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RSPO: Stakeholder collaboration key to address transboundary haze

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 2 — In a recent webinar organised by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), panellists acknowledged that to address the issue of transboundary haze in South-east Asia, it needed collaboration among all stakeholders in the region.

During the discussion titled ‘Beyond Borders: Haze and the Need for Collaboration’, panellists stressed the importance of cooperation and collaboration among palm oil’s key stakeholders, social non-governmental organisations (NGOs), governments and consumers to create long-term and sustainable solutions to prevent transboundary haze.

“RSPO members have developed and committed to some of the most stringent global standards for any agricultural commodity, which, among other key criteria, include no deforestation, no new planting on peat and no exploitation, which seek to minimise the negative externalities of oil palm production, including haze.

“While there have been fewer forest fires this year, owing to the wetter weather, this does not mean that we can be complacent.

“There is still a lot to do. We need to use this time now to not only prepare for the next haze season, but to ensure we implement long-term solutions that can eliminate haze altogether,” said RSPO Secretariat’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Bakhtiar Talhah.

He added that RSPO standards are shown to work, as proven last year and this year, where RSPO detected zero fires within its independent smallholders’ concessions.

“Furthermore, only 0.41 per cent of hotspots detected from June 1 to September 30 this year were within RSPO member concessions.

“Currently, only 19 per cent of global palm oil is RSPO certified, hence more needed to be done to encourage the switch to sustainable palm oil,” said Bakhtiar.

He also reminded that other stakeholders down the supply chain such as financial institutions, businesses and consumers all have a role to play in tackling haze.

World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Michael Guidon, who attended the webinar, said financial institutions in the region are starting to take action, with increased adoption of the ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ commitments, and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) is setting environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) guidelines on responsible financing as a result of haze episodes.

“Companies should take action by joining multi-stakeholder platforms like RSPO to develop public time-bound sustainability plans.

“While it is clear that eliminating haze requires collaborative action across the palm oil supply chain, consumers are important stakeholders who can influence company practices,” said Michael.

Bakhtiar had also during the webinar shared several ways consumers can help prevent haze, among others, he suggested that consumers to look for the RSPO trademark that signifies the use of certified sustainable palm oil in the products they buy.

“For Singapore consumers, they can refer to PM Haze’s supermarket guide to haze-free products.

“Reach out to your favourite brands and encourage them to make the switch,” he said.

As for panellist IOI Corporation Berhad Surina Ismail she said the corporation, recognising its role as a stakeholder, is currently developing a three-stage fire management guideline as part of current initiatives to tackle haze.

“Fire prevention and monitoring, emergency response and post-fire analysis and programmes — of which IOI has been intensifying its efforts in the third stage, organising socialisation, dialogue, and awareness programmes with communities to emphasise no burning.

“The use of fire to clear land is counterproductive,” said Surina.

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