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Use ISPO to reach sustainability in Indonesia

Crud of palm oil

As Malaysian’s MSPO, Indonesian’s certification scheme (ISPO) aims to clean up the oil palm industry supply chain of the country. But all these standards still face a number of criticisms.

While the RSPO has been spending huge efforts since 2004 to be recognised and accepted as the benchmark sustainable certification system for palm oil produced with the best environmental, agricultural and social practices, it is still being criticised by those asking for a higher level of sustainability. The RSPO also faces the criticism of those against palm oil, and even sometimes by those producing RSPO certified palm oil, as their oil is poorly economically valorised and in some cases even not purchased as certified oil.

What are believed to be RSPO shortcomings by some has pushed the interest of creating additional certification schemes. While others are questioning the robustness, both environmental and in terms of social aspects, of these new certification systems, as well as their capacity to cope with credible field evaluation.

However, there are several points that we should not forget.

The RSPO is a voluntary scheme. As a result there will be plantations, large and small, that will not follow the RSPO system for a variety of reasons not analysed here. Furthermore, the RSPO is seen by some as a system set up by westerners, for western consumers.

On the other hand, the ISPO is a compulsory system, meaning that any oil palm plantation in Indonesia will have to be certified and follow best practices requested by the system. Without making any judgement about the robustness of the system, we have to acknowledge that any improvement, compared to business as usual, is good. Especially as this will positively affect all these plantations, existing or to come, that otherwise would never benefit from any sustainability system.