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23 September 2010

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Sustainability certification
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Indonesia

Eco-friendly palm oil initiative censures company linked to deforestation

The Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body the sets standards for eco-friendly palm oil production, on Thursday said Indonesian palm oil producer Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (SMART) breached its sustainability criteria and faces expulsion, reports AFP.

"The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil takes all infringements of its Code of Conduct and Principles and Criteria very seriously," the group said in a statement on its website.

"Members who have been found to not be in compliance and who continue to be in non-compliance with the RSPO regulations could ultimately face sanctions, including the suspension and, eventually, the termination of their membership of the RSPO."

RSPO's statement comes after a Greenpeace investigation found evidence of SMART clearing peatlands and rainforests in Central Kalimantan and Sumatra in violation of RSPO principles. A subsequent audit—commissioned by SMART—largely confirmed Greenpeace's findings, although the company initially tried to claim the 'verification excercise' cleared it of wrong doing.

The audit also found that SMART failed to get necessary environmental permits before clearing forest in eight out of 11 concessions investigated.

SMART has lost a number of major customers—Unilever, Kraft, Nestle, Burger King, and General Mills—over the revelations.

The RSPO said it has also asked SMART's parent company, Singapore-listed Golden Agri-Resources Ltd (GAR), to stop claiming it is an RSPO member.

"GAR should not publicly suggest that it is in the process of obtaining RSPO certification of all its operating units, nor should the company publicly claim that it plans to become an RSPO member," read the statement from RSPO. "GAR is not a member of the RSPO, nor has the RSPO yet received a membership application from the company. The Panel encourages GAR to submit a full and complete application for membership and it has specified to the company which documentation RSPO would need in order to review the application, including a sufficiently challenging time-bound plan for certification."

RSPO's public rebuke of Smart is unusual for the body, which has criticized in some environmentalist circles for failing to take action against errant members.

The RSPO was established in 2004 in response to concerns that oil palm expansion was driving large-scale destruction of tropical rainforests and peatlands, putting biodiversity at risk and generating substantial greenhouse gas emissions. The multi-stakeholder body meets on a regular basis to establish and refine criteria for reducing the social and environmental impacts of palm oil production.

Palm oil is a highly profitable oil crop used in a wide variety of products including processed foods, cooking oil, and cosmetics and soaps. It is also increasing used for biodiesel.

Indonesia and Malaysia account for nearly 90 percent of palm oil production.

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