RT14 2016 Bangkok 8-10 November 2016

Category: News Published: Thursday, 17 November 2016

This year’s RT was held against a somber backdrop with the recent demise of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of the Kingdom of Thailand.

Dato’ Carl Bek-Nielsen, Co-chair of RSPO and Chief Executive Director of United Plantations Berhad gave a scathing welcome address hitting out at RSPO members who are using the “no palm oil” label on their products. He said, “Over the last few years, there has been a growing resentment among African and Asian growers against RSPO members who use the ‘no palm oil’ label on their products. This goes against the spirit of the RSPO, which is to promote the production and use of RSPO-certified palm oil. This dream will not happen as long as there are 489 products found on the shelves today with the ‘no palm oil’ label belonging to RSPO members.” Bek-Nielsen pointed out that smallholders found the RSPO “bureaucratic, slow, not possible to reach and even arrogant.” Outside of the conference he said, “Someone earning $2 a day is going to have a different sense of sustainability than someone walking around Paris with a pair of Chanel sunglasses.”

The keynote address on human sustainability focused the conference onto labour working conditions and smallholders. Migrant worker issues are global eg the Associated Press seafood story and she lamented the absence of palm oil workers in the hall of 800 participants.

The RSPO update session informed that the new IT Platform, PalmTrace will from January 2017 cover all models and B&C will replace GreenPalm. RSPO Next, P&C Standards review in 2017 and the Rules on Market Communication & Claims review were also covered. Players worry about the transition of marketing of credits from GreenPalm as well as the marketing capacity and resources of RSPO and UTZ. There are some doubts about RSPO Next until key top buyers support it.

In the Delivering on Impacts session there are signs that RSPO recognizes the need for it to change and has engaged University Putra Malaysia (UPM) to map the direction. UPM appears to be struggling, hampered by their inconsistent findings and the lack of interest of participants.

A day earlier there were a number of preparatory clusters. A highlight of the conference is the HCS Convergence agreement by NGOs and corporates that merges two different deforestation guidelines viz the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) and High Carbon Stock (HCS+) methodologies. The palm oil industry will now have more clarity on how it can implement no-deforestation claims about their operations.

Also at the clusters the Supply and Demand of Certified Sustainable Palm Kernel Oil was discussed. In an highly interactive session participants came away with a very much clearer picture of the supply chain but no solutions was offered for the lack of availability of CSPKO.

The third and last day started off with Regional Perspectives where it was clear that traction in China and India is low but is key to RPSO’s efforts to grow. The smallholders session was expertly moderated and at the conclusion the representative of smallholders pleaded that with farmer awareness at a very low level not to add on to the RSPO P&C and to keep it simple.

The GA 13 resolutions rightly focus on streamlining costs and efficient smallholder certification.

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