Best Practice: major Indonesian NGOs join forces to contribute to an international standard of sustainability for palm oil plantations

By Fitrian Adiansyah and Abetnego Tarigan, in Forest partnerships: enhancing local livelihoods and protecting the environment in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, 2007, edited by Maria Osbeck and Marisha Wojciechowska-Shibuya, IUCN, Bangkok, p. 23. For the pdf version of the full please click here: 2007_CaseStudy_WildHoneyBees

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established by businesses involved in the production, processing and retail of palm oil — key members include Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil companies and European processing and retailing companies. The RSPO was established to counter the concerns of environmental organizations that palm oil plantations were a major cause of deforestation and were being imposed on local communities without concern for their rights, livelihoods or welfare and managed with insufficient concern for the rights and welfare of plantation workers and smallholders.

The influential Indonesia NGO consortium Sawit Watch and WWF-Indonesia — both RSPO Board Members — saw the opportunity to promote and call for high social standards and environmental criteria for stakeholders in the oil palm industry. Mutually supporting each others’ experience and expertise, they developed “Sustainability Criteria”, which elaborate voluntary standards to be adopted by the industry to ensure that palm oil production is socially and environmentally acceptable.

In November 2005, the principles and criteria (P&C) for “sustainable palm oil” were adopted by the RSPO General Assembly. The standard is being tested through a two-year trial implementation phase wherein 17 large companies have voluntarily committed to participate. Combined advocacy ensured that the P&C eventually included provisions on customary rights to land; free, prior and informed consent; respect for ratified international law; workers’ rights; non-discrimination; minimized and safe use of pesticides; fair pricing for smallholder products; recognition of high conservation value areas; and other important environmental aspects.

This partnership presents a concrete example of effective synergy between social and environmental groups and represents an effort to bring the government, NGOs and the private sector to the table. The RSPO’s sustainability criteria have established a good basis for developing best practices in the industry, halting conversion of high conservation value forests, promoting zero burning, and phasing out the use of agrochemicals. Communities impacted are in agreement with this standard and preliminary field studies suggest that the draft standard will offer significant protection. Looking to the future, these measures — along with commitment from actors on the global supply chains — should prove instrumental for the advance of environmentally acceptable practices in the palm oil industry.

[Abet Nego Tarigan, Sawit Watch: “Partnership between NGOs increases our access to information and enriches our work.” 

Joanna de Rozario, NTFP-EP: “A community that increases quality, increases its profit margin for the same volume of honey.” 

Community Member “A key to ensure economic benefit and overall well-being for rain-forest communities lies in the ability to organize.”]

ANNOUNCEMENT 12 January 2007:

RSPO Code of Conduct

RSPO is pleased to announce its Code of Conduct†. This is a major document that articulates the aspirations and expectations we as RSPO Members wish to aspire to and meet. The Code of Conduct is the culmination of the collective effort of RSPO Members, expressed through the Executive Board over the past year. It not only reflects the major concerns but also defines key objectives in meeting RSPO’s goals. After deliberation, negotiation and consultation, the Code of Conduct is now ready for adoption. It would be a cornerstone for gauging members’ contributions towards RSPO, and ultimately towards the goal of promoting the production, procurement and use of sustainable palm oil. It would also form the basis for our communication to stakeholders as we report against the Code of Conduct.

For the complete Code, see Annex 3. Source:

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