GAR commits to new forest conservation policy
The event took place in Jakarta, Indonesia from 8 – 11 November 2010, and drew over 750 participants despite the disruptive rumblings of Gunung Merapi, an active volcano that derailed many participants’ flights early in the conference week. "It transpired in a true RSPO tradition,” RSPO President Jan Kees Vis noted, “with all members and stakeholders taking part in a process of give and take."
The four-day meeting concluded with the organization’s General Assembly meeting on November 11, where the membership made several key decisions aimed at strengthening the RSPO system at different points along the palm oil supply chain.
Taking New Plantings Procedures forwardRepresenting the upstream side of palm oil production, palm oil growers recommitted to the New Plantings Procedure (NPP). Originally tabled by WWF and accepted by RSPO membership at RT6, it requires plantation companies to show compliance with the RSPO criteria before starting expansion.
The procedure helps ensure transparency regarding adherence to Criterion 7.3, a requirement under Principle 7 which governs new plantings within the RSPO standards for sustainable palm oil production. A new RSPO Working Group co-chaired by WWF will be established to look at the challenges of implementing NPP and suggest a way forward.
High Conservation Value AreasMeanwhile, a successful resolution which could also strengthen the implementation of Criterion 7.3, was put forward by the Sumatran Orangutan Society. It asks the RSPO to develop a position paper reconfirming that secondary and degraded forests can be classified as High Conservation Values (HCV) areas.
Reviewing the Executive Board structureThe General Assembly also voted in favour of a grower-backed resolution that asks the RSPO to review its Executive Board structure to ensure that it contains the relevant producer expertise. Another resolution will require downstream users of palm oil users to make time-bound and verifiable commitments to purchase certified sustainable palm oil.
"This resolution will further increase the market uptake of certified sustainable palm oil," Derom Bangun, chairman of the Roundtable meeting and executive chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association, said in a press briefing. "Palm growers know that if demand will be strong enough, there will also be a price premium for sustainable palm oil in the market."
A focus on China and IndiaDuring special sessions earlier in the week, roundtable members also voiced commitments to work together to galvanize the markets for sustainable palm oil in China and India, which represent 31 percent of total global consumption of palm oil.
The role of smallholdersAs the theme of this RT8 was smallholders, it was fitting that the final day of the conference kicked off with a celebration of the recent certification of more than twenty five thousand palm oil farm smallholders and their contribution to the production of sustainable palm oil.
The ceremony honoured two Malaysian companies (Felda and Keresa Plantations), two Indonesian companies (PT Hindoli and PT Agrowiratama), and two companies in Papua New Guinea (New Britain Palm Oil Ltd and Hargy Oil Palms Ltd).
“These smallholders prove that RSPO is not and should not be just about large palm oil producers and users," Mr. Vis said. "Over the next few years, hundreds of thousands more smallholders will become certified producers of sustainable palm oil."
The RSPO estimates that there are over three million smallholders globally, and over one million living in Indonesia alone. The organization has made special rules that enable smallholders to become certified and uses part of the proceeds of sustainable palm oil sales to help smallholders finance their audits.