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Monday March 28, 2011

A shot in the arm for CSPO

RSPO revamp to better position certified sustainable palm oil initiative

PETALING JAYA: The upscale revamp of Kuala Lumpur-based Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) secretariat, under the stewardship of new secretary-general Darrel Webber, is poised to better position the certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) initiative to attain more credence and expanded market penetration worldwide.

Established in 2004, the RSPO is a not-for-profit association represented through membership by multi stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry to develop and implement the global RSPO certification standards for sustainable palm oil.

The multi stakeholders comprise oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and social or developmental NGOs.

Darrel Webber says the next focus of RSPO would be to expand CSPO to major global edible oil markets.

“As the association becomes more established and globalised, the RSPO executive board and its members acknowledge that the internationally represented association requires a solid and experienced secretariat with strategic, communications and technical expertise to tackle the rapid growth phase going forward,” Webber said.

Webber, who joined RSPO in January, told StarBiz that CSPO, since making its debut on the world market in 2008, had been on a steady rise.

Since the introduction of the RSPO standards, there has been a phenomenal increase in CSPO production, reflected by the 100% year-on-year growth from 2009 to 2010. In just over two years, 7% of global palm oil, or 3.7 million tonnes, consists of CSPO.

The average uptake of CSPO produced was 26% in 2009 and 56% in 2010. This is an exceptional advancement rate for any market innovation, more so within the sustainable sphere.

Webber said the next focus of RSPO would be to expand CSPO to major global edible oil markets like China and India, while continuing to strengthen its significance in Europe.

“We are planning a strategic outreach campaign in China and India in the next two years, with the possibility of setting up RSPO representative offices in these major consuming nations,” he said.

China, for example, recently held a forum discussing the use and promotion of CSPO among industry leaders and policymakers in the republic which encourages further commitment from RSPO.

“Contrary to popular belief and validated by many recent findings, consumers in China and India are topping the list as among the most environmentally aware communities in the world,” Webber explained.

“The awareness at consumer level of sustainable palm oil is ever increasing among discerning and socially conscious societies.

“This feedback clearly denotes that there is increasing awareness, reception and demand for sustainable products among global communities and consumers, resulting in the rise of responsible consumerism.

“Within the consumer sphere for sustainable palm oil, the next high point would be the worldwide launch of RSPO's trademark, which will be stamped on packaging and labels for products containing CSPO as raw material or feedstock,” he said.

Webber deems that with the official RSPO trademark, the adoption of sustainable palm oil will be amplified while completing the loop from upstream to downstream within the supply chain, resulting in exponential growth of CSPO worldwide.

RSPO was in the process of registering the trademark globally, he said.

Commenting on the progress of the RSPO certification, Webber said there was significant interest in the emerging oil palm sectors of Africa and South America.

“We are seeing more producing markets joining RSPO, meeting its principles and criteria requirements and later, opting for certification,” he said.

Contrary to the negative perception that RSPO was no longer relevant, Webber maintained: “RSPO's ultimate vision is to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil towards a better world.

“RSPO has also been receiving numerous enquiries and interests about membership and certification from all over the world, even Russia, which attests to the fact that what we are doing is pertinent and central to the sustainable palm oil agenda,” he said.

To date, RSPO has over 500 members including big names like Walmart, Unilever, Woolsworth, Cadbury, Sainsbury, Tesco, Boots, HSBC and Rabobank.

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