November 16, 2018
Global Watchdog Group SumOfUs Is Celebrating a Significant Victory Against Conflict Palm Oil
Members of the world’s largest certification scheme for palm oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), voted yesterday in a 212 to 19 vote to strengthen its sustainability standards under its Principles and Criteria, at RSPO's RT16 conference in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. All its members, including big brands Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, and palm oil growers and traders will now be required to abide by ‘No Deforestation, No Peat No Exploitation’ (NDPE) standards, although the consumer group is still urging the RSPO to do better at enforcing its own standards.
The announcement comes after thousands of SumOfUs members submitted responses to the RSPO's public consultation on its Principles & Criteria revision this summer. In emails sent directly to the RSPO, SumOfUs members called on the certification body to improve the rules which govern membership of the world's largest sustainable palm oil regulator by aligning them with the ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ standard. Ahead of the conference this week, thousands of SumOfUs members also tweeted at the RSPO, urging members to vote the right way, 'taking over' the conference's hashtag to spark the conversation at the biggest palm oil event of the year.
The vote comes on the heels of another significant victory for environmental and human rights activists against conflict palm oil giant Indofood. Indofood was sanctioned earlier this month by (RSPO) based on a 2 year old complaint backed by over 240,000 SumOfUs members, finding 10 legal offenses and “grave and methodical” breaches on Indofood palm oil mills and estates. Over 240,000 people signed a SumOfUs petition to push Indofood abuse into the public eye, after Rainforest Action Network (RAN), the International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF) and Indonesian labor rights organization OPPUK documented serious labor rights abuses on Indofood-owned plantations two years ago—including cases of child labor, unpaid workers, precarious employment and toxic working conditions. In addition to suspending Indofood, SumOfUs members are also calling on PepsiCo, Wilmar and Yum!Brands, that still hold joint venture partnerships with Indofood, to immediately cut ties with the company.
“The RSPO’s vote to adopt NDPE standards is a huge win for people power,” said Fatah Sadaoui, campaigns manager at SumOfUs “Together, thousands of SumOfUs members have persuaded a notoriously unregulated industry to vote to improve its own rules, and take concrete steps towards ending deforestation and exploitation on palm oil plantations. But actions will speak louder than words: The RSPO has been lax in enforcing its own rules in the past, and this vote will only make a difference if the RSPO is proactive about punishing rogue actors. It should start by kicking Pepsi's business partner and conflict palm oil grower Indofood off its certification scheme entirely, building on its recent timid sanctions of Indofood's mill and estate—and forcing the notoriously exploitative company to finally face the consequences of using child labour, unpaid workers, and forcing workers into precarious and toxic employment conditions.”