In ten years, the production of palm oil has more than doubled, to the detriment of tropical forests. The aim of the Rond Table on the sustainable production of palm oil is to promote methods of sustainable production.
Crisps, packet soups, biscuits, baby milk, tinned sardines, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, cereals, chocolate, ice cream etc, the number and quantity of products containing palm oil is impressive. Since palm oil can also be refined to make bio diesel fuel, and with productivity per hectare (between 4 and 6 tonnes/ha) which is far higher than that of its competitive oil-producing plants – soya productivity is only 0.36 tonnes/ha – it can easily be seen why palm tree growing has seen considerable expansion in the last few years – between 1994 and 2004, Indonesian production increased by 400% – becoming the leading source of vegetable oil in the world, ahead of soya.
In 2002, discussions started between the leading players in the sector to reduce the adverse effect of this cultivation on ecosystems, culminating in 2004 in the creation of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), which brought together palm tree planters, producers and distributors of palm oil, retailers, banks, investors, nature protection organisations like the WWF, and development organisations. Its aim was to promote sustainable methods of palm oil production. The RSPO led to the creation of a certification process, whose criteria were developed jointly with the WWF.
The criteria are both environmental and social. They are intended for example to protect biodiversity, in particular through the minimum use of chemical products, and to ensure respect for human rights, including respect for the territorial rights of local populations and of freedom of association. The audit and certification are carried out by independent organisations approved by the RSPO.
Both RSPO and the certification organisations accredited by it have a strict policy of transparency. All the documents are publicly consultable (certification requirements, minutes of meetings, certification reports, etc.).