In 2017 and throughout 2018 the RSPO reviewed its Principles & Criteria (P&C), which form the bylaws of the organisation and outline the requirements of its members. It is a process that is repeated every five years. Without doubt, the latest review has been the most comprehensive one, specifically highlighting human and labour rights aspects.
A Review Taskforce with balanced representation from palm oil producers, supply chain actors, financial institutions and NGOs was formed. Two 60-day public consultation periods were launched, and ten face-to-face meetings across the globe were held. The documents were translated into five languages, and the new standard was field-tested in Africa and Southeast Asia for practicality and auditability, which in turn informed further adaptations. The new P&C were voted upon, and accepted with a big majority, during the RSPO’s 2018 annual Roundtable.
The main additions and amendments include:
No deforestation: new planting should not cause any deforestation, with potential exceptions for local communities on High Forest Cover countries.
No new planting on peat: all peat areas – which store millions of tonnes of carbon and are susceptible to fire if drained – need to be conserved.
Human & labour rights: extended criteria including measures around the implementation of grievance mechanisms, whistle-blowers, protection of indigenous peoples’ rights, migrant labour rights, no forced labour and no child labour. An overall better alignment with International Labour Organisation standards, with gender aspects being newly covered.
Living wage: the Global Living Wage Coalition’s method for calculating what would amount to a decent Living Wage for its workforce needs to be applied.
Smallholder standard: increased access to RSPO certification and procedures tailored to smallholder conditions.
Third party suppliers: stronger criteria asking for geolocations of fresh fruit origins and demonstrating valid planting and trading licences.