News / 23 November 2018

RSPO takes further steps towards a less harmful palm oil sector

The production of palm oil is often accompanied by deforestation, environmental destruction and land grabbing. Local communities and activists who stand up against these problems are often threatened. Now the RSPO has taken significant steps in recent months to tackle these issues.

The RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) is the platform where palm oil producers, traders, processors, vendors and social organizations make agreements about making the palm oil sector less harmful. Both ENDS is represented in the board and can thus be the voice of its partner organizations within the RSPO. In recent times we have achieved important successes.

Stricter rules on deforestation

The RSPO's general assembly of 15 November revised its standards, the "Principles and Criteria". The new standard has tightened the requirements for the palm oil sector: zero-deforestation, zero-peat and zero-exploitation. The latter concerns in particular working conditions and land rights.

As far as zero-deforestation is concerned, until now only so-called High Conservation Value forest was protected against felling for palm oil plantations. Stricter requirements apply with the new rules, according to which no forest at all can be cut for palm oil. This is of great importance for communities that depend on forest and on climate and biodiversity.

The new rules, the so-called High Carbon Stock (HCS) and High Conservation Value (HCV) approach, include not only stricter environmental requirements, but also stricter social guidelines, with more attention to land rights and FPIC (free, prior and informed consent).

Policy to protect human rights defenders

Earlier this year, the board of the RSPO already established rules for the protection of human rights defenders, whistleblowers and community leaders. All member organizations of the RSPO (including Both ENDS) must have policies to protect these people. Both ENDS and partner organizations Forest Peoples Program and Oxfam Novib had submitted a resolution to this effect at the general assembly of RSPO in 2016.

In addition, the RSPO has set up a list of all regions where human rights defenders are at risk of threats and violence. This was a request of indigenous leaders, whose communities are affected by advancing palm oil plantations. Both ENDS and Forest Peoples Program have facilitated a visit of an indigenous leaders' delegation to the European RSPO conference in Paris in June of this year. The risk inventory is of great importance, because especially in the Latin American and African countries where the expansion of palm oil is relatively new, human rights are under heavy pressure.

One of RSPO's biggest challenges now lies in the strict compliance with the standards - by the members, in particular the plantation companies, the certification bodies and RSPO itself.

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