The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has suspended consumer goods giant Nestlé’s membership in the organisation and launched an investigation into deforestation claims made against palm oil trader Wilmar.
RSPO said Nestlé had not submitted the required Annual Communication on Progress (ACOP) for 2016 and its 2017 APOC did not include a time-bound plan, reported just-food on 28 June.
Submitting an ACOP report annual was compulsory for RSPO members to communicate their commitment to the organisation’s goals, as required by its Code of Conduct for Members 2017.
Existing RSPO members were required to line out in each annual ACOP report the actions they had taken in the year prior, what they planned to do in the coming year and their long-term intentions in the form of a time-bound plan of working towards producing or purchasing sustainable palm oil and applying any RSPO supply chain mechanisms.
The RSPO said that it had given Nestlé an opportunity to complete its 2017 ACOP report through “active engagement” but the company had “declined” to submit a time-bound plan.
Additionally, RSPO claimed Nestlé had an unpaid overdue membership fee of €2,000 (US$2,308).
Due to the suspension, Nestlé was starting on 27 June stripped of its right to vote in RSPO general assembly and to participate in RSPO task forces or work groups.
Additionally, the RSPO Supply Chain certificates given to several Nestlé facilities were suspended.
The RSPO had given Nestlé 30 days to inform its customers of the suspension, after which Nestlé’s certificates would automatically cease to be valid and it could no longer trade in certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) on RSPO’s PalmTrace platform.
However, some groups – including those principally opposed to palm oil – voiced their opposition to the suspension.
“A one-off action to suspend Nestlé for failing to report can’t be taken too seriously when the RSPO at the same time allows Indofood to continue selling ‘CSPO’ produced by children, unpaid women and exploited workers,” said Robin Averbeck, forest campaigner at the Rainforest Action Network.
In Singapore, the RSPO has also begun investigating claims made by Greenpeace that palm oil trader Wilmar International was linked to a firm guilty of deforestation.
The Greenpeace report tied Wilmar to palm oil producer Gama – accused of deforestation – and alleged that both companies were co-founded by Indonesian businessman Martua Sitorus and run by his family, wrote Jakarta Post on 28 June.
“An area twice the size of Paris has been destroyed by Gama, a palm oil business run by senior Wilman executives and members of their family,” Greenpeace said.
Greenpeace said that according to satellite images, Gama had destroyed 21,500ha of rainforest or peatland since then and that the firm was doing the “dirty work so Wilmar’s hands stay clean”.
The environmental activist group had called on the RSPO to enforce its membership rules and require Wilmar and Gama to register as a group as at least one Gama subsidiary, S&G Biofuels, was an RSPO member.
“We remain committed to transparency and accountability and take these allegations seriously. We are investigating the accusations brought on by Greenpeace,” said RSPO Indonesia country director Tiur Rumondang.
In 2013, Wilmar established a ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ (NDPE) policy, but it applied only to its own plantations and not its suppliers, Jakarta Post wrote.