Thursday, September 26, 2013

Where are all the updates on the RSPO's "sustainable palm oil" activities?

A friend and colleague just sent me a link to Liberty Mutual Insurance Company’s corporate responsibility arm, called The Responsibility Project.  A 2010 article titled “A Better Future For Palm Oil” 
applauds the Dutch palm oil market’s plans “to only purchase palm oil from Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) members to ensure the sustainability of the palm oil supply chain. The 450 members of the RSPO, an international multi-stakeholder group formed in 2004, represent almost 50% of total palm oil production.”

I wonder how that is working out.  There does not seem to be a follow-up article, and as you know, we have seen the RSPO regulations and have questioned their ability to monitor their “members’” activities.  We have also commented on the absence of smallholders from RSPO’s activities, due to their belief that getting smallholders to participate is “difficult.”  And we have wondered, sardonically, why that might be . . . We have applauded the RSPO’s announcement that they will work to bring smallholders into the certification process, but have questions if that might only mean addressing those farmers who sharecrop for the large plantations, and even then, we have remained skeptical that this will ever happen, at least in Aceh Timur.

We are thinking of writing to Liberty Mutual and asking if their corporate responsibility department’s responsibilities extend to been tracking the “progress” of the Dutch palm oil market.  It seems as if some people feel that as soon as you say the word “sustainability” it’s like walking into an embassy and shouting “political asylum--” a big omnipotent mechanism will creak to life and relieve you of the, well, responsibility of having to do anything else or think any more about it.

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