The Palm Scribe

Shared Responsibility to Strengthen Credibility of RSPO Certification

Panelists on Shared Responsibility at RSPO’s RT17

Bangkok- The Shared Responsibility war cry that resonated during the RT17, Annual Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil organized by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil (RSPO) will not only demonstrate the group’s leadership in sustainability, but also raise the credibility of the RSPO certification system, experts said.

“When successful, the shared responsibility will also strengthen the credibility of RSPO certification,” James Whitehead, Director of Forest People Program, said during a plenary panel discussion.

Under the theme, “Shared Responsibility: Converting Commitments into Actions” the RT17 is seeking to galvanize the various stakeholder groups in the membership of the organization to each take ownership of their own role and contribution in making sustainable palm oil the norm.

Another panelist, Natasha Schwarzbach, from PepsiCo’s sustainable commodities, said that shared responsibility was the “holistic approach to move the needle.”

“Shared Responsibility is a clear opportunity for all of us to demonstrate sustainability leadership, to deliver against the SDGs, to be inclusive, accountable and sustainable,” Schwarzbach said.

The various panelists all pointed to the need for everyone to agree that they all needed to respectively do their share to reach the RSPO vision of making sustainable palm oil the norm.

“We have been talking about sustainability, but how do we convert that into action? This will not work unless we all on the same boat,” panel moderator Aimee Russillo, an independent consultant from liSeed Consulting stressed. She added that the concept of shared responsibility was rightly about sustainability leadership but also about responsible business.

Russillo said that the multi-stakeholder organization recognized that all members shared the responsibility to share the vision and that they each had different roles to play in transforming the market and make sustainability as a norm.

An RSPO taskforce had over eight months, discussed and debated the challenges faced by members in terms of market availability, smallholders, lack of physical supply chains, and lack of demand, among others.  It also recognized the need for RSPO members to work together to make things happen.

But not all members of the RSPO will have to immediately begin to convert their commitments into action. The taskforce limited its initial focus on ordinary RSPO members outside of the growers. They were specifically environmental and social NGOs, banks and investors, retailers, consumer goods manufacturers, processors and traders (P&T). The task force recommended that in the first phase, shared responsibility should only apply to them although supply chain associates, affiliates and those holding traders’ or distributors’ licenses only would also be included.

Meanwhile, a large membership category was not seen as a first priority yet, particularly in terms of driving Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) uptake.

The need to raise the CSPO uptake was also the main concern during the conference with many saying raising uptake would motivate more inclusion. RSPO Impact and Evaluation Director Oi Soo Chin said that the task force is proposing that buyer members should increase their purchase of sustainable palm oil.

“RSPO’s P&C resolutions also call for shared responsibility. We have to mobilize all our members to apply the PnC, which will finally transform the market,” she argued, referring to the RSPO Principles and Criteria, last updated last year.

The RT17 conference kicked open with a series of preparations meetings on Sunday (4/11) was then followed upon its closure by the 16th General Assembly of the RSPO. Among the main agenda of the general assembly meeting, this year is to vote on a new certification standard for smallholders. Besides calls for shared responsibility, the conference also heard repeated calls for more inclusion of smallholders, who account for around 40 percent of world palm oil production.

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