There are a number of voluntary and mandatory sustainability standards that apply to palm oil.
In response to the urgent and pressing need to address concerns and meet global demand for sustainably produced palm oil, a group of companies and NGOs joined forces in 2004. They established the first sustainability standard to certify the production and use of sustainable palm oil and founded the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). RSPO is a not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry: palm oil growers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental and nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs. It uses a consensus voting system to develop standards and criteria for its members and it is now the dominant certification scheme for palm oil in foodstuffs and household products. The RSPO has more than 3,000 members worldwide who represent all links along the palm oil supply chain. Read more about RSPO’s principles and trading models here.
ISCC was developed through an open multi-stakeholder process in 2006, involving representatives from agriculture, processing and refining industry, trade as well as ecologically and socially active non-governmental organisations. Today, it is one of the world’s leading certification systems. ISCC applies strict rules for the conservation of valuable landscapes as well as environmentally friendly and socially responsible production of agricultural and forestry raw materials. ISCC is applicable for various sectors and end-markets, including food, feed, bio-based markets and energy. ISCC is well established in the palm oil sector. Currently (June 2017), 353 palm-processing companies are ISCC certified. More than 22 million tons of palm fresh fruit bunches were produced in compliance with ISCC in 2016. The ISCC-factsheet is available here.
The Rainforest Alliance, established in 1987, aims to change land-use and business practices to reduce their impacts on both biodiversity and local people. In order to become certified, farms must meet criteria set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a coalition of leading conservation groups that work to promote sustainability agriculture. The SAN standard encompasses all three pillars of sustainability – social, economic, and environmental, and is built on four important principles of sustainable farming: Biodiversity conservation, Improved livelihoods and human wellbeing, Natural resource conservation, and Effective planning and farm management systems. For more information on the Sustainable Agriculture Network’s standard and how Rainforest Alliance certification works, see their business website.
The Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) Foundation is a national non-profit organization aiming to improve the sustainability and competitiveness of the Indonesian palm oil industry and contribute to the Indonesian government’s objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and draw attention to environmental issues. The ISPO standard is mandatory for palm oil producers in Indonesia.
The Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) Certification Scheme is the national certification scheme in Malaysia through which oil palm plantations, independent and organised smallholdings, and palm oil processing facilities are certified against the MSPO Standards. The MSPO Certification Scheme is voluntary and industry-driven. It came into effect in January 2015 and is operated and owned by the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council (MPOCC). MPOCC is tasked with the development and implementation of the MSPO Certification Scheme across Malaysia.
To increase the uptake of sustainable palm oil companies and sector associations are working together in ‘national alliances on sustainable palm oil’. These alliances are now widespread in Europe, committing many companies and sectors to use sustainable palm oil.Map of Europe
Traceability is a tool to help companies along the palm oil supply chain to identify the origin of the oil sourced. Knowing the potential mills and their locations make it possible to identify and monitor if sustainable practices are adopted at origination.Video