The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a multi-stakeholder initiative on that was set up in 2004 in response to a global call for susainably produced palm oil. The push came initially via requests from big buyers in Europe and has now come to include members and participants from many different backgrounds, including plantation companies, manufacturers and retailers of palm oil products, environmental NGOs and social NGOs, and actors from many countries that produce or use palm oil. The principal objective of the RSPO is "to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil through co-operation within the supply chain and open dialogue between its stakeholders."
The RSPO Secretariat is based in Kuala Lumpur with a satellite office in Jakarta. The Executive Board is made up of members from each of the stakeholder groups, including oil palm growers (4 seats), processors (2), manufacturers (2), retailers (2), banks/investors (2), environmental NGOs (2) and social NGOs (2). Executive Board members are elected by the General Assembly which meets every year.
PAN AP's involvement in the RSPO began when PAN AP Chairperson Dr. Irene Fernandez was invited to participate in the Criteria Working Group (CWG) to develop Principles and Criteria on sustainable palm oil production in the RSPO. The impetus for her involvement (and PAN AP's eventual deeper involvement) was the paraquat campaign. PAN AP has taken up this campaign concertedly in support of workers and partners who have identified paraquat as a particular problem in plantations and farms, and to advocate for bans and phase outs of paraquat in Asia and globally. The current RSPO Principles and Criteria require that producers are working to reduce or eliminate paraquat, but use of the chemical is not banned.
In line with the campaign and our broader work on pesticides, PAN AP sees the RSPO process as a concrete way of pushing for the phase out and elimination of paraquat and other pesticides that continue to cause such harm to workers' health in oil palm plantations and damage to the environment. It is also a venue to push for stringency in issues such as workers' rights, native customary rights (NCR), greenhouse gas emissions and other aspects of plantation-based agriculture.