The global sustainable palm oil body, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), has definitively rejected a formal complaint brought against one of its members, Peru’s largest consumer goods company, Alicorp S.A.A., for sourcing palm oil produced on a plantation which the RSPO itself has previously condemned. The plantation is responsible for large-scale deforestation and human rights violations on indigenous lands in the Peruvian Amazon.
The Shipibo community of Santa Clara de Uchunya, together with their representative organisation, the Federation of Native Communities of the Ucayali (FECONAU), and allied organisations the Institute of Legal Defense (IDL) and Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), brought the complaint against Alicorp in March 2019, after it emerged that palm oil from the previously condemned plantation (operated by Ocho Sur P, previously Plantaciones de Pucallpa) was being purchased by Alicorp from several different millers. These include Industrias Palm Óleo, Oleaginosas Amazónicas (OLAMSA) and Oleaginosas del Peru S.A. (OLPESA). The latter is also subject to a RSPO complaint.
Having conducted an initial diagnosis, the RSPO rejected the complaint on 13 May 2019. RSPO’s stated reasons for the rejection included: Alicorp is neither a grower nor a miller; the RSPO’s Supply Chain Certification Standards “..allows for mixing of RSPO and non-RSPO certified oil palm products at any stage in the supply chain provided the overall site quantities are controlled”; and that the events involving Plantaciones de Pucallpa “are too remote to draw a causal link between those events and the Respondent.”
In response, Efer Silvano Soria, community chief of Santa Clara de Uchunya, said, “In 2015 when we first filed a complaint with the RSPO against Plantaciones de Pucallpa (now Ocho Sur P), we hoped it would provide some justice for our community. Our forests and rivers have been destroyed by companies certified by RSPO, all in the name of a false claim of ‘sustainability’.”
“Almost four years later, the RSPO has failed both us and the people who buy its certified products in good faith, but we will continue our struggle to protect our lands and restore the forest which has been destroyed,” he added.
“This case was the first of its kind in Peru and represented a test of the RSPO's credibility as it begins to expand in Peru and elsewhere in Latin America,” said Miguel Guimaraes Vasquez, President of FECONAU, “it is becoming clear that RSPO’s reach across the palm oil supply chain may be more minimal than we thought.”
“The case of Santa Clara de Uchunya showed that its complaint mechanism is toothless, as the RSPO first allowed Plantaciones de Pucallpa to withdraw without sanction for its operations violating RSPO requirements. And now it is unable or unwilling to prevent other certified members like Alicorp from buying the same previously condemned palm oil,” he added.
Alicorp is looking to obtain its first supply certification this year and aims to have RSPO certify 100 percent of its palm oil by 2030. However, the RSPO’s decision, which comes even as Santa Clara de Uchunya’s lands, lives and livelihoods remain under threat, raises questions as to the effectiveness of the RSPO standard in tackling rights violations and deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon across supply chains, even where the suppliers and purchasers are known to the RSPO.
“This decision undoubtedly affects the RSPO’s credibility. If this is how the RSPO system operates then their standard is no guarantee of sustainable, good practice, based on respect for Amazonian communities’ human rights. The public statement made by Alicorp talks about sustainability but fails to address the evidence already in the public domain tracing their palm oil to the previously condemned plantation," said Juan Carlos Ruiz Molleda, IDL lawyer.
Dr. Conrad Feather, FPP policy advisor, stated, “This decision to reject the complaint against Alicorp highlights significant flaws in the RSPO system, because it not only allows its members to purchase palm oil from sources which the RSPO has already condemned – as Alicorp has done with Ocho Sur P – but also permits the de facto exclusion of processing companies from bearing any responsibility for sourcing palm oil linked to deforestation and human rights violations.”
“This premature decision by the RSPO, prior to reviewing and seeking all the evidence that could have been presented during the complaint process, raises the question of the RSPO’s capacity to hold accountable actors in the supply chain when aggressive oil palm expansion comes at the cost of Indigenous Peoples’ forests and ways of life. As long as major companies like Alicorp, with significant foreign investment, legitimise and provide a market for condemned palm oil, the destructive modus operandi of plantations like Ocho Sur P will remain profitable while the RSPO’s impact will be minimised. This needs to be avoided.”
For further background information to the complaint, see: http://www.forestpeoples.org/en/palm-oil-rspo/press-release/2019/amazonian-community-fights-lands-are-destroyed-sustainable-palm
For more information, contact:
Miguel Guimaraes Vasquez (FECONAU): firstname.lastname@example.org; (+51) 061 603021
Juan Carlos Ruiz Molleda (IDL): email@example.com; (+51) 997 521 685
Tom Younger (FPP): firstname.lastname@example.org; +44 1608 652893