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[KUALA LUMPUR] The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) gathered some 800 participants from 44 countries at its 13th annual meeting in Malaysia, (17-20 November) to define global action plans in the next five years and new certification standards on the global supply chain of palm oil.

“More needs to be done to track the impact of sustainable palm oil on the ground.”

By Biswaranjan Sen of RSPO

The RSPO is a nonprofit association that facilitates dialogue among oil palm producers, traders, NGOs and other stakeholders to develop and implement global standards to minimise the negative impact of oil palm cultivation on the environment and communities in regions that produce the commodity.

The meeting finalised the RSPO NEXT, a standard which RSPO officials say should be formalised by early next year as a voluntary addendum to the RSPO’s existing principles and criteria.

“Over the past year we have seen enormous progress in the agenda we’ve pursued,” said RSPO co-chairperson Biswaranjan Sen in his welcome address, which noted the development of RSPO certified areas. “The total global certified areas increased by 9 per cent, led by Malaysia and Indonesia. Africa saw a 37 per cent increase, with another 30,000 hectares which were certified in the rest of Asia.”

Sen added it is imperative for the RSPO to become a “more agile organisation” in how it helps and equips players in industry, civil society and government with the right tools and guidance to help further the cause of sustainable palm oil.

“More needs to be done to track the impact of sustainable palm oil on the ground,” he stressed.

The meeting sessions also tackled sustainable palm oil guidelines for China, social and labour issues, leveraging the RSPO trademark, conserving high carbon stock forests and addressing the risk of palm fruits derived from questionable plantation areas making their way into the certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) supply chain.

In a press conference, RSPO secretary-general Darrel Webber said regional targets for the uptake of CSPO have been set at 100 per cent by 2020 for Europe, 50 per cent for Indonesia and Malaysia, 30 per cent for India, and 10 per cent for China.

“These [targets] are very difficult to reach, but we are trying,” he said, noting that building consumer awareness will play an important part in achieving these.

One initiative will be a digital campaign to reach out to consumers in Europe, slated for launch next year. This involves the development of an RSPO trademark app that will enable consumers to identify and geo-tag products with the RSPO trademark eco-label, adding an interactive element to outreach efforts.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s South-East Asia & Pacific desk.