Oil Palm Industry Economic Journal Vol. 11 (1) March 2011 p. 1-11

RSPO P&C – The Challenge of Making the Principles and Criteria Operational

Carl Traeholt and Christian Schriver
Received:    Accepted:    Available Online:


The Round-table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Principle and Criteria(P&C) took effect in 2007. Since then, 5% of the RSPO oil has been certified as ‘sustainably produced’. Nevertheless, deforestation continues at an alarming rate, leading to intensified criticism of the palm oil industry’s practices. This study assesses members’ capacity to comply with the RSPO P&C beyond the moment of certification. Thirty-six companies operating 4.25 million hectares of oil palm plantations generate USD 3 billion in net profit but only two have set up in-house capacity to implement the RSPO P&C. Limited understanding of the RSPO P&C at conceptual level, rather than lack of commitment, is a key weakness amongst the industry stakeholders. Concurrently, environmental NGO often give technical criticism rather than offer broad operational support to the industry, which reduces the general perception of the RSPO P&C to specific regulations that require reactive measures instead of adopting and integrating it conceptually in a proactive manner at the earliest planning stages of the operations. Finally, ambiguous HCV-evaluation and assessments, and lack of a common standard add to the confusion and often leave industry players in unreasonable and costly management situations.

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