Certification standards

Below you will find an overview of those certification systems FONAP accepts. 

RSPO Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which was set up in 2004 on the initiative of the WWF, is an international alliance of palm oil producers, traders, companies, banks, and non-governmental organisations. Its aims are to develop a sustainable standard for palm oil, to unite the various stakeholders and to advance their activities. The stakeholders come from seven sectors of the palm oil industry: palm oil producers, processors and traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks/investors, and environmental and social non-governmental organisations.

The first shipments of certified palm oil and palm kernel oil became commercially available in 2008. In 2015 around 11 million tonnes of palm oil were certified by RSPO. This is almost 20 per cent of the palm oil on the world market. No other certification scheme is as extensive. The RSPO has more than 3,100 members, of whom almost 400 are in Germany. Germany is thus one of the strongest supporters of the RSPO.

RSPO has drawn up eight principles and 43 criteria (RSPO P&C) that define sustainable palm oil production. These global guidelines are intended to ensure that the basic rights of indigenous landowners, local communities, plantation workers and smallholders and their families are respected and fully considered. Members of RSPO also promise to ensure that no further areas of rainforest or areas of high conservation value will be cleared for palm oil production. The principles and criteria also specify that mills and farms must keep their environmental impacts to a minimum.

The following eight principles must be observed by RSPO members:

  1. Commitment to transparency
  2. Compliance with applicable laws and regulations, for example with regard to the legal use of farmland
  3. Commitment to long-term economic and financial viability
  4. Use of appropriate best practices by growers and millers, for example in order to maintain soil fertility and prevent erosion
  5. Environmental responsibility and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity
  6. Responsible consideration of employees, and of individual and communities affected by growers and mills
  7. Responsible development of new plantings
  8. Commitment to continuous improvement in key areas of activity and in the use of agro-chemicals

In February 2016 RSPO launched the voluntary RSPO NEXT initiative with the aim of advancing the implementation of more stringent criteria. RSPO NEXT certification involves voluntary add-on criteria, compliance with which is monitored by independent auditing institutes. These criteria include a no-deforestation policy that allows companies to develop a palm oil plantation only in areas where vegetation and soil contain low stocks of carbon. Planting of oil palms on peatland is prohibited. Producers must also respect smallholders’ and workers’ right and develop outreach programmes to support them with sustainability and business skills. Another aspect of RSPO NEXT is enhanced transparency and traceability. 

ISCC International Sustainability and Carbon Certification

The International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) standard was developed in 2006 in a multi-stakeholder process involving growers, processors, traders and representatives of environmental and social organisations. The standard aims to establish environmental and social sustainability criteria for all types of farmed biomass.

It verifies compliance with the requirements of the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive (EU RED) and Germany’s sustainability ordinances on the use of biofuel and bioelectricity (Biokraft-NachV) as they relate to biomass. ISCC Plus can be used to certify sustainable palm oil and palm kernel oil.

The ISCC standard has been recognised in Germany since July 2010 (the ISCC DE standard). In July 2011 the European Commission recognised the ISCC EU standard for all types of biomass and biofuels. The new ISCC PLUS system was launched in 2012, enabling users who are already certified under ISCC DE and ISCC EU to extend their sustainability certification to other sectors such as food and feed. ISCC is now one of the most successful certification schemes in the world. More than 12,908 certificates have been issued to over 3,000 users of the system in 100 countries. Thirty-three independent certification bodies monitor the criteria of the ISCC standard. The interests of the different stakeholders are represented by the non-profit association ISCC e.V., which currently has 86 members (October 2016).

Applicants for ISCC PLUS certification must abide by the following six principles:

  1. Biomass must not be produced on land with high biodiversity value or high carbon stock.
  2. Agricultural production must comply with good agricultural practices. This includes protection of soil fertility, water quality and water quantity, reduction of emissions and minimal use of pesticides.
  3. Safe working conditions must be promoted through training and education, use of protective clothing and proper and timely assistance in the event of accidents.
  4. Biomass production must not violate human rights, labour rights or land rights. It must promote responsible labour conditions and workers' health, safety and welfare and be based on responsible community relations.
  5. Biomass production must comply with all applicable regional and national laws and relevant international treaties.
  6. Good management practices must be implemented.

Further information on ISCC PLUS certification can be found in our factsheet.

RSB Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials

The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) is an international initiative that brings together producers, companies, non-governmental organisations, experts, governments and inter-governmental organisations with the aim of promoting the sustainable production and processing of biomaterials. It currently has about 100 members.

The RSB was established in 2007 as the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, which set out to promote sustainable bioenergy. In response to the growing demand for biomaterials, it was renamed the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials in March 2013. Biomaterials are products produced from biomass. They include bioenergy products such as liquid biofuels, as well as biomass and biogas for the generation of heat and electricity. Bioplastics and biocosmetics, bio food additives, bio-based chemicals and biofuels are also classed as biomaterials.

In 2008 the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials established a standard for sustainably produced biomaterials that is based on 12 principles and 37 criteria.

RSB members must abide by 12 principles that cover the following areas:

  1. Legality
  2. Planning, monitoring and continuous improvement
  3. Greenhouse gas emissions
  4. Human and labour rights
  5. Rural and social development
  6. Local food security
  7. Conservation
  8. Soil
  9. Water
  10. Air quality
  11. Technology, inputs and waste
  12. Land rights

Further information on the work of the RSB and its criteria and principles can be found here: http://rsb.org/ 

RAINFOREST ALLIANCE Certification

The Rainforest Alliance (RA) developed its standard in the 1990s in cooperation with the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). The Rainforest Alliance was actively involved in the development of the RSPO standard and has also aligned its standard with ISCC in order to ensure that the various standards for sustainable oil palm cultivation are harmonised as far as possible.

SAN is a coalition of non-profit, independent conservation groups which seek to promote environmentally and socially sustainable agriculture. It encourages producers to switch from conventional farming to good agricultural practices that are more sustainable. Certification covers measures such as regular training of tropical farmers in rural areas and ongoing technical support. The standard is based on the three pillars of ‘healthy environment’, ‘social equity’ and ‘economic viability’, and it comprises ten principles and 99 criteria.

Since 1992, more than 1.2 million farms in 42 countries have been awarded Rainforest Alliance certification. These farms, which include both family-run smallholdings and plantations, cover in total 3.5 million hectares and cultivate more than 100 crops – mainly coffee, cocoa, bananas and tea, but also oil palms (as at May 2016).

The SAN standard is organised according to ten principles and 99 criteria. The ten principles that must be complied with to gain SAN certification cover the following areas:

  1. Social and environmental management system
  2. Ecosystem conservation
  3. Wildlife protection
  4. Water conservation
  5. Decent treatment of workers and good working conditions
  6. Occupational health and safety
  7. Good community relations
  8. Integrated crop management
  9. Soil conservation and soil management
  10. Integrated waste management

Further information on Rainforest Alliance certification can be found in our factsheet.