IUCN NL compares sustainability certification for palm oil

Palm oil is a major driver of biodiversity loss. Voluntary standards attempt to address biodiversity decline. Yet there is huge variation between standards on criteria related to biodiversity protection and level of assurance. A new benchmark report by IUCN NL helps companies and governments move towards sustainable palm oil, by providing insight in the quality and in the level of assurance of sustainability standards for palm oil.

Headerfoto: Aerial view of palm oil trees photo by Nazarizal Mohammad on Unsplash

The report assesses the rigor of biodiversity and assurance requirements of the six sustainability standards with the largest market share in certified palm oil production. The report concludes that the newest RSPO standard of 2018 provides the best standard to protect biodiversity. The report also provides recommendations on how companies can help improve the rigor of its implementation in practice.  

The International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) and Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards score average and should address some areas of concern where scores are weaker. The national standards of Indonesia (ISPO) and Malaysia (MSPO), are far from satisfactory and risk providing a sustainability stamp without robust criteria and assurance.

Sustainability standards to address biodiversity loss

Palm oil is used in food, cosmetics, cleaning products and for biofuel. It is an important crop for global food security and an economic pillar of development countries. While palm oil is a major driver of biodiversity loss, replacing palm oil at a large scale with other oils would most likely increase the production of less land-efficient oil crops, displacing rather than halting the significant global biodiversity losses caused by palm oil (IUCN, 2018). However, limiting or halting the further expansion of palm oil (such as according to the moratorium in Indonesia) remains highly relevant. 

IUCN NL supports the role of robust voluntary agrocommodity sustainability standards as an important element in a mix of governance measures that aim to improve sustainability of agricultural production, trade and consumption.

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