The RSPO is a global certification scheme for palm oil that certifies palm oil as ‘sustainable’. Yet this word means absolutely nothing, as RSPO members – the biggest supermarket brands in the world: (Unilever, Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oreal, Avon, Mars, Mondelez, Cargill, Danone and more) continue with illegal indigenous landgrabbing, deforestation, human rights abuses, slavery and violence on their palm oil plantations.
This is why Palm Oil Detectives advocates for a full boycott on these global brands because of their palm oil corruption. Here is some collected peer-reviewed research, OSINT and investigative journalism about these issues.
Read #research from @EIA_News @Greenpeace @AP @NZZ @Global_Witness @crresearch @FOEInt @ECCHRBerlin how the @RSPOtweets is #greenwashing #ecocide #deforestation #extinction #illegal #landgrabbing Join the #Boycott4Wildlife on #palmoilTweet
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Research: Does RSPO palm oil certification stop deforestation, human rights abuses, illegal land-grabbing and does it meet sustainability metrics?
The RSPO: 14 Years of Failure – An Open Letter from Friends of the Earth and 100 Human Rights NGOs (2014)
Which supermarket brands (RSPO members) cause deforestation, human rights abuses for palm oil? Palm Oil Detectives (2021)
Investigative journalism, OSINT investigations into the RSPO and ‘sustainable’ palm oil
Research: Do certified sustainable palm oil plantations support more animal species?
Oil palm plantations support much fewer species than do forests and often also fewer than other tree crops. Further negative impacts include habitat fragmentation and pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions.Emily B. Fitzherbert, Matthew J. Struebig, Alexandra Morel, Finn Danielsen, Carsten A. Brühl, Paul F. Donald, Ben Phalan, How will oil palm expansion affect biodiversity?,
Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Vol 23, 2008, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2008.06.012.
Currently certified grower supply bases and concessions in Sumatra and Borneo are located in large mammal’s habitat and in areas that were biodiverse tropical forests less than 30 years ago. We suggest that certification schemes claim for the “sustainable” production of palm oil just because they neglect a very recent past of deforestation and habitat degradation.Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, Alena Velichevskaya, Certified “sustainable” palm oil took the place of endangered Bornean and Sumatran large mammals habitat and tropical forests in the last 30 years, Science of The Total Environment, Vol 742, 2020,
We analyse consequences of the globally important land-use transformation from tropical forests to oil palm plantations. Species diversity, density and biomass of invertebrate communities suffer at least 45% decreases from rainforest to oil palm.Barnes, A., Jochum, M., Mumme, S. et al. Consequences of tropical land use for multitrophic biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Nat Commun 5, 5351 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms6351
We found that certified plantation concessions that are committed to deforestation-free production are limited in their ability to prevent further biodiversity loss, due to the past conversion of forest habitats to plantations. Concession holders can improve forest habitats through corridor development and other measures, which would mitigate, but not prevent, further biodiversity loss.Hideyuki Kubo, Arief Darmawan, Hendarto, André Derek Mader,
The effect of agricultural certification schemes on biodiversity loss in the tropics,
Biological Conservation, Volume 261, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2021.109243.
Research: Does RSPO palm oil certification stop deforestation, human rights abuses, illegal land-grabbing and does it meet sustainability metrics?
We find positive effects on prices and income from sale of certified products. However, we find no change in overall household income and assets for workers. The wages for workers are not higher in certified production.Oya, C., Schaefer, F. & Skalidou, D. The effectiveness of agricultural certification in developing countries: a systematic review. World Dev. 112, 282–312 (2018).
There was no significant difference was found between certified and non-certified plantations for any of the sustainability metrics investigated, however positive economic trends including greater fresh fruit bunch yields were revealed. To achieve intended outcomes, RSPO principles and criteria are in need of substantial improvement and rigorous enforcement.Morgans, C. L. et al. Evaluating the effectiveness of palm oil certification in delivering multiple sustainability objectives. Environ. Res. Lett. 13, 064032, 2018.
This article argues that the form of sustainability offered by certification schemes such as the RSPO fetishes the commodity palm oil in order to assuage critical consumer initiatives in the North. This technical-managerial solution is part of a larger project: the “post-political” climate politics regime (Swyngedouw) that attempts to “green” the status quo.Commodifying sustainability: Development, nature and politics in the palm oil industry (2019) World Development
Volume 121, September 2019, Pages 218-228
- The palm oil industry is neither sustainable nor a viable development model.
- Certification represents a technical fix which neglects underlying dynamics of power, class, gender and accumulation.
- The fetishised commodity ‘certified sustainable palm oil’ has no impact on the regional scale of expansion.
- Working conditions in the plantations and mills entrench social inequality and poverty.
From: Commodifying sustainability: Development, nature and politics in the palm oil industry (2019) World Development
Volume 121, September 2019, Pages 218-228
“Both Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) schemes are failing to ensure that palm oil is being produced and traded legally, let alone sustainably. They cannot be relied upon by overseas consumers concerned about their role in the global chain that leads to deforestation.”Deceased Estate: Illegal palm oil wiping out Indonesia’s national forest, Greenpeace Indonesia, Oct 2021
No significant difference was found between certified and non-certified plantations for any of the sustainability metrics investigated, however positive economic trends including greater fresh fruit bunch yields were revealed. To achieve intended outcomes, RSPO principles and criteria are in need of substantial improvement and rigorous enforcement.Evaluating the effectiveness of palm oil certification in delivering multiple sustainability objectives. (2018), Morgans, C. L. et al. Environ. Res. Lett. 13, 064032.
RSPO: 14 years of failure to eliminate violence and destruction from the industrial palm oil sector
Friends of the Earth and 100 other human rights and environmental NGOS co-signed this letter in 2018
During its 14 years of existence, RSPO – the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil – has failed to live up to its claim of “transforming” the industrial palm oil production sector into a so-called “sustainable” one. In reality, the RSPO has been used by the palm oil industry to greenwash corporate destruction and human rights abuses, while it continues to expand business, forest destruction and profits.
RSPO presents itself to the public with the slogan “transforming the markets to make sustainable palm oil the norm”. Palm oil has become the cheapest vegetable oil available on the global market, making it a popular choice among the group that dominates RSPO membership, big palm oil buyers.
They will do everything to secure a steady flow of cheap palm oil. They also know that the key to the corporate success story of producing “cheap” palm oil is a particular model of industrial production, with ever-increasing efficiency and productivity which in turn is achieved by:
- Planting on a large-scale and in monoculture, frequently through conversion of tropical biodiverse forests
- Using “high yielding” seedlings that demand large amounts of agrotoxics and abundant water.
- Squeezing cheap labour out of the smallest possible work force, employed in precarious conditions so that company costs are cut to a minimum
- Making significant up-front money from the tropical timber extracted from concessions, which is then used to finance plantation development or increase corporate profits.
- Grabbing land violently from local communities or by means of other arrangements with governments (including favourable tax regimes) to access land at the lowest possible cost.
Those living on the fertile land that the corporations choose to apply their industrial palm oil production model, pay a very high price.
Violence is intrinsic to this model:
- violence and repression when communities resist the corporate take over of their land because they know that once their land is turned into monoculture oil palm plantations, their livelihoods will be destroyed, their land and forests invaded. In countless cases, deforestation caused by the expansion of this industry, has displaced communities or destroyed community livelihoods where
- companies violate customary rights and take control of community land;
- sexual violence and harassment against women in and around the plantations which often stays invisible because women find themselves without possibilities to demand that the perpetrators be prosecuted;
- Child labour and precarious working conditions that go hand-in-hand with violation of workers’ rights;
- working conditions can even be so bad as to amount to contemporary forms of slavery. This exploitative model of work grants companies more economic profits while allowing palm oil to remain a cheap product. That is why, neither them or their shareholders do anything to stop it.
- exposure of workers, entire communities and forests, rivers, water springs, agricultural land and soils to the excessive application of agrotoxics;
- depriving communities surrounded by industrial oil palm plantations of their food sovereignty when industrial oil palm plantations occupy land that communities need to grow food crops.
RSPO’s proclaimed vision of transforming the industrial oil palm sector is doomed to fail because the Roundtable’s certification principles promote this structural violent and destructive model.
The RSPO also fails to address the industry’s reliance on exclusive control of large and contingent areas of fertile land, as well as the industry’s growth paradigm which demands a continued expansion of corporate control over community land and violent land grabs.
None of RPSO’s eight certification principles suggests transforming this industry reliance on exclusive control over vast areas of land or the growth paradigm inherent to the model.
Industrial use of vegetable oils has doubled in the past 15 years, with palm oil being the cheapest. This massive increase of palm oil use in part explains the current expansion of industrial oil palm plantations, especially in Africa and Latin America, from the year 2000 onward, in addition to the existing vast plantations areas in Malaysia and Indonesia that also continue expanding.
On the ground, countless examples show that industrial oil palm plantations continue to be synonymous to violence and destruction for communities and forests. Communities’ experiences in the new industrial oil palm plantation frontiers, such as Gabon, Nigeria, Cameroon, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Peru, Honduras, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, are similar to past and ongoing community experiences in Indonesia and Malaysia.
For example, in its public propaganda, RSPO claims it supports more than 100,000 small holders. But the profit from palm oil production is still disproportionally appropriated by the oil palm companies: in 2016, 88% of all certified palm oil came from corporate plantations and 99,6% of the production is corporate-controlled.
RSPO also claims that the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is key among its own Principles and Criteria. The right to FPIC implies, among others, that if a community denies the establishment of this monoculture in its territory, operations cannot be carried out. Reality shows us, however, that despite this, many projects go ahead.
Concessions are often guaranteed long before the company reaches out to the affected communities. Under these circumstances, to say that FPIC is central to RSPO is bluntly false and disrespectful.
RSPO also argues that where conflicts with the plantation companies arise, communities can always use its complaint mechanism. However, the mechanism is complex and it rarely solves the problems that communities face and want to resolve.
This becomes particularly apparent in relation to land legacy conflicts where the mechanism is biased against communities. It allows companies to continue exploiting community land until courts have come to a decision. This approach encourages companies to sit out such conflicts and count on court proceedings dragging on, often over decades.
Another argument used by RSPO is that industrial oil palm plantations have lifted millions of people out of poverty. That claim is certainly questionable, even more so considering that there is also an important number of people who have been displaced over the past decades to make space for plantations.
Indigenous communities have in fact lost their fertile land, forests and rivers to oil palm plantations, adversely affecting their food, culture and local economies.
The RSPO promise of “transformation” has turned into a powerful greenwashing tool for corporations in the palm oil industry. RSPO grants this industry, which remains responsible for violent land grabbing, environmental destruction, pollution through excessive use of agrotoxics and destruction of peasant and indigenous livelihoods, a “sustainable” image.
What’s more, RSPO membership seems to suffice for investors and companies to be able to claim that they are “responsible” actors. This greenwash is particularly stunning, since being a member does not guarantee much change on the ground. Only recently, a company became RSPO member after it was found to deforest over 27.000 hectares of rainforest in Papua, Indonesia.
Certification is structurally dependent on the very same policies and regulation that have given rise to the host of environmental devastation and community land rights violations associated with oil palm plantations. These systemic governance issues are part of the destructive economic model, and embedded in state power.
For this reason, voluntary certification schemes cannot provide adequate protection for forests, community rights, food sovereignty and guarantee sustainability. Governments and financiers need to take responsibility to stop the destructive palm oil expansion that violates the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples.
As immediate steps, governments need to:
- Put in place a moratorium on palm oil plantations expansion and use that as a breathing space to fix the policy frameworks;
- Drastically reduce demand for palm oil: stop using food for fuel;
- Strengthen and respect the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples to amongst others, self-determination and territorial control.
- Promote agro-ecology and community control of their forests, which strengthens local incomes, livelihoods and food sovereignty, instead of advancing industrial agro-businesses.
- Aalamaram-NGOAcción Ecológica, Ecuador
- ActionAid, France
- Arbres amics
- Amis de la Terre France
- ARAARBA (Asociación para la Recuperación del Bosque Autóctono)
- Asociación Conservacionista YISKI, Costa Rica
Asociación Gaia El Salvador
- Association Congo Actif, Paris
- Association Les Gens du Partage, Carrières-sous-Poissy
- Association pour le développement des aires protégées, Swizterland
- BASE IS
- Bézu St Eloi
- Boxberg OT Uhyst
- Bread for all
- Bruno Manser Fund
- CADDECAE, Ecuador
- Campaign to STOP GE Trees
- CAP, Center for Advocacy Practices
- Centar za životnu sredinu/ Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina
- CESTA – FOE El Salvador
- CETRI – Centre tricontinental
- Climate Change Kenya
- Coalición de Tendencia Clasista. (CTC-VZLA)
- Colectivo de Investigación y Acompañmiento Comunitario
- Collectif pour la défense des terres malgaches – TANY, Madagascar
- Community Forest Watch, Nigeria
- Consumers Association of Penang
- Corporate Europe Observatory
- Cuttington University
- Down to Earth Consult
- El Campello
- Environmental Resources Management and Social Issue Centre (ERMSIC) Cameroon
- Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
- FASE ES , Brazil
- Fédération romande des consommateurs
- FENEV, (Femmes Environnement nature Entrepreneuriat Vert).
- Focus on the Global South
- Forum Ökologie & Papier, Germany
- Friends of the Earth Ghana
- Friends of the Earth International
- GE Free NZ, New Zealand
- Global Alliance against REDD
- Global Justice Ecology Project
- Global Info
- Gobierno Territorial Autónomo de la Nación Wampís , Peru
- Green Development Advocates (GDA)
- CameroonGreystones, Ireland
- Groupe International de Travail pour les Peuples Autochtones
- Grupo Guayubira, Uruguay
- Instituto Mexicano de Gobernanza Medioambiental AC Instituto Mexicano de Gobernanza Medioambiental AC
- Integrated Program for the Development of the Pygmy People (PIDP), DRC
- Justica Ambiental
- Justicia Paz e Integridad de la Creacion. Costa Rica
- Latin Ambiente, http://www.latinambiente.org
- Les gens du partage
- LOYOLA SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY, MANILA
- Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste, AC
- Maiouri nature, Guyane
- Mangrove Action Project
- Milieudefensie – Friends of the Earth Netherlands
- Movimento Amigos da Rua Gonçalo de Carvalho
- Muyissi Environnement, Gabon
- Nature-d-congo de la République du Congo
- New Wind Association from Finland
- NOAH-Friends of the Earth Denmark
- Oakland Institute
- OFRANEH, Honduras
- Ole Siosiomaga Society Incorporated (OLSSI)
- ONG OCEAN : Organisation Congolaise des Ecologistes et Amis de la Nature et sommes basés en RD Congo.
- OPIROMA, Brazil
- Otros Mundos A.C./Amigos de la Tierra México
- Paramo Guerrrero Zipaquira
- PROYECTO GRAN SIMIO (GAP/PGS-España)
- Quercus – ANCN, Portugal
- Radd (Reseau des Acteurs du Développement Durable) , Cameroon
- Rainforest Foundation UK
- Rainforest Relief
- ReAct – Alliances Transnationales
- RECOMA – Red latinoamericana contra los monocultivos de árboles
- Red de Coordinacion en Biodiversidad , Çosta Rica
- REFEB-Cote d’Ivoire
- Rettet den Regenwald, Germany
- ROBIN WOOD
- Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia)
- Salva la Selva
- School of Democratic Economics, Indonesia
- Serendipalm Company Limited
- Sherpa , The Netherlands
- SYNAPARCAM, Cameroon
- The Corner House, UK
Towards Equitable Sustainable Holistic Development
- TRAFFED KIVU ,RD. CONGOUNIÓN UNIVERSAL DESARROLLO SOLIDARIO
University of Sussex, UK
- UTB ColombiaWatch Indonesia!
World Rainforest Movement
- Youth Volunteers for the Environment Ghana
Have a look at these quarterly and at-a-glance reports by Mighty Earth, they show the RSPO members (palm oil manfacturers, traders, processors and retail brands) at the centre of deforestation. Click on image to go to most recent report. This information below is a stark contrast to the greenwashing WWF Palm Oil Scorecard, which allocates many of these same brands with a ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ label and encourages people to buy from them! We call out this form of greenwashing and #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife!
Retailers and banks at the heart of palm oil deforestation
Source: Rainforest Action Network (RAN)’s March 2020 Whitepaper
How Unilever and other global brands continue to fuel Indonesia’s fires (2019)
Loopholes in the palm oil supply chain allow RSPO members to continue to destroy forests with fire July 2020
Retailers and FMCG Giants do not take deforestation seriously enough to warrant change (2020)
Which brands cause deforestation, human rights abuses for palm oil?
Ecocide & Corruption Whistle-blowers on Twitter
With so much misinformation, greenwashing and BS out there. It is difficult to know who is telling the truth.
Here’s a list of NGOS, individuals and media outlets you can trust for clear information that exposes the corruption going on around so-called ‘sustainable’ palm oil, deforestation and many other issues.
Also these media outlets, individuals and NGOs regularly cover other topics like deforestation for soy, meat, gold, timber, cocoa, coffee and other commodities. They also expose corruption, abuse, violence and death of indigenous people, land grabs etc and how this links to global companies.
There are now literally thousands of people who are a passionate supporters and activists in the #Boycott4Wildlife – This list is not ignoring these people, you are all amazing people and the contribution you are making is very important!. However this list here focuses on people or NGOs who publish and produce news, research, books, photojournalism, podcasts or TV documentaries. So that everyone else knows who to listen to in the gigantic social media cacophony.
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Palm Oil Detectives is completely self-funded by its creator. All hosting and website fees and investigations into brands are self-funded by the creator of this online movement. If you like what I am doing, you and would like me to help meet costs, please send Palm Oil Detectives a thanks on Ko-Fi.