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Towards RSPO Certification: Handbook for Medium-sized Growers

The term “certification” in the palm oil industry has already become mainstream in most palm oil-producing countries. United Plantations Berhad from Malaysia was the first oil palm plantation to become Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)-certified in the world in 2008. 

Subsequently, the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification has been mandatory from January 1, 2020, in line with the government’s announcement on February 24, 2017. Currently, 90.3% of the oil palm plantations in the country have received the MSPO certification, and another 22% of them have also attained the RSPO certification, which is globally recognized.

When it comes to palm oil certification, most of the big companies have a dedicated sustainability department or unit to guide the certification process for them. However, many of the medium-sized growers and smallholders do not have their own sustainability team to advise them on the certification programme. Questions like “how do I start?”, “how much would it cost?”, “what’s the benefit of RSPO certification?” are some of the commonly asked questions with regard to RSPO certification. One needs to do a bit of research and reading to gather this kind of information.

With this background, WWF-Malaysia has taken an initiative to develop this handbook whereby information about RSPO certification is presented in an easy format for practical understanding. Information in this handbook was obtained from various interviews with respondents from the oil palm sector (i.e. certified and non-certified growers, standard-setting organizations, auditors, etc.) to gather information/experience/views about RSPO certification. This handbook also intends to provide guidance to medium-sized growers in making the important business decision to become an RSPO certified plantation.

This handbook will focus on the medium-sized growers (i.e. oil palm growers who have 50 ha or more but are without a mill) because this group is estimated to be about 50% of the oil palm growers in Sabah. Since the government has made the MSPO certification mandatory in 2020, most of these growers should already have achieved the MSPO certification. Thus, MSPO is a good start towards RSPO certification. Some of the RSPO requirements will have been met because some of the MSPO compliance is the same as that needed for RSPO. These extra requirements needed to move from MSPO to RSPO are referred to as additionalities which will be presented in this handbook, together with guidelines on how to comply. 

Handbook insights will include:
- SPOT’s role and mandate
- Journey from MSPO to RSPO
- Guidelines on RSPO Certification
- A comparison of MSPO and RSPO Principles & Criteria (P&C)
- RSPO Additionalities Guidelines

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