Palm Oil Innovators Group spurs innovation within the RSPO



Posted on 21 August 2013  | 
Palm fruit, Musim Mas palm oil plantation, Sumatra, Indonesia.
© James Morgan / WWF InternationalEnlarge
On the sidelines of the Consumers Goods Forum’s Tropical Forest Alliance meeting in Jakarta in June 2013, a group of representatives from NGOs and palm oil companies introduced an initiative that seeks to take palm oil sustainability to a new level. The Palm Oil Innovators Group (POIG) is currently comprised of Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) and WWF along with several RSPO member palm oil producing companies recognized as innovative leaders in social and environmental issues, namely Agropalma (Brazil), Daabon (Colombia), New Britain Palm Oil (Papua New Guinea) and Golden Agri Resources (Indonesia). POIG’s mission is to support and reward more innovative palm oil producers with an aim to continuously improve the RSPO standard and its members’ practices through the lessons learned.

“The current negative image of palm oil needs to be reversed if the sector is to thrive,” stated the launch statement issued by the group. “The POIG will demonstrate that by setting and implementing ambitious standards that stretch the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) we can break the link between deforestation, social conflict and palm oil.” The first task of POIG will be to develop a Palm Oil Innovation Group Charter which sets out the level of performance the group will require for its members on a range of social and environmental issues and to explore ways to increase the market demand for palm oil products that are produced by innovators within the industry. The group calls for other innovators within the palm oil supply chain to join the POIG.

The idea of POIG emerged during the 2013 review of the RSPO Principles & Criteria (P&C) and in response to the perception shared by POIG members that the new P&Cs were still not setting hard and clear enough sustainability standards on some key issues. “WWF still supports the RSPO because it is the only credible, international, multi-stakeholder sustainability standard-keeping body for the palm oil sector,” said Adam Harrison. “However, the final outcome of the RSPO P&C review is a compromise between those that want to push on and those that are not yet ready to. POIG offers producers a platform to demonstrate new models and paradigms for sustainability practices in the palm oil sector that establish a clear performance within the RSPO’s standard, especially in the area of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and the avoidance of peatlands for palm oil development.” (See WWF's position statement on the revised P&C).

“Despite some of the lurid headlines, WWF does not see POIG as a threat to the RSPO but it is definitely a challenge to the RSPO and its members to do better,” said Harrison. In response to that challenge, WWF asks the RSPO to also acknowledge which of its members are achieving “best practice performance levels” on the most important environmental issues facing the industry: public reporting of GHG emissions, delivering low carbon expansion and production, ending the use of hazardous chemicals and only sourcing legal raw materials into their supply chains. The RSPO also needs to devise a system whereby the market can distinguish the ‘innovators’ and reward these companies. “Innovation is not only needed amongst oil palm growers,” said Harrison. “We also need leaders to emerge amongst the traders, buyers and users of palm oil. This means buyers need to immediately source 100% certified sustainable palm oil as well as demand ‘best practice’ from suppliers, in particular on key issues like GHG emissions from new development and sourcing of independent fresh fruit bunches. This also means preferentially sourcing from those producers that are implementing ‘best practice’”.
Palm fruit, Musim Mas palm oil plantation, Sumatra, Indonesia.
© James Morgan / WWF International Enlarge

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