What RSPO Certification Does NOT Mean

Palm oil from Ghana with its natural dark colo...

Palm oil from Ghana with its natural dark color visible, 2 litres Español: Aceite de palma de Ghana con su color oscuro natural, 2 litros (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), for all its positives, is not perfect. With all the talk about the lost orangutans in the Tripa fires, the need for “sustainable” palm oil, the RSPO, etc., I just want to make sure that people know that just because a company is a member of the RSPO, that we consumers can’t just go off on our merry, carefree, guilt-free ways. In fact, some corporations (e.g., Cargill) use RSPO membership and certification as a form of “greenwashing,” that is, to give their products the appearance that they’re green when such claims may not be entirely accurate.

In my mind, at this point the RSPO’s greatest deficiency is this:

The voluntary certification program of palm oil by the RSPO has not, in itself, halted what I call the “4 Ds”: namely, the deforestation problem, the destruction of habitat, the death of wildlife (through that very habitat loss), and the displacement of indigenous people.

Indeed, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) Forest Campaigner Lindsey Allen has been quoted as saying:

“RSPO membership does not ensure that any RSPO criteria are being met at the plantation level since the only major criteria to meet in the first 5 years is consistent dues payment…Even certification does not ensure that companies are not expanding on peat given the lack of greenhouse gas emissions criteria.” (quoted at http://endoftheicons.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/socp-tripa-battle-call/)

Further support can be found at the following links:




Here’s a scathing report on Cargill’s BS:




Fellow blogger Benamin Blech’s piece can be found here: http://benjaminblech.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/the-body-shop-on-palm-oil-clarity-please/

So take that for what it’s worth next time you pop some Orville Redenbacher Popcorn in your mouth. The second ingredient on the package is palm oil but it’s a member of the RSPO. Personally, that’s not good enough for me.

Nevertheless, here’s a list put together by the Houston Zoo of palm oil-free candy (and of RSPO member companies):


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4 Responses to What RSPO Certification Does NOT Mean

  1. Simon says:

    Membership to the RSPO in itself does not mean you are adhering to the principles & criteria (this has never been the case, although there is a lot of miss information out there like any other subject) only when a plantation/mill is certified (with annual audits) can it begin to sell its certified material via one of the approved supply chain options: ‘Mass Balance’, ‘Segregated’, ‘Identity Preserved’ and ‘Book&Claim’. Applicable to all other stakeholders in the supply chain, if they wish to use any of the first three options they must be a member of the RSPO and they must be Supply Chain Certified in order to claim they use (Segregated & Identity Preserved) or support (Mass Balance) RSPO sustainable palm.

    At the time the P&C’s were launched (Nov 2007) along with the national interpretations for the major growing regions there was not enough research/data or understanding with regards to the GHG emissions. With the formation of the RSPO GHG working group, the subsequent recommendations will be considered during the review of the P&C’s taking place as we speak, full review every 5 years. One of the latest resolutions agreed at the re-arranged RSPO GA9 was to implement the requirement of a time bound plan for all Ordinary Members of the RSPO, detailing their time plan to switch to 100% sustainable palm oil, previously this had only been applicable to plantations/mills – at the time this was seen as the priority area.

    • Thanks, Simon. Unfortunately it gets pretty technical, doesn’t it? What I’m still trying to learn is, as of NOW, whether RSPO certification does ANYTHING to stop the following problems: deforestation of high conservation value rainforest, destruction of habitat, death of its animal inhabitats through habitat loss, and displacement of indigneous peoples. That’s what we consumers want to know — and it’s getting complicated to understand. (We do know that companies like Cargill use it as a form of “greenwashing.”) And to NOT cover cutting down high conservation value rainforests at the outset as part of certification offers no sane solution for me. That’s the crux of the problem.

      And I would hardly call it “misinformation” when consumers look to RSPO certification to simply assure them that their consumer purchases are not leading to deforestation “(tigers over tissue paper”). I would call it bad education on what RSPO certification actually means, by RSPO, the media, NGOs, etc. It needs to be put out there in a simple-to-understand message so that we consumers can use our purchasing power correctly. That’s the purpose of my post.

  2. Pingback: UPDATE – 3/11/2013: Williams Sonoma — From Where Do They Source Their “Organic Palm Oil”? | gettingonmysoapbox

  3. Pingback: What RSPO Certification Means — Or Doesn’t Mean — This Year | gettingonmysoapbox

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