The latest Principles and Criteria (P&C) of the world’s largest recognized palm oil sustainability standard, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is coming out with stronger support for the rights of plantation labor, communities and smallholders.
The RSPO P&C 2018 endorsed in November last year, saw notable adjustments in three impact areas — people, planet and prosperity — said Imam El Marzuq, RSPO Community Outreach and Engagement Manager.
In the people impact area, in particular, he said the adjustment was accommodated in three principles — the respect for human rights and the rights of communities, the engagement of smallholders in palm oil and the respect of the rights and working conditions of workers.
“The most significant changes are related to the rights of workers,” said Imam who has been working with RSPO for the past seven years.
He said that among the changes, was the provision of instruments for the on-site implementation of the standards, including, for example, the strengthening of the complaint mechanism regarding human rights issues.
“In the new standard, there is a new document/policy concerning human rights defenders… which provides protection to these defenders and has implications to the certification status,” Imam said.
He said that the new standard provided for facilities for complaints and mediation. He took the example of whistleblowers, saying that the new standard held companies responsible for the protection of these whistleblowers as well as others who fight for the rights of labors.
“It provides some kind of guidance about how they can protect them. This was previously not there,” Imam said, adding that another new aspect is the different formulation of what constitutes a fair living wage in plantations.
“Differing from the UMR (regional government-set minimum wage), the components are calculated considering the factor of the needs of a family. It used to be based on the individual but now the family component is added,” he explained.
Regarding smallholders, the new P&C provides a new approach to their certification. Imam said that while the P&C has eight principles for sustainability, these principles are then especially translated for smallholders. “It is a new approach, with different documents and a different number of principles. For smallholders, there are only four principles, they are adjusted to the context of smallholders without lessening the values of sustainability,” he said.
A working group is currently finalizing the new standard adjustments and Imam said that should there be no hindrances, the new standard may be endorsed in October or November.
On social standard and respect and protection of local communities, RSPO members are required to not only seek Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from indigenous people or communities when they plan to open up a new plantation but also to first conduct a social impact assessment.
FPIC is a specific right that allows local communities to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories while the social impact assessment to identify all social aspects on the fields so as to prevent conflicts or disputes in the future by assuring the respect of the rights of local communities.
“Regarding the FPIC process, this is not a one-off process but a continuing one, because, due to the dynamics in the society, the process may not always proceed well, there may be matters that are intentionally or unintentionally overlooked and could later lead to a dispute,” Imam said.
In essence, a comprehensive social impact assessment, combined with an ongoing FPIC process could assure a smooth running of a new plantation by the company.