The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established 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 with a satellite office inJakarta. The organization claims more than "2000 members from over 75 countries" as of 2015.
RSPO is an association under Swiss Law composed of various organizations from different 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) for the purpose of developing and implementing global standards for sustainable palm oil.
RSPO is inspired by the idea of the "roundtable" in which all members have equal rights. There are different types of membership with different membership fees: Ordinary Member, Ordinary Member (small grower), Affiliate Member, and Supply Chain Associate. Affiliate Members and Supply Chain Associates do not have voting rights in the General Assembly but Ordinary Members, and Ordinary Members who qualify as small growers do. Affiliate Members include groups such as academic organizations or individual supporters while Supply Chain Associates are organizations dealing with less than a total of 500 metric tonnes of palm oil or palm oil derivatives per year.
The organization holds an annual meeting to bring together the various stakeholders to negotiate and discuss various issues affecting the industry.
The formation of the RSPO has been criticised by various sectors, especially the environmental NGOs. The main issues flagged include: the impact of palm oil plantation expansion on the orangutan population; destruction of tropical forest for the new oil palm plantation schemes in South-East Asia; and the burning and draining of large tracts of peat swamp forest in Kalimantan, Indonesia. The fact that RSPO members are allowed to clear cut pristine forest areas, when there would be large areas of Imperata grasslands (alang alang) available in e.g. Indonesia raises doubts about the commitment on sustainability, see e.g. Bumitama Agri's CSR (Corporate social responsibility) on logging practices. In 2013, the 11th annual RSPO meeting was crashed by palm oil workers and others, and Indonesian and international labour-rights groups have documented a litany of abuses, including forced labour and child labour. A 2013 study uncovered "flagrant disregard for human rights at some of the very plantations the RSPO certifies as 'sustainable.'"
NGOs and the RSPO
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Non-governmental organisations interested in the issue of palm oil production and the destruction of rainforest are divided about the RSPO.
Friends of the Earth International
FOEI are extremely critical of the RSPO. According to their press release issued 3 February, 2009:
Greenpeace are occupying a difficult ground of being both a supporter and a critic of the RSPO. According to a press release on the Unilever website from December 2009 Executive Director of Greenpeace John Sauven said:
But Greenpeace UK's website states:
The results of an investigation published in 2008 by Greenpeace found worrying issues with one of Unilever's main palm oil suppliers, which Unilever accepted and announced they would stop using that supplier. Unilever and Greenpeace also announced that they would work together to lobby for a moratorium on deforestation for palm oil.
Unilever is currently purchasing GreenPalm certificates and aims to buy all of their physical palm oil from certified sustainable sources by 2015. Although Unilever uses more than a million tonnes of palm oil per year, this represents less than 5% of the total production of palm oil.
PT SMART, the palm oil supplier that was working with Unilever, apparently thinks that the Unilever contract is too small to be of any serious consequence. The cancelled contract apparently affected only 3%  of their total production. PT SMART is a member of the RSPO.
Rainforest Action Network
The RAN also has a position of qualified support for the RSPO system. Blog posts by David Gilbert, a Research Fellow at RAN, who attended the 2009 RSPO annual meeting in Kuala Lumpur, showed some of the intense dissatisfaction with the process:
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
The WWF released in 2009 a Palm Oil Buyer's Scorecard. The website stated in 2010:
WWF continues to monitor the palm oil industry.
Other Roundtable initiatives
Similar initiatives have been established for other sectors including: Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, Roundtable on Sustainable Forests, Roundtable on Sustainable Development, Roundtable on Responsible Soy, and Roundtable for a Sustainable Cocoa Economy.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.