In July, a number of environmental commentators talked about the state of certification in the palm oil market. Scott Poynton of The Forest Trust said parts of the industry – including his own organisation – are moving ‘beyond certification’.
Specifically, Poynton said: “The [top reasons the commodity supply chains need to move beyond certification] is that [first] the standards are too weak and have fallen behind the pace of innovation and best practice in the field. The second is that certification stifles innovation and introspection.”
But Poynton – and many other green-oriented organisations – fail to appreciate what palm oil certification in its genuine form is actually about. The benchmark that he and groups like Greenpeace use is certification by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The model for this was Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for sustainable wood products.
But the model that these systems attempt to imitate – and the word is used deliberately – involves technical standards, particularly in relation to quality management systems. These standards are supposed to set norms with regard to processes; and they are supposed to provide a basis against which performance can be measured.