25 November 2015

EIA report on weak assessments and audits in RSPO

A report released by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) report on weak assessments and audits in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) HCV assessments

An EIA report released at RSPO’s annual roundtable meeting criticizes certification bodies and assessors. Case studies such as those featured in the report helped lead to the creation of the HCV Assessor Licensing Scheme (ALS).

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) requires that any new oil palm plantings from November 2005 must not have replaced primary forests or any area required to maintain or enhance any High Conservation Values (HCV). Additionally, for any new oil palm plantings from 1st January 2010, growers are required to follow the New Planting Procedure (NPP). As part of the NPP, several assessments and studies are required, including a Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA), HCV assessment, soil suitability study, land use change analysis and identification of greenhouse gas emissions and areas of high carbon stock. In addition to these technical studies, a robust Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process is required.

A report put out by EIA shows, there have been weaknesses identified in this system – including poor quality HCV assessments. It was partially in response to these kind of weak HCV assessments, that the HCV Resource Network launched the HCV Assessor Licensing Scheme (ALS) in 2014. The HCV case studies provided in the EIA report pre-date the creation of the ALS.
The objective of the ALS is to improve the competency of HCV assessors and the quality of HCV assessments over time. The ALS does this by:

  1.  Issuing licences to HCV assessors with relevant qualifications and experience
  2.  Providing normative guidance, such as an HCV Assessment Manual and reporting templates, and
  3. Evaluating all HCV reports produced by licensed assessors – with peer reviews and a quality panel check

In RSPO, for all New Planting Procedures (NPP) companies are required to hire a licensed HCV assessor who must follow the ALS procedures. This is to ensure there is a mandatory minimum standard for the acceptable quality of HCV assessment reports. If assessors submit HCV assessment reports to the ALS which are found to be unsatisfactory, they will lose their licence.

The titles of all HCV assessment reports received from licensed assessors are listed on our website. Public summaries of satisfactory HCV assessment reports (those that pass the ALS quality control) are posted on our website. If there is no public summary, it means that either the assessor did not go through the ALS quality control (either because the HCV report was produced before 2015 or because the assessor has evaded the system – which is a violation of the NPP), or that the HCV assessment report was deemed unsatisfactory after quality control.

Though there are many factors involved in sustainable palm oil production, the aim is that the ALS will contribute to the improvement of HCV identification. This must be accompanied by strong SEIA and other assessments, as well as a robust FPIC process. Beyond the NPP stage, any HCVs identified must be maintained through good management and monitoring overtime by companies, growers and land managers.

For queries on HCV assessment reports or licensed assessor performance, please contact qualitymanager@hcvnetwork.org.


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