RSPO Next is a voluntary add-on that existing members can adhere to with stricter requirements on deforestation, development on peat, fires and human rights.
After a six-day audit by third party, independent certification body, Control Union Certifications, Daabon's four palm oil estates in Northern Colombia, including 122 smallholder farms who supply the mill, were given the green light for compliance to RSPO Next.
Deforestation: New plantations can only be grown in areas with low carbon stocks and areas must be set aside for conservation.
Forest fires: While previous criteria included a simple ban on the use of fires except as a last case resort, Next growers must also have plans to prevent, monitor and combat fire on and around plantations.
Peatlands: Growers must not plant on peatland.
Greenhouse gases (GHGs): GHGs must be monitored, managed and reduced across the whole organisation and publically reported.
Labour rights: Members must negotiate a compensation package for workers in countries where there is no defined decent living wage.
Pesticides: Paraquet, linked with Parkinson’s disease and banned in the EU, is not permitted.
A full set of the additional criteria can be seen here.
Headquartered in Santa Maria, Colombia, Daabon’s oil palm plantation of around 9,950 hectares has been RSPO-certified since 2010, producing Identity Preserved sustainable palm oil.
'Challenging but doable'
The CEO of Daabon, which also grows coffee, cocoa and bananas, Manuel Julian Dávila, said achieving the RSPO Next add-on reconfirmed the agri-food firm's commitment to sustainability. “We are especially proud to be the first group globally, together with our 122 small farmers, to show that RSPO NEXT Certification is challenging, but doable, also for smallholders.”
RSPO NEXT policy was drawn up at the end of 2015. According to Stefano Savi, RSPO's global outreach and engagement director, the lapse in time between its creation and its uptake by industry is down to RSPO's consensus-based modus operandi.
“Policies are important but building a solid system of implementation, based on consensus, is even more crucial and can take time," he told FoodNavigator.
“This is why over the last one and a half years we have clarified RSPO NEXT processes and trained certification bodies to be able to perform the certification. On the grower side, certification also takes time from the initial audit, through the closure of any non-compliances and final certification."
100% of Daabon mills and supply base will be RSPO Next certified for a period of five years as long as the Colombian firm passes the annual assessment that checks compliancy with RSPO’s Principles and Criteria.
The RSPO is keen to see the add-on spread among other palm oil suppliers who are willing and able to sign up to RSPO NEXT to commit to it, said Savi, while stressing it was “not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ for all RSPO members”.
No south-east Asian Next certifications yet - but IOI makes public pledge
“Growers [from other regions such as Indonesia and Malaysia] have indeed expressed interest, and there have also been public pledges towards achieving RSPO NEXT certification,” he said, citing the example of the IOI Group.
“There is always room for more. We believe the best way to pull the palm oil supply chain towards RSPO NEXT certification, is for buyers to make a commensurate effort to source RSPO NEXT and certified sustainable palm oil –this boosts demand and creates incentives for growers to certify through RSPO NEXT.”