Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

MultiStakeholder Initiatives in the palm oil sector

In response to the urgent and pressing global call for sustainably produced palm oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 with the objective promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders.

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 is a not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry - oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs - to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.

Such multi-stakeholder representation is mirrored in the governance structure of RSPO such that seats in the Executive Board and project level Working Groups are fairly allocated to each sector. In this way, RSPO lives out the philosophy of the "roundtable" by giving equal rights to each stakeholder group to bring group-specific agendas to the roundtable, facilitating traditionally adversarial stakeholders and business competitors to work together towards a common objective and making decisions by consensus.

Smallholder participation within the RSPO system remains limited end of 2011. Several challenges need to be overcome in order to create a smallholder inclusive system. Part of the challenges is linked to the RSPO system itself, such as the standards, guidance documents, supply chain systems and incentive mechanisms. Other challenges are more related to the institutional environment in which smallholders operate, such as access to finance, access to farmer organizations and technical assistance.

Hereunder is a presentation by Dr Ruth Nussbaum on Multi Stakeholder Initiatives


How can palm oil be more sustainable? The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and WWF's role in it by WWF

We hear a lot about the impacts of palm oil on forests and endangered species such as the orangutan. But did you know that solutions exist to produce palm oil that does not harm people or nature? Take 5 minutes to find out how the RSPO works and why WWF supports it as one strategy to help reduce deforestation and biodiversity loss in the tropics.

RSPO speaks at TEDxWWF Business Unusual for a Global Commodity June 2012, Singapore

RSPO Africa Roadshow
The participants of the RSPO Africa Roadshow workshop
in Gabon, June 2012.

The Proforest Initiative, working together with an alliance of partners, has received funding to carry out a capacity building programme in Africa to raise awareness about the RSPO guidelines and the HCV concept among key stakeholders in West and Central Africa. The programme commenced with a series of events in Liberia, Ghana and Gabon from May 2012.

Large scale oil palm expansion in Africa is at an early stage, with many companies negotiating concessions agreements and planning investment in recently allocated land holdings. While oil palm development has the potential to deliver many socio-economic benefits, there are also significant environmental and social risks. Many negative impacts associated with long-established plantations are the consequence of poor planning during the establishment phase, which results in long term liabilities such as biodiversity loss and deforestation or creates conditions for social conflict.

The Principles and Criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) provide standards for sustainable palm oil production including guidelines on responsible expansion. However, in Africa there is currently limited understanding about the RSPO guidelines and the related High Conservation Value (HCV) concept. The Africa Roadshow aims to contribute to an environment for increased adoption of the RSPO Principles and Criteria as well as the effective use of the HCV framework in the countries where most palm oil expansion is planned.

The programme aims to significantly increase the level of understanding of the RSPO requirements in general, and for expansion in particular, among key stakeholders, including government institutions, civil society and the local private sector. The capacity building and awareness raising events are designed to facilitate the uptake and integration of RSPO best practices in both large-scale and smallholder plantations in the region.

Each workshop included group exercises, such as here 
during the Cameroon Roadshow workshop.
The first events in this series took place in Monrovia, Liberia and Accra, Ghana in May 2012, with a third event took place in Libreville, Gabon in June. Training in a number of other countries is expected to take place later in the year and early in 2013.

The RSPO roadshow is being coordinated by The Proforest Initiative, working together with an alliance of partners including the RSPO, Conservation International, Solidaridad, WWF, the HCV Resource Network, ZSL, and GIZ. Funding has been provided by the Biodiversity and Agricultural Commodities Programme, with additional support from Sime Darby, Olam International and Unilever.

Related documents:
RSPO Africa Roadshow_BN 1_web (1.34MB, PDF)
RSPO Africa Roadshow_BN 2_web (1.30MB, PDF)
RSPO Africa Roadshow_BN 3_web (1.26MB, PDF)
RSPO Africa Roadshow_BN 4_web (1.40MB, PDF)
RSPO Africa Roadshow_BN 5_web (1.31MB, PDF)

Related event:
Rubber Plant & Palm Oil Africa conference from September 4-7 in Accra

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