Workers and Communities: Major Concerns
The standards developed by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a voluntary, multi-stakeholder organization, is one of the first “sustainability” standards for a major global commodity. Officially launched in 2007, the standard includes social, environmental and agronomic performance standards. Whilst it is still in its early days of implementation, RSPO membership now consists of 40 percent of palm oil producers, while RSPO certified area now covers 966,000 hectares, producing an estimated annual production of about 9 percent of global palm oil, or 46 million tonnes annually. The numbers are growing in significance, but there has yet to be a comprehensive assessment of the changes or improvements brought about by RSPO certification.
Wild Asia’s Social Specialist Toh Su Mei was invited to present a paper on this topic at the recently held RSPO RT9 Conference in Sabah, Malaysia.
This paper attempts to start a discussion on the realities on the ground in the Malaysian context, particularly on the emerging changes of RSPO implementation on oil palm workers and communities, one of the key areas of interest in sustainability. The findings discussed in this paper are based on the authors’ experience as external advisors and/or assessors with RSPO-aspirant companies in Malaysia and other relevant research.
The paper charts the circumstances and changes that has been observed by the authors since the trial-run of the standard since 2004, and juxtaposes the standard’s ideals with the realities faced by oil palm and mill managers, workers and communities, as well as those created by institutional challenges. The emerging issues include decent living wages, working conditions, migrant workers and community engagement. Finally, it also discusses the barriers and spaces for opportunities that RSPO creates for oil palm workers and communities affected by oil palm development; and for the producers themselves.
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Click on the image or the ‘Download Now’ button below the image.Realities of RSPO Implementation: A Preliminary Consideration on Workers and Communities (2011) (291 downloads )
For more RT9 presentations, visit RT9 2011.