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:

Original link:


Iniciativa de la Mesa Redonda sobre Aceite de Palma Sostenible: principios y criterios

By Fitrian Adiansyah, Andrew Ng, Si-Siew Lim, published in Palmas Journal, Vol. 28 No Especial, Tomo 2, 2007, pp. 297-318. For a full article (in Spanish) please click here: RSPO_Spanish_Palmas_Vol28_2007_FitrianArdiansyah


La Mesa Redonda sobre el Aceite de Palma Sostenible fue establecida el 8 de abril de 2004 bajo el Artículo 60 del Código Suizo con una estructura organizacional que garantiza una representación justa de sus protagonistas a través de toda la cadena de suministro. Su Secretariado tiene domicilio en Kuala Lampur, cuenta con 103 miembros ordinarios y 38 miembros afiliados (un total de 141 miembros a mayo 22 de 2006), lo que representa aproximadamente de 25 a 30% de la oferta global de aceite de palma. La Mesa Redonda sobre el Aceite de Palma Sostenible (RSPO, por su sigla en inglés), es reconocida como la principal fuente para las organizaciones ampliamente aceptadas y creíbles de aceite de palma. La Mesa Redonda o RSPO fue creada como una plataforma de múltiples protagonistas, participativa, incluyente, voluntaria y orientada hacia la acción que se convertiría en el vehículo de una discusión constructiva hacia un propósito común que es aquel de “promover el crecimiento y uso sostenible del aceite de palma a través de la cooperación dentro de la cadena de suministro y de un diálogo abierto con sus partes interesadas”. Con este propósito en mente, la RSPO ha logrado grandes pasos, tal como se puede ver por el interés en la misma, en los principios y criterios de la RSPO para el aceite de palma sostenible (P/C) y en otras iniciativas. Sin embargo, esto no quiere decir que la RSPO no ha estado libre de desafíos y problemas. Esta ponencia resalta los logros clave, su importancia para el comercio del aceite de palma y cómo la RSPO se ha convertido cada vez más en un símbolo de sostenibilidad con reconocimiento global para tener una industria sostenible del aceite de palma. Al rastrear los eventos clave y la cronología del desarrollo y la evolución, este documento tiene como objetivo presentar el contexto esencial sobre el argumento central para el curso actual de la RSPO, articulado a través de programas de acción y de la participación activa de los protagonistas. Aún se cuestiona la eficacia y la función de la RSPO entre los diferentes grupos de partes interesadas que participan en la misma como plataforma para tener un diálogo constructivo para la solución de los  problemas más difíciles que enfrenta la industria del aceite de palma. Sin embargo, por el solo hecho que la RSPO ofrece lo anterior, eso ha facilitado la comprensión de la industria del aceite de palma por parte de sus actores y críticos y ha sacado a relucir problemas enfrentados por aquellos que están impactados por el desarrollo del aceite de palma y la arista cortante en las acciones y el pensamiento sobre el aceite de palma sostenible en los años venideros.


The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was established on 8 April 2004 under Article 60 of the Swiss Civil Code with a governance structure that ensures fair representation of all stakeholders throughout the entire supply chain. With a Secretariat based in Kuala Lumpur, 103 Ordinary and 38 Affiliate Members (totalling 141 total members as of 22 May 2006), that translates to approximately 25%-30% of the global palm oil supply, RSPO is recognised as the primary source for the most widely accepted and credible organisation for sustainable palm oil. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil or RSPO was formed on the basis a multi-stakeholder, participatory, inclusive, voluntary and action oriented platform that would be the vehicle for the constructive discussion towards a common goal of “promoting the growth and use of sustainable palm oil through co-operation within the supply chain and open dialogue with its stakeholders”. To this end, RSPO has made big strides, as demonstrated by the level of interest in RSPO, the RSPO Principles & Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil Production (P&C) and other initiatives. However, RSPO has not been without its fair share of challenges and setbacks. This paper would highlight the key achievements, their significance to the palm oil trade and how RSPO is steadily becoming a globally recognised symbol for sustainability in the palm oil industry. Tracing key events and the chronology of RSPO’s development and evolution, this paper lays down the essential context for the central argument for the present course of RSPO, articulated through programmes of action and active engagement of stakeholders. While the jury is still out as to the effectiveness and role of RSPO amongst all the different stakeholder groups present in RSPO, the unique platform for constructive dialogue towards addressing some of the most difficult problems posed to the palm oil industry. The very fact RSPO provides this has facilitated better understanding of the palm oil industry by stakeholders and critiques, brought to light issues faced by those impacted by palm oil development and will bring about the cutting edge in thinking and action on sustainable palm oil for some time to come.