WWF Statement on the Adoption of a New Revised Principles and Criteria (P&C) for Sustainable Palm Oil Production by the RSPO | WWF Malaysia

WWF Statement on the Adoption of a New Revised Principles and Criteria (P&C) for Sustainable Palm Oil Production by the RSPO

Posted on 16 November 2018
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Kuala Lumpur: WWF welcomes the newly adopted RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C), that are the result of an extensive public multi-stakeholder consultation process and a consensus-led Task Force comprising representatives from all RSPO membership groups.

Commenting on the news that RSPO members have voted in their General Assembly to adopt a new version of the RSPO P&C, Elizabeth Clarke, WWF Palm Oil Lead said, “Today the responsible palm oil sector took a significant step forward. The new 2018 RSPO standard was approved with a resounding ‘yes’ vote by actors across industry, from growers to retailers to banks. It now has stronger safeguards on issues including deforestation, expansion on peat and exploitation of labour. The RSPO and all its members must now deliver on their commitments to bring sustainable palm oil to consumer markets”.  

WWF sees the new P&C as leap forward in addressing the weaknesses in the previous version of the P&C and believes it now represents an essential tool that can help companies achieve their commitments to palm oil that is free of deforestation, expansion on peat, exploitation and the use of fire. Meanwhile, WWF cautions that certification on its own cannot solve all the environmental and social problems caused by irresponsible palm oil production. 

We acknowledge that the newly adopted P&C has much closer alignment with the requirements of the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) than in the previous P&C, and welcomes the incorporation of the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) toolkit and the formation of a joint working group between RSPO and HCSA. Nevertheless, there are some issues in the Standard that deserve more detailed treatment and/or strengthening and care in implementation. In particular, WWF: 

• Identifies a need to review the RSPO Remediation and Compensation Procedure (RaCP) and close any potential loophole(s) for past clearance. 

• Identifies additional safeguards for the No Deforestation Joint Working Group to consider for High Forest Cover Landscapes and Countries. 

• Urgently calls for the finalisation of guidelines to the highest standard and socialise these with growers, particularly for drainability assessments and the HCSA toolkit. 

• Welcomes the strengthening of traceability requirements intended to ensure the legality of all Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFBs), but is disappointed with the leniency of the transition period, which falls short of POIG expectations. 

• Welcomes clearer wording to ban the use of hazardous pesticides, but is disappointed that this falls short of POIG expectations for an outright ban, and calls for clear, transparent and rigorous implementation procedures to avoid misuse of the term “exceptional circumstances”. 

Implementation is essential to deliver against the P&C, and the RSPO must focus on ensuring robust implementation, assurance and evidenced impact. The guidance and systems governing the implementation of the P&C must be robustly and transparently adapted and enforced by the RSPO, and support provided to RSPO members, Certification Bodies, Auditors and Assessors to deliver against the expectations set out within the new Standard. National Interpretations must be quickly yet comprehensively and inclusively undertaken to the highest standard. The inclusion of quantitative metrics is a welcome addition to the P&C and WWF calls on RSPO and its members to use these and other methods to better measure impact. 

As such, WWF calls on RSPO members to implement the revised P&C, including doubling efforts to meet ambitious time bound plans for 100% RSPO compliance in production and procurement, and embracing “shared responsibility”. 

WWF-Malaysia sees the new P&C as a big step forward in addressing the weaknesses in the previous version of the P&C and believes it now represents an essential tool that can help companies achieve their commitments to palm oil that is free of deforestation, expansion on peat, use of fire and exploitation. We look forward to moving beyond discussion about the Standard’s wording, to a renewed focus on robust implementation and credible assurance. 

Certification is one tool – if used in isolation it will not deliver a responsible, sustainable palm oil industry. All industry supply chain stakeholders, including the finance sector and governments, must embrace additional actions beyond certification, including improved and enforced land use planning and legal compliance, landscape approaches, and approaches that are inclusive of smallholders and small and medium sized companies. WWF believes that certification, complemented by other approaches and strong governance, will play an important role in ending irresponsible palm oil production. We also believe that concerted action to make the palm oil industry sustainable and responsible is the approach that should be taken by all. 

The adoption of the newly adopted RSPO P&C is crucial for WWF-Malaysia as it solidifies the context of no-deforestation and peat, which have been core concerns for the production of RSPO certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) in Malaysia. Strengthening the standards on no-deforestation by adopting the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) brings to light a more structured and stricter progression of measure for environmental quality that was lacking in the previous RSPO P&C. The adoption of no new planting on peat displays the commitment of the RSPO standards to protect fragile ecosystems that, if unchecked, will cause enhanced environmental degradation and carbon emissions. The newly adopted P&C also showcases how sustainable development can work hand in hand with environmental and social safeguards to ensure the palm oil is produced in a more sustainable manner that meet the needs of both producing regions and consumer demand.  

WWF-Malaysia is also very agreeable to the concept of shared responsibility in the newly adopted P&C. Shared responsibility will make the RSPO standards more inclusive, as members will be allowed to participate in the realising the true spirit of making the P&C a holistic one for all RSPO members. WWF-Malaysia looks forward to the challenges and opportunities brought fourth by the new P&C, and will continue our efforts to promote and enhance the acceptance of the RSPO certification by all stakeholders and players, to make CSPO the norm.

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For more information, please contact:
Dora Hashim 
Communications Manager, Sustainable Markets Programme, WWF-Malaysia 
Tel: +603-7450 3773
Email: shashim@wwf.org.my