At the end of June, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which gathers actors from several sectors of the palm oil industry, reported that they had suspended Swiss company Nestlé´s membership for failing to follow the RSPO´s Statutes and Code of Conduct. However, Nestlé “doesn´t seem to care”, warned Friends of the Earth International.
“Voluntary certification has no means of enforcing minimal standards if corporations don’t mind being dumped”, because they even try to promote their own certification schemes, stated the environmental federation on their Twitter account.
.@Nestle  dumped by @RSPOtweets  for admin breaches and they don’t seem to care. Voluntary certification has no means of enforcing minimal standards if corporations don’t mind being dumped – #BindingRules  are the only way to keep corporations in check. https://t.co/tmboQLxFT9 pic.twitter.com/Qq6CZRLWFm 
— Friends of the Earth (@FoEint)
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has over 3000 members representing stakeholders in the palm oil supply chain, such as producers, processors, retailers, banks and investors, among others. The network has developed a series of social and environmental criteria that the member companies must follow in order to be certified as sustainable.
According to a public statement issued by the RSPO in June 27, Nestlé failed to follow some administrative procedures related to the delivery of reports and action plans in 2016 and 2017. Nevertheless, Friends of the Earth International warned that the Swiss company didn´t seem to care about this decision.
Beyond this specific case, the environmental federation has been warning for years that voluntary certification mechanisms, such as RSPO, are controlled by companies that are interested in advancing their business, without taking into account the opinions of the local communities where the production activities take place and that this has proven to be inefficient.
“RSPO has failed to deliver what they promised. They are existing now for 15 years while deforestation has not stopped, land grabs are even bigger than any time before”, said Bertrand Sansonnens, international coordinator at Pro Natura – Friends of the Earth Switzerland in an interview with Real World Radio.
“Voluntary certification is somehow a false solution because it’s a way of diverting the public from the real questions. It gives the people the impression that they do the right thing”, added the activist, who is the European member of the steering group of Friends of the Earth International´s Forest and Biodiversity Program.
Sansonnens made reference to some of the most serious impacts of palm oil monoculture plantations in Global South countries, especially those where there are Friends of the Earth member groups with which Pro Natura has worked. Among them, he highlights large-scale deforestation, land grabbing, displacement of communities and indigenous people, destruction of livelihoods and local production means, among other things.
Friends of the Earth International, the world´s largest environmental network, with grassroots organizations in approximately 80 countries, highlighted in their social media that binding rules are the only way to keep companies under control. The federation has been working for years for the United Nations to adopt a binding treaty that allows to force companies to respect human rights around the world.
According to Sansonnens, Nestlé and other companies want to develop their own certification schemes, “their own greenwashing”, so that they can control and inform the public at their convenience.
“So what we need is really international rules instead of such schemes of certification, international rules that force the companies to follow the rules of the countries where they operate but also the countries where they are based and don’t play with these different standards”, he concluded.