RSPO Not without its Critics

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has been the primary advocate for the cultivation of sustainable palm oil. Despite the organization’s efforts and progress some conservationists claim that the group is still not doing enough. In a recent article published by New Hope 360 – a sustainable marketing advocacy group – journalist Kelsey Blackwell referenced a number of RSPO certification loopholes and areas of ineffectiveness. The first and most daunting statistic that Blackwell points to is the fact that only 15% of palm the palm oil produced in Southeast Asia is shipped to the U.S. and Europe; the rest is consumed in Asian markets where sustainability is not a large issue. In addition, the RSPO program currently certifies palm oil that is not raised on what is considered “high-value conservation forest.” What is considered “high-value” is left open to debate within the countries producing palm oil. The article also points out that oil cultivated in areas that were deforested before 2005 can still be certified sustainable despite the potential damaging effects that these plantations may have on the surrounding ecosystems.
            The point here is not to demonize a relatively successful conservation program. The point behind these criticisms is that, while a great deal of work has been done, there is still great work to be done. Blackwell suggests additional standards that the RSPO could adopt to be even more effective than they already are. She states that certain loopholes could be addressed by introducing a biomass standard “The standard would require the maximum amount of gases released by plantations to be based on the forest's original biomass. Areas with dense, old growth trees or carbon-rich peat would rank higher on the biomass standard than new-growth forests.”