Production of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) exceeded 15M tonnes last year, representing 20% of global crude palm oil (CPO) production, according to new data published by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

The volume was reached five years after reaching the 10M tonne milestone in 2018, the RSPO said on 29 September.

“Growth is coming from progress within the existing RSPO membership base, as well as increasing scale through new memberships globally,” the association said.

Total RSPO membership continued its annual growth trend with a +5.4% increase, while sanctions related to ACOP non-submissions fell to its lowest level of 76 members.

Key highlights of the report included an increase in global certified hectarage (+6.6%) and CSPO production (+4.8%) driven by gains in Indonesia, Latin America and Africa-among RSPO members who operate oil palm plantations and mills.

CSPO production in Latin America now represented one-third of the region’s total production, while in Africa, the number of certified plantations and mills doubled in 2022 with African regional CSPO share reaching 11.7%.

At the time of the report, RSPO members’ share of global palm oil production totalled 42% of 77.6M tonnes, 20% of which was certified as CSPO with the additional 22% in the process of RSPO certification.

RSPO membership among Independent Smallholder (ISH) groups increased significantly last year to 166, of which 81% (groups) were now certified. Female participation also increased, with women representing 28% of ISH members within groups.

RSPO ISH certification had also expanded from three countries in Southeast Asia to six globally, with the first certifications obtained in Africa and Latin America.

This development is due to assistance by local mills, RSPO downstream members and NGO members, as well as financial grants from the RSPO Smallholder Support Fund (RSSF), according to the RSPO.

Despite a challenging macro-economic situation, global palm oil trade and refining also increased in 2022, the report said.

Physical CSPO volumes traded, refined and processed by RSPO members increased by more than 11.0%, with significant room to grow in this section of the supply chain as, at the time of the report, RSPO members accounted for 78.3% of global palm oil traded.

These intermediate CSPO volumes were then used to manufacture industrial and consumer goods for downstream consumption. Accounting for physical CSPO and RSPO Credits, total downstream consumption increased by more than 7.4% in 2022.

With downstream consumption, RSPO members with Consumer Goods Manufacturers (CGM) operations reported a more than 6.2% increase in total CSPO purchased, with total CSPO exceeding 7M tonnes with strong growth in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Latin America, North America and elsewhere.

For RSPO members with retailer operations, total CSPO volumes exceeded 1.5M tonnes, with high levels of certified uptake in Europe and North America, and growth through membership expansion in Asia and South Africa.

CSPO uptake in Europe (excluding biofuels) and North America totalled almost 90% last year, while volume and uptake growth continued in the big four markets – Indonesia, India, China, Malaysia – despite being price sensitive markets impacted by global geopolitical and economic disruptions.

Despite challenging conditions, CSPO volumes in other regions also continued to increase, the RSPO said.

CSPO uptake in Japan increased to an estimated +26.7% in 2022, up from less than 3% in 2018. Australia and New Zealand also registered estimated CSPO uptake of more than 40%, with positive uptake also in Mexico and South Africa.

According to RSPO trade data for January-June 2023, the growth trend in CSPO production and trade is expected to continue globally.

“This is encouraging, as it signals that global markets remain supportive to make palm oil sustainable across the entire supply chain,” the RSPO said.

However, against a backdrop of upcoming trade regulations centred on individual aspects of sustainability – with the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) due to be introduced on 31 December 2024 – the RSPO said it was embarking on a digital transformation, initially focusing on enhancing certification and traceability systems, to support RSPO members with compliance.

Established in 2004, the RSPO promotes the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products through credible global standards and stakeholder engagement.