Supporting South Sumatra to become a RSPO certified jurisdiction

In early November, the IDH team visited the 14th annual round table on sustainable palm oil (RSPO RT). Although as a certification neutral organisation IDH is not an RSPO member, IDH is keen to support all actors working towards sustainable palm oil. Our focus this year was on the jurisdictional approach to certification, as IDH is supporting the efforts of South Sumatra to become one of the first RSPO certified jurisdictions in the world.

IDH partner Pak Bupati Beni Hernedi (bupati of Musi Banyusin district, which expects to be the first district in South Sumatra to be certified) spoke about his understanding and vision for the process, including how to reconcile challenges. Pak Beni outlined the need to develop a package of support that combines both production gains and protection of natural resources. His speech linked jurisdictional certification for palm as an integral part to support the sustainable landscape and green growth plan of the province to create an integrated production-protection strategy at a landscape level: livelihoods, fires, forest protection and suchlike.

The actual implementation requirements and mode of operation of the jurisdictional approach for certification is not yet clear however, and a number of questions for both producers and other supply chain actors remain open. For example, the question on how to maintain HCV/HCS once identified remains unanswered. For a better understanding of these questions and how they might be resolved, IDH arranged a side event for the South Sumatra landscape which brought together more than 30 people from right across the supply chain as well as NGOs and civil society organisations.

It was a valuable opportunity for multiple stakeholders to voice their concerns and expectations. For example, it was great to hear from international buyers such as M&S and PepsiCo clarify their expectations on enforcement and resolution of land conflicts, and hear suggestions from parties such as Rainforest Alliance and ADM Capital on how different components of the supply chain can play a role. To date, the RSPO has been a mainly private sector initiative. However, it is increasingly recognized that industry level change will require involvement and participation of local and national governments, and the jurisdictional approach offers an opportunity for this.

Some key takeaways we took away are:

  • There is strong appetite for such the jurisdictional approach amongst multiple actors
  • Addressing the concerns of buyers is critical to the credibility of the program. Enforcement of environmental rules and policies needs to be shown to be done and shown to be effective.
  • The roles and contributions from all of the actors, particularly the most downstream need to be clarified. At the moment, it is still difficult for those that are separated from the production (especially those such as retailers which only purchase palm oil as part of a finished product) to understand how they could contribute.
  • Understanding how to incentivize actors that are not yet RSPO certified, but are located within jurisdictions targeted for jurisdictional certification under RSPO, needs greater thought.
  • It is essential that the RSPO clarifies the likely status of oil generated from jurisdictions (for example, mass balance, certificate etc.), as this will affect how buyers engage with the approach.