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Global stakeholders from the palm oil industry gathered for the RSPO Annual Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT2022), the first physical meeting to take place since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Centred around the theme, “Scaling up the Sustainable Palm Oil Value Chain Through Collective Action”, RT2022 attracted nearly a thousand participants to discuss solutions to critical labour issues, increasing smallholder inclusion, the value of certification and further advancements to mitigate climate change impacts.
Joseph D’Cruz, RSPO CEO
During his inaugural Roundtable speech, new CEO, Joseph D’Cruz, launched the 2022 Impact Report, highlighting RSPO members’ impressive progress across a broad range of sustainability indicators. “Sustainability is a journey, and together with my team and all of our members, RSPO will continue to blaze the trail for the palm sector,” said D’Cruz. “We will demonstrate how palm oil production and use can be an important contributor to net zero commitments; to highlight the role sustainable palm production plays in providing decent, dignified lives and prosperity for millions of rural families across the developing world; and to show how well-managed, regenerative oil palm plantations can be a crucial contributor to species conservation and biodiversity,” added D’Cruz.
The Impact Report revealed several key achievements over the last nearly two decades since RSPO’s foundation, including the increase of global certified area from 125,000 hectares in three countries in 2008 to 4.5 million hectares spread across 21 countries, of which 301,020 hectares have been conserved and protected through RSPO certification. An estimated half a million workers in estates and mills around the world are now represented under the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) through certification. Greenhouse gas emissions that have been prevented since 2015 are equivalent to nearly 400,000 cars driven annually. Additionally, a smallholder group of around 5000 farmers in Sierra Leone became the first Independent Smallholder Group to achieve certification in Africa, one of the emerging frontiers of palm oil production. Affirming the role of RSPO, D’Cruz assured, “Sustainable palm oil is undoubtedly the best way to meet the world’s vegetable oil needs today and in the future.”
Emphasizing India’s position in the sector, Sougata Niyogi, CEO, Oil Palm Business, Godrej Agrovet Ltd., said, “India has a unique role to play in mainstreaming sustainability in the oil palm sector, as it is an integral part of the current policies and practices adopted by the government and industry across the supply chain, in alignment with Indias global net zero commitment.”
Anne Rosenbarger and DatoCarl Bek-Nielsen, Co-Chairs of the RSPO Board of Governors, together called for a unified response to maximise the sector’s potential to sustainably transform the palm oil value chain, echoing D’Cruz, “At a time when the global community is demanding real and viable solutions to save our increasingly warming planet, RSPO has shown that it plays an active role in harnessing the positive impacts of sustainable palm oil production, leading to sustainable development. Our efforts and transformation drive must continue, as change is a necessity for all of us. While sustainability is a shared responsibility, it requires individual change – if we are to cross the finish line together and make an impact, we are duty bound to take on a greater level of ownership and accept that there is always room for improvement.”
Members also reflected that RSPO must summon greater interest from priority consumer markets such as China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia to choose sustainable palm oil and join the collective initiative for RSPO to have a transformative impact on the global supply and demand for sustainable palm oil.
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The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders. RSPO is a not-for-profit, international, membership organisation that unites stakeholders from the different sectors of the palm oil industry including oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs, and social or developmental NGOs.
This multi-stakeholder representation is mirrored in the governance structure of RSPO such that seats in the Board of Governors, Steering Committees and Working Groups are fairly allocated to each sector. In this way, RSPO lives out the philosophy of the “roundtable” by giving equal rights to each stakeholder group, facilitating traditionally adversarial stakeholders in working together to reach decisions by consensus, and achieving RSPO’s shared vision of making sustainable palm oil the norm.
The seat of the association is in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur with satellite offices in Jakarta, London, Zoetermeer, Beijing, Bogot and New York.