Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

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Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (non-governmental organization) logo.png
FormationApril 2004 (2004-04)
HeadquartersGeneva and Kuala Lumpur
Secretary General
Datuk Darrel Webber
Revenue (FY 2014)
RM27.1 million [1]
RT2 (Roundtable No 2) in Zurich in 2005.
Roundtable No 2 (RT2) in Zurich in 2005.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products through global standards and multistakeholder governance. The seat of the association is in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur, with a satellite office in Jakarta. RSPO currently has 4,706 members from 94 countries.[2]

51,999,404 metric tonnes of palm oil produced in 2016 was RSPO certified.[3]


The RSPO has been criticised by various sectors, especially the environmental NGOs. Issues include the impact of palm oil plantations on the orangutan population; destruction of tropical forest for the new oil palm plantations; the burning and draining of large tracts of peat swamp forest in Borneo, Malaysia. The fact that RSPO members are allowed to clear cut pristine forest areas, when there are large areas of grasslands available in Indonesia,[4] raises doubts about commitment to sustainability.[5] In 2013, the 11th annual RSPO meeting was crashed by palm oil workers and others,[6] and Indonesian and international labour-rights groups have documented a litany of abuses, including forced labour and child labour. A 2013 study uncovered "flagrant disregard for human rights at some of the very plantations the RSPO certifies as 'sustainable'".[7]

The RSPO's pace of progress has drawn considerable negative attention. The organization is currently revising its core Principles and Criteria, only now after five years with the current set, to include a clear standard on deforestation of high conservation value forests,[8] and it took until 2017 to develop a clear Smallholder Standard.[9]

The Rainforest Action Network views the RSPO as a greenwashing tool.[10] Meanwhile, Greenpeace claims that, whilst RSPO has finally banned deforestation after 14 years, this isn't enforced and its members continue to destroy forests. [11]

Scientific analysis[edit]

In July 2020, scientists used detailed analysis of satellite images to reveal that, as indicated by several prior empirical research studies and investigations, the certified "sustainable" palm oil production resulted in deforestation of tropical forests of Sumatra and Borneo and endangered mammals' habitat degradation in the past 30 years.[12][13] In a comparison of more than 3000 villages in Indonesia with large-scale oil palm plantations, researchers found that compared with similar villages with non-certified plantations, those with RSPO certified plantations experienced an overall reduction in well-being. [14]

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)[edit]

The WWF released in 2009 a Palm Oil Buyer's Scorecard.[15] The website stated in 2010:[16]

Clearing for oil palm plantations threatens some of the world’s greatest forests, endangered species such as orangutans, and puts forest-dwelling people at risk. But with better management practices, the palm oil industry could provide benefits without threatening our some of our most breathtaking natural treasures...

Reaching those objectives requires a common language for industry, environmental and social groups to work together. Through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), WWF has helped to establish a platform for these parties to collaborate towards the production of sustainable palm oil. Thanks to the RSPO, sustainable palm oil is now on the market. By applying stringent production criteria to all stages of palm oil manufacture, some companies are proving that oil palm plantations need not flourish at the expense of rainforests. But so much more remains to be done. Too many palm oil producers still ignore the destructive impacts of palm oil plantations, contributing to biodiversity loss and social unrest and more companies that buy palm oil need to switch to using certified sustainable palm oil in their products.

In 2018, the WWF updated its position to support the RSPO Updated Principles and Criteria, the outcome of an extensive multi-stakeholder consultation process on achieving sustainable palm oil production, stating that the RSPO "represents an essential tool that can help companies achieve their commitments to palm oil that is free of deforestation, expansion on peat, exploitation and the use of fire."[17]

WWF continues to monitor the palm oil industry.[18]

Other Roundtable initiatives[edit]

Similar initiatives have been established for other sectors including: Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials,[19] Roundtable on Sustainable Forests,[20] Roundtable on Sustainable Development,[21] Roundtable on Responsible Soy,[22] and Roundtable for a Sustainable Cocoa Economy.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "RSPO Treasurer's Report" (PDF). p. 3. Retrieved 2014-12-29.
  2. ^ "About Us".
  3. ^ Voora, V., Larrea, C., Bermudez, S., and Baliño, S. (2019). "Global Market Report: Palm Oil". State of Sustainability Initiatives.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Murniati (2002). "From imperata cylindrica grasslands to productive agroforestry". Tropenbos International. Retrieved 2013-08-04.
  5. ^ "Environment - Bumitama Agri Ltd". Bumitama Agri. Retrieved 2013-08-04.
  6. ^ Eric Gottwald (14 November 2013). "Workers Give Message to RSPO: Don't Certify Abuse!". Labor is Not a Commodity. International Labor Rights Forum. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  7. ^ "Empty Promises: RSPO Labor Case Studies". International Labor Rights Forum. 14 November 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ "ANNOUNCEMENT 2ND PUBLIC CONSULTATION - RSPO P&C". Retrieved 2018-09-23.
  10. ^ "Child labor in palm oil industry tied to Girl Scout cookies". 20 April 2021.
  11. ^ "5 problems with 'sustainable' palm oil". 1 November 2019. Retrieved 20 March 2022.}
  12. ^ "Certified 'sustainable' palm oil fields endanger mammal habitats and biodiverse tropical forests over 30 years". Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  13. ^ Cazzolla Gatti, Roberto; Velichevskaya, Alena (10 November 2020). "Certified "sustainable" palm oil took the place of endangered Bornean and Sumatran large mammals habitat and tropical forests in the last 30 years". Science of the Total Environment. 742: 140712. Bibcode:2020ScTEn.742n0712C. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140712. ISSN 0048-9697. PMID 32721759. S2CID 220852123. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  14. ^ Santika, Truly; Wilson, Kerrie A.; Law, Elizabeth A.; St John, Freya A. V.; Carlson, Kimberly M.; Gibbs, Holly; Morgans, Courtney L.; Ancrenaz, Marc; Meijaard, Erik; Struebig, Matthew J. (2021). "Impact of palm oil sustainability certification on village well-being and poverty in Indonesia". Nature Sustainability. 4 (2): 109–119. doi:10.1038/s41893-020-00630-1. S2CID 226231802.
  15. ^ "WWF - Scoring palm oil buyers in Europe". Archived from the original on 2009-12-31. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  16. ^ "What is WWF doing about conversion of forests for palm oil?". World Wildlife Fund. Archived from the original on 2010-03-03.
  17. ^ "WWF's position on the proposed adoption of the 2018 RSPO Principles and Criteria".
  18. ^ "Palm Oil | Industries | WWF". World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 2013-08-04.
  19. ^ "RSB Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials | Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials". Retrieved 2013-08-05.
  20. ^ Daniel Swensen. "Roundtable on Sustainable Forests". Retrieved 2013-08-05.
  21. ^ "RTSD". Retrieved 2013-08-05.
  22. ^ "Round Table on Responsible Soy Association". 2011-06-21. Retrieved 2013-08-05.
  23. ^ "Roundtable for a Sustainable Cocoa Economy: TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE WORLD COCOA ECONOMY". 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2013-08-05.

External links[edit]