owned by the farmer and the firm is not implicated. There is also no map of land ownership available, making the task of pinpointing the owners of a plantation difficult. However, Nanyang Technological University's Professor Ang Peng Hwa, who co-founded the Haze Elimination Act on Team volunteer group, urged retailers to stop "putting up a smokescreen". "It is true it can be difficult. But retailers have to ask suppliers to show them certification," said Prof Ang. "Consumers also have a role to play to demand higher standards."....


Haze fallout: NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Siong withdraw all APP paper products - Additionally, Cold Storage says it has suspended further purchase of APP-related products while Watsons Singapore has confirmed that it does not stock such brands as Paseo, Jolly and Nice.   UPDATED: 09 Oct 2015 21:23 http://prrt.co/sa/1?url=http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/haze-fallout-ntuc/2175070.html

Singapore and Malaysia Wheeze as Indonesia Goodwill Hammered by Haze - The strongest El Nino in two decades may prolong the dry weather, meaning the haze could remain for some time yet  by Pooi Koon Chong  October 7, 2015 — 9:53 AM HKT http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-07/singapore-and-malaysia-wheeze-as-indonesia-goodwill-hammered-by-haze

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

US soybean sustainability issues and approach

Summary by Khor Reports, 24 March 2014 from presentation by Josiah McClellan; Director of Food Market Issues and Sustainability, United Soybean Board; March 16-18 2014 at National Institute of Oilseed Products (snapshot of key slides in image below).

Interesting to see US soybean industry facing similar issues as palm oil in certification:
  • increasing importance of ISCC
  • "certification fatigue"
  • competition between and within NGOs
  • the need for equivalence
  • problem of “moving targets”…

What's notable is US soybean’s research-based data-intensive approach which includes: a) measure of environmental impacts of US soybean production 1980-2011; b) measurement of efficiency and other performance measures by grower; c) survey for practice adoption intensity by state; d) use of sustainability-yield models and e) focus on industry-scalable approach, addressing key industry priorities and industry collaborative efforts. 

Khor Report comment:

There is increased need for research-data intensive approach for palm oil to tell its story. So far, NGO-led voluntary sustainability certification does little in terms of positive comparatives (e.g. palm oil vs soybean vs rapeseed); much to palm oil's frustration since it does well on many key comparative measures. Indeed, some supply-chain companies wonder if international campaigning has been so successful as to drive some markets toward "no palm oil" (some NGO ratings of "sustainable palm oil" products give the highest ratings for those containing NO palm oil). 

The increasingly popular ISCC (principally for biofuel but with a new food module) method is more comparative given that it's a multi-feedstock certification. Most NGO-led certification look only for internal changes and improvements i.e. no more use of peat and no more deforestation but independent data and impact studies have been notably lagging ten years into the palm oil sustainability movement. NGO-led certification has been critiqued for being relatively blind to national development goals and socio-political fissures in Southeast Asia. In this regard, the current phase of escalating sustainability compliance (silence on premiums implies cost to producers rather than shared benefit of premiums) will undoubtedly include national policy makers as they mediate and negotiate the detailed implementation of what is proposed by NGOs and dominant companies, especially for smallholders (Indonesia regulatory changes are significant in this sphere). At the same time, we hear of corporate interest in expanding resources for more rigorous studies to support palm oil marketing on various features. As such, the approach of competitor oils is pertinent and the US soybean story is worth looking at. The bottom-line? Data. Data. Data.

The difference in palm oil and soybean certification is also notable. Please read our blog posts on comparative differences between the WWF-Roundtables, RSPO and RTRS: