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Objectives of the roundtable on sustainable palm oil (RSPO)

By Fatai Afolabi
23 April 2018   |   2:01 am
The RSPO Board of Governors (BoG) has endorsed the Nigeria National Interpretation (NGNI) document . NGNI 2017, as it is known, is based on the RSPO P&C 2013. The presentation and launch of the National Interpretation is schedule to hold at Protea Hotel in Benin City, Tuesday, 24 April 2018. The Nigeria National Interpretation Working…

Palm oil

The RSPO Board of Governors (BoG) has endorsed the Nigeria National Interpretation (NGNI) document . NGNI 2017, as it is known, is based on the RSPO P&C 2013. The presentation and launch of the National Interpretation is schedule to hold at Protea Hotel in Benin City, Tuesday, 24 April 2018.

The Nigeria National Interpretation Working Group of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil is set to present to all the stakeholders in the Nigerian Palm Oil Supply Chain, the National Interpretation of the Principles and Criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil for Nigeria.

I like to recall that Presco Plc (a member of RSPO) initiated RSPO in Nigeria in 2009 and gathered other members of the Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria (POFON) to embrace it. Subsequently, Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc supported and joinedPresco Plc in the RSPO drive in Nigeria.

Various sensitization and mobilization activities were made to mobilize stakeholders in support of RSPO in Nigeria. These activities included; Presentation of RSPO to the Media in October, 2010, Presentation of RSPO to the Federal Ministries of Industry, Trade & Investment and Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Abuja in 2011, presentation of RSPO to the Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN) in December 2011and RSPO Roadshow in September, 2013.

In all, 50 Stakeholders including the Growers/Millers, Processors, Consumer Goods Manufacturers, Government MDAs, Environmental and Social NGOs, Banks, and Media signed the Statement of Intent to participate in RSPO in Nigeria. In April 2014, the Nigeria National Interpretation Working Group (NNIWG) was constituted with self-selected representatives from the Producers (including smallholders), Supply chain actors and investors, Environmental interests and Social interests categories. Each member also signed on to a Code of Conduct.

After about one and a half years of work, the working group identified, discussed and validated the national RSPO indicators. A national consultative meeting was then held in January 2016 to harness inputs from within and outside the RSPO multi-stakeholder platform on the draft national indicators. All relevant stakeholders along the palm oil supply chain consequently ratified the national indicators at this meeting. The national indictors were subsequently field tested at Presco Plc and Okomu Plc in February 2016 and observations made were used to finalize the national indictors.

According to the guidelines and procedures of the RSPO, a public consultation for a minimum period of 60 days was carried out from April 1st 2016 to May 31st 2016 which enabled the national public, regional and international stakeholders to make judgments, observations and comments on these national indicators. Having received no comments from the public, the members of the RSPO National Interpretation Working Group in Nigeria subsequently produced the Draft Final for RSPO approval.

Having fulfilled all the requirements, I am happy to inform you that the Board of Governors of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil endorsed the RSPO National Interpretation (NI) for Nigeria, 14 June 2017. The endorsement signaled the conclusion of the national interpretation process and has brought Nigeria into the league of countries set to produce sustainable palm oil in the World.

In response to the urgent and pressing global call for sustainably produced palm oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was formed in 2004 with the objective of‘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, a liaison office in Jakarta Indonesia as well as a proposed liaison office in South America.

RSPO is a not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry – Oil Palm Growers or 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.

RSPO aims to ensure that no primary forests or other high conservation value areas are cleared for new palm oil plantations, that oil palm plantations minimize their environmental footprint and that basic rights of local land owners, farm workers and indigenous people are fully respected. Ultimately, RSPO aims to have all the World’s palm oil produced in a sustainable way.

The principal objective of RSPO is to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil through co-operation within the supply chain and open dialogue between its stakeholders.Palm oil is so versatile that we don’t realize just how much we use it in our everyday lives. It is found in our food, soaps, detergents, cosmetics, plastics and more recently, as a renewable alternative to fossil fuel (biofuel). Through project-driven Working Groups formed by voluntary RSPO members, RSPO is spearheading initiatives in order to fulfil its objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable palm oil.

RSPO has developed a set of standards called the Principles & Criteria (P&C) that define practices for sustainable palm oil production. These standards address the legal, economic, environmental and social requirements of producing sustainable palm oil. RSPO’s Principles and Criteria (P&C) for sustainable palm oil production are based on these principles:
1. Commitment to transparency.
2. Compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
3. Commitment to long-term economic and financial viability.
4. Use of appropriate best practices by growers and millers.
5. Environmental responsibility and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity.
6. Responsible consideration of employees and of individuals and communities affected by growers and mills.
7. Responsible development of new plantings.
8. Commitment to continuous improvement in key areas of activity.

Respecting national differences
The National Interpretation is a process where representative stakeholders in a country form a Working Group to ensure congruence between the P&C and the country’s laws, norms and values.

Involving smallholders
Oil palm smallholders are important stakeholders to the RSPO and their membership is encouraged through various options including reduced membership fees. RSPO is currently developing special guidance and certification schemes for smallholders to apply the P&C in their production of palm oil.

The RSPO Certification System is a framework for formally recognizing and authenticating producers or growers who are producing palm oil according to the RSPO Principles and Criteria(P&C). The Certification System also verifies that any claims of using or supporting RSPO certified palm oil made by players in the supply chain and end product manufacturers or processors are genuine. Three types of claims can be made depending on how the palm oil is traced and traded in the supply chain:

In the Segregation model, palm oil from certified plantations is segregated from palm oil from non-certified sources at every stage of the supply chain. End products using segregated certified palm oil are allowed to make the claim, “This product contains RSPO certified palm oil.”

Controlled Mixing does not segregate certified palm oil from non-certified palm oil but allows mixing of the two at known percentages and ensures that the same proportions are maintained at every stage of the supply chain as long ascertain controls are in place. Allowable claims by end products under this model are still being finalized by RSPO.

With this model, certified palm oil is represented by tradable certificates, which are traded separately from the physical oil. The producers of certified oil sell these certificates, via a broker, to end-users who wish to support the production of sustainable palm oil. End products using certificate-traded palm oil are allowed to make the claim of supporting the production of sustainable palm oil.

The Code of Conduct applies not only to the producers of palm oil but to all stakeholder groups, hence binding all members to its common objective. While producers are expected to implement the Principles & Criteria and obtain RSPO certification in their production of palm oil, non-producers are expected to implement equivalent standards in their procurement and use of palm oil.

NGNI 2017 has been developed by a working group with balanced representation from all the RSPO stakeholder groups. The working group held numerous physical meetings prior to finalizing the document. In compliance to international best practice, public consultations were held as part of creating awareness and getting feedback on the NGNI 2017 document.
*Mr. Afolabi is the Facilitator, RSPO-NIGERIA.