Palm Oil Innovation Group

Going further for sustainable palm oil

The Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) aims to support the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by demonstrating that innovation and leadership in sustainable palm oil production and use is possible and can be adopted into the mainstream by developing new models for best practice in the sector.
 / ©: James Morgan  / WWF International
Workers at plantation, Riau, Sumatra.
© James Morgan / WWF International

What is the POIG?

The POIG was launched in November 2013 by a group of international NGOs (including WWF, RAN and Greenpeace) along with palm oil producing companies who are recognized as innovative leaders in socio-environmental issues. Presently the POIG has twelve members. In addition, a number of retailers and consumer goods manufacturers like Ferrero, Tesco, Edeka, Rewe Group and Stephenson have recently pledged their support of POIG.

The group was initiated after the 2013 review of the RSPO Principals and Criteria’s (P&Cs), which POIG members believe should have been more innovative; especially on the issues of deforestation, carbon stocks, biodiversity and social relations. All of the POIG members are committed to showing best practice on the P&Cs and innovation in new areas with the aim of reinforcing and improving the RSPO P&Cs.

The POIG is based on the principle that innovation and continuous improvement are essential to any successful business. The POIG has the potential to significantly raise the bar on sustainability in the palm oil industry.

Why did WWF join the POIG?

WWF supports the RSPO because it is currently the only credible, international and multi-stakeholder organisational body for the palm oil sector with the reach and scale to transform the global industry.  Some 40% of global palm oil production is undertaken by RSPO members and currently 18% of all the palm oil produced in the world is RSPO certified.

However, the RSPO P&Cs, as currently formulated, do not always set clear enough performance standards for certified growers regarding certain issues, like greenhouse gas reduction and ending the use of harmful pesticides. Although there is a lot of best practice set out in the RSPO guidance without clear mandatory standards, a range of levels of performance are possible. This means that some RSPO certified growers will inevitably be performing at a higher level than others that are also certified. (See WWF’s position on the 2013 RSPO P&C Review).

All palm oil producers that are members of the RSPO are obliged to work towards 100% RSPO certification. This includes taking immediate action to implement best practice in sustainable palm oil production as well as making commitments to continuous improvement. But the RSPO is still not yet really distinguishing between those members doing the best they can and others doing the least they have to.

Several RSPO grower members are already achieving higher sustainability standards than those strictly required by the RSPO P&Cs. The POIG creates a space for them to be recognized for their leadership and innovation and to develop ways to independently verify how well they are doing.
The POIG is not a replacement for the RSPO and is not seeking to establish a new certification standard for palm oil.  Instead it has set out a ‘Charter’ for palm oil producers based on the RSPO P&Cs, its guidance and innovative approaches such as high carbon stock assessments which the POIG members believe describe responsible palm oil production. The POIG producer members have begun to commission independent audits of their operations to verify that their policies and practices meet the POIG Charter.
The POIG also does not intend to re-create the structures and processes that already exist within the RSPO such as the supply chain controls and certification systems. Instead buyers will be able to procure RSPO certified sustainable palm oil from growers that are also verified as meeting the POIG Charter.
 

The Palm Oil Innovation Group is more than just a charter

The POIG aims to support the RSPO by sharing its thinking on best practice and ensuring that it gets implemented more widely by the industry.  This will happen formally via the further review of the RSPO P&Cs in the future. But it will also happen as innovation within the POIG members is fed into the work of the taskforces, committees and working groups of the RSPO. The POIG is discussing how best to achieve this with the RSPO.

Who is on the Palm Oil Innovation Group?

The POIG is a network and not a formal organisation. All decisions made are based on consensus.

The Organising Committee is made up of founding members: Agropalma, DAABON, NBPOL, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, WWF and Forest Peoples Programme.

The full list of current members is:
•           Agropalma
•           Daabon Organic
•           Forest Peoples Programme
•           Greenpeace
•            ILRF (International Labor Rights Forum)
•           Orangutan Land Trust
•           Rainforest Action Network
•           New Britain Palm Oil Limited
•           Sumatran Orangutan Society
•           Verité
•           Wetlands International
•           WWF

The POIG is also open to retailers and manufacturers who are willing to support its objectives. The POIG has not yet developed criteria for full membership other than for NGOs and palm oil producers, but is in discussion with other parts of the industry.
 

Objectives of the POIG Charter

To promote and support innovation and improvements in oil palm plantation and extraction mill management and throughout the supply chain on a range of environmental, social, supply chain and governance issues, and seek to have the innovations rolled out across the palm oil industry and reflected in the RSPO standard.

To create added value for innovative and progressive producers and supply chain partners through increased market recognition and demand for palm oil products from innovative and improved practices.

To act as a forum for open discussion and sharing of experience with innovations and improvements in: oil palm plantation practices, extraction mill management practices, responsible procurement, and product traceability and verification throughout the supply chain.

To act as a forum to collectively engage with governments towards achieving recognition and support for innovations, and have them included in regulations and law.
 

What WWF is asking palm oil buying companies to do

  • Immediately buy 100% of their palm oil from one of the RSPO approved supply chain options. This includes buying as much physical CSPO as is available and covering all of the rest of their use immediately with Book & Claim certificates. In some markets, such as for many food applications in Europe, where there is sufficient physical CSPO the reliance on Book & Claim certificates should end.
  • Set challenging time-bound plans for shifting to using only physical CSPO – this includes working with their suppliers to make sure they reach those targets.
  • Demand ‘best practice’ from their CSPO suppliers – in particular on key issues like the GHG emissions from new development, pesticide use and the sustainability of independent FFB entering into their supply chains. One way to do this is to join the POIG and to commit to buy from growers that have been independently verified as meeting the POIG Charter.
  • Demand and use information from the RSPO and others such as the POIG to make judgments on which producers are implementing ‘best practice’ and preferentially source from them.  Relying on companies own commitments and reporting is not as reliable as using independent, third-party verification as offered by the RSPO and as being developed by POIG

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