November 24, 2011
In the following interview, mongabay.com speaks with the delegation from the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), an advocacy group which has been critical of some Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) members for what is sees as ongoing social and environmental problems. RAN is not an RSPO member.
The RSPO is a membership body that sets social and environmental criteria for palm oil production. RSPO includes palm oil producers, marketers, and traders; social and environmental NGOs; and government bodies.
Q&A with RAN on the RSPO meeting
mongabay.com: Is RAN an RSPO member?
RAN: RAN is not a member of the RSPO, but we are an active stakeholder in pushing for the adoption of critical environmental and social safeguards that we believe could make the RSPO a viable tool for consumer-facing companies interested in responsible palm oil. We have attended a number of RSPO Roundtables because they offer an important opportunity to dialogue directly with companies and NGOs.
mongabay.com: What do you hope to get out of RTRS9?
RAN: Rainforest Action Network prioritizes the following goals which overlap with our work at the RT9:
At the RSPO meeting, RAN is working to:
mongabay.com: You're in the midst of a campaign targeting Cargill, which recently committed to sourcing CSPO. Is this commitment enough to satisfy RAN's concerns about Cargill's palm oil sourcing?
Oil palm and forest in Malaysian Borneo.
mongabay.com: Do you have other concerns about RSPO?
RAN: RSPO still has a long way to go to align its standards with the zero deforestation palm oil consumer demand and to better address the land conflict issues that plague the industry. Nestle, the world’s largest food company, emphasized its zero deforestation commitment (and challenge to the RSPO) in plenary session. Significantly, this goal is shared by the Consumer Goods Forum.
Sales of RSPO-certified palm oil hit a new record this year, reaching 2.04 million metric tons through October 31. Last year's sales amounted to 1.28 million tons.
To date, the RSPO still does not have a credible standard for addressing and eliminating the huge greenhouse gas emissions associated with deforestation and expansion of oil palm on carbon rich peatland areas. This is not a trivial issue. While the technical working group on greenhouse gas emissions summarized that their findings would suggest planting on peat be avoided, the RSPO still does not prohibit palm oil on peat.
mongabay.com: If RSPO addressed these issues would RAN considering joining as a member?
RAN: The RSPO’s progress in addressing our key concerns will determine our interest in membership. For RAN to consider membership we would look to the RSPO to better implement existing principles and criteria, enforce the code of conduct, resolve grievances in a mutually beneficial way, and raise its standards on labor and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, we find that the lack of transparency and current governance structure restricts opportunities for meaningful, informed membership participation when compared to other certification bodies of which RAN is a member.
More RSPO coverage.