RSPO certification : Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

The RSPO certification, issued by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, ensures sustainable production of palm oil, respecting strict environmental and social standards. The RSPO certification brings together various stakeholders to promote responsible production and consumption. Here are the steps to obtain this certification, the accredited bodies and the benefits for the actors of the supply chain.

What is RSPO certification: Roundtable on sustainable palm oil ?

The RSPO certification is an ecologist that ensures that palm oil is produced sustainably, meeting strict environmental and social conditions. This food certification is issued by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an international organization of palm oil stakeholders - including producers, processors, distributors, NGOs, and consumers.

Faced with these challenges, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established in 2004, bringing together diverse stakeholders to promote sustainable palm oil production and consumption. This label ensures that RSPO-certified oil comes from plantations that respect the environment, workers and local communities.

The organization’s mission is to promote ethical palm oil production and consumption, aiming to minimize negative impacts on the environment and local communities.

To achieve this objective, the RSPO has implemented a strict and continuous audit system, entrusted to accredited independent bodies. Their role is to verify that RSPO members comply with established standards, adapted to their specific activity and production method.

Three sets of standards exist :

  • Principles and Criteria for Oil Palm Growers
  • Supply Chain Certification for Stakeholders Processing or Handling Palm Oil
  • The Standard for Small Independent Producers, designed to facilitate their certification

As for marketing, RSPO-certified palm oil can follow one of four supply chain models :

  • Segregation, guaranteeing an exclusively certified origin
  • The Balanced Mass, allowing a mixture of certified and uncertified oil in compliance with a precise ratio
  • The Preserved Identity, ensuring complete traceability of the oil, from planting to the finished product
  • Certified Palm Oil Credits, representing units of volume of certified oil sold independently of the physical product

Which organisations offer RSPO certification ?

RSPO certification is granted by independent and accredited entities, ensuring that RSPO members meet established standards. Two categories of organizations can award RSPO certification: certification bodies and accreditation bodies.

Certification bodies

These bodies conduct on-site audits of palm oil producers, processors, distributors and final consumers. They check whether these members comply with the environmental and social requirements of the RSPO standards. After a positive evaluation, they award certificates to compliant members and conduct an annual performance check. Certification bodies must adhere to the RSPO’s criteria of competence, impartiality, transparency and quality.

Currently, 22 certification bodies have been accredited by the RSPO worldwide.

Accreditation bodies

Accreditation bodies assess the performance of certification bodies, ensuring that they comply with international standards and RSPO guidelines. They are responsible for granting or withdrawing accreditation based on the competence and reliability of the certification bodies.

These entities must also comply with the RSPO requirements regarding competence, impartiality, transparency and quality.

To date, Assurance Services International (ASI) is the only accreditation body recognized by the RSPO. Independent, he specializes in the accreditation of environmental and social certification systems, collaborating with the RSPO since 2007 to oversee certification bodies globally.

What are the specific RSPO certification requirements for my industry ?

RSPO certification targets all actors involved in the palm oil value chain, including producers, processors, distributors, and end consumers. The requirements for obtaining this certification vary according to the role of each actor and its production process.

There are three main RSPO standards applicable to different segments of the supply chain: the Principles and Criteria, the Supply Chain Certification, and the Standard for Small Independent Producers.

Principles and criteria

This standard applies to oil palm producers, whether they operate large plantations or are grouped into small entities. It sets out the criteria for environmental and social sustainability. These criteria cover legal compliance, protection of natural ecosystems, responsible waste management, the rights of workers and local communities, as well as the need for transparency and traceability in operations. Producers are subject to periodic audits by independent certification bodies to validate their adherence to the RSPO Principles and Criteria.

Certification of the supply chain

This certification is intended for entities physically handling palm oil or its derivatives, such as refiners, manufacturers, traders, and retailers. To ensure the credibility of the sustainable palm oil market, they must comply with the RSPO Supply Chain Certification Standard. Guidelines include rigorous inventory management, clear distinction between certified and non-certified products, accurate transaction documentation, and effective communication regarding quantities and supply chain schemes. Compliance checks are carried out regularly by recognised certification bodies.

The Standard for Small Independent Producers

This standard is specifically designed for smallholders not affiliated with a group, growing less than 50 hectares of oil palm and selling their productions locally or regionally. It specifies the sustainability requirements to which these producers must comply, such as compliance with the law, conservation of natural resources, ecological waste management, respect for the rights of workers and neighbouring communities, and the maintenance of exemplary transparency and traceability. Small producers are also subject to regular audits by approved bodies, confirming their compliance with this standard.

What are the steps to obtain an RSPO certification ?

Obtaining an RSPO certification is a multi-step process, which varies according to your activity and production method. Here is a guide to the key steps to becoming RSPO certified:

Step 1 : Become a member of the RSPO

To apply for an RSPO certification, it is essential to become a member of the RSPO in the first place. Members can be diverse actors in the palm oil supply chain, each with different roles and responsibilities.

As a member, you must meet the membership requirements, pay the annual fee, adhere to RSPO standards and rules, and share your progress through the Annual Progress Communication Report (ACOP).

Step 2 : Choose the Supply Chain Model

The RSPO offers four supply chain models for marketing sustainable palm oil: Segregation, Balanced Mass, Identity Preserved, and Certified Palm Oil Credits. Each model offers different levels of traceability, cost and availability.

It is important to select the model that best suits your business needs and market.

Step 3 : Select the applicable standard

Three standards define sustainability criteria according to your segment in the supply chain: Principles and Criteria (for producers), Supply Chain Certification (for processors and handlers), and the Standard for Small Independent Producers (for smallholders).

Choose the standard that corresponds to your activity and your mode of production.

Step 4 : Prepare for the Audit

An audit by an independent, accredited certification body is required to verify your adherence to RSPO standards. To prepare well, implement the requirements of the chosen standard by developing necessary procedures, plans, records and documents.

It is also crucial to consult relevant stakeholders and publicly announce your intention to pass the audit, while providing the required information to the certification body.

Step 5 : Complete the Audit

The audit is a procedure that includes a practical on-site evaluation as well as a document analysis, conducted by the certification body. It thoroughly examines all aspects of the current RSPO standard through direct observations, interviews with staff, sampling and rigorous controls. This evaluation is organized according to a predefined plan and approved by the member and the certifying body.

The audit phase concludes with a closing meeting where the certification body shares the results achieved, highlighting any areas of non-compliance.

Step 6 : Obtain the certificate

In case of a positive audit, the member receives the RSPO certificate, guaranteeing its compliance with the requirements of the RSPO standard. This certification is valid for five years, provided that the member continues to meet these standards and undergoes annual control audits.

This certificate gives the member the right to highlight their certified status and promote their commitment to sustainable practices. It also allows them to actively participate in the sustainable palm oil market by having the opportunity to buy or sell this resource, in accordance with the selected supply chain model.

How much does an RSPO certification cost ?

Obtaining an RSPO certification requires an investment whose costs differ according to various factors such as the type of business, the mode of production, the supply chain structure and the selected certification entity. These costs can be classified into three main categories: RSPO membership fees, audit and certification fees, and licensing and transactional fees.

RSPO membership fees

RSPO membership fees are mandatory annual contributions for members, fluctuating according to membership type, production or processing volume, and overall revenue. This information is detailed on the RSPO website. For example, a small palm oil producer of less than 50,000 tonnes per year has to pay $2,000, while a large manufacturer processing more than 500,000 tonnes per year owes $30,000 per year.

Audit and certification fees

The costs associated with auditing and certification reflect expenses related to verifying compliance with RSPO standards. These fees are charged by accredited certification bodies according to the complexity of the audit, the time required, the number of auditors required, travel costs, among other criteria. It is essential to request several quotes to get the best rate. These costs must be covered for each initial or recurring audit, usually on an annual basis.

License and transaction fees

For trade in RSPO-certified palm oil, license and transaction fees apply. These fees are managed by the RSPO via the PalmTrace platform, which guarantees the traceability and transparency of transactions. The amount of these fees varies depending on the supply chain model adopted, as well as the volume and type of product traded. The PalmTrace website provides a complete breakdown of these fees. For example, a producer selling RSPO-certified raw palm oil with a segregation model must pay USD 2 per tonne, while an RSPO-certified palm oil credit buyer is charged USD 1 per tonne.

How long does it take to get an RSPO certification ?

The time to acquire an RSPO certification varies depending on several elements, including the type of activity performed, the degree of preparation, the availability of certification entities and the volume of non-conformities identified. Typically, it is possible for a company to obtain this certification within one to two months after resolving the last non-compliance, or following the initial audit if no non-compliance is detected, from the final certification meeting.

Steps in the RSPO certification process

The RSPO certification process is structured around the following phases :

  • Identification of its role in the supply chain: producer, processor, merchant, or manufacturer of consumer products.  
  • RSPO membership by paying an annual fee.  
  • Choice of traceability model: identity preserved, segregation, controlled mass, or purchase of credits.  
  • Obtaining certification according to the appropriate RSPO standard: principles and criteria, supply chain, or small independent operators.  
  • RSPO PalmTrace licence application to market RSPO certified sustainable palm oil.

The validity and maintenance of RSPO certification

RSPO certification is valid for five years. To maintain it, it is necessary to renew its RSPO PalmTrace license annually and pass a control audit each year. The purpose of this audit is to ensure continued compliance with RSPO standards, while identifying and correcting any non-conformities. Every five years, a substantive evaluation is required for RSPO certification renewal.

What are the benefits of RSPO certification ?

RSPO certification offers a multitude of benefits for those involved in palm oil production, combining environmental, social and economic benefits. Let’s discover together what these advantages are :

For the oil palm producers

RSPO certified producers enjoy the following benefits :

  • Optimizing the management of their operations and practices, resulting in improved productivity, profitability and the ability to adapt to changes.  
  • Reducing their environmental impact, including reducing deforestation, preserving biodiversity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting water resources.  
  • Improved interactions with stakeholders, such as local communities, employees, authorities and NGOs, by adhering to human rights, labour standards and the principles of free, prior and informed consent.  
  • Easier access to more lucrative markets for RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil.

For processors, traders and manufacturers of consumer goods

These actors benefit from the following advantages :

  • Traceability and quality assurance of palm oil purchased, processed or sold through the RSPO certification system.
  • Reduce reputational, compliance and safety risks by avoiding the use of controversial or illegal palm oil sources.
  • A promotion of their brand image and commitment to social and environmental responsibility, corresponding to the expectations of consumers, investors and other stakeholders.
  • An active contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, promoting palm oil production that respects people and the environment.

For consumers

The benefits for consumers opting for RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil products are :

  • The guarantee of the origin and durability of the palm oil consumed, identifiable thanks to the RSPO label.  
  • The possibility of promoting responsible and ethical consumption, in line with their values and preferences.  
  • An active role in transforming the palm oil sector, encouraging the adoption of RSPO standards and promoting responsible practices.

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Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


Revue documentaire

Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


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