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EIA exposé inspires overhaul of sustainable palm oil safeguards

Exposé of dodgy audits inspires resolve to overhaul “sustainable palm oil” safeguards


KUALA LUMPUR: Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) members today responded to a report exposing critical flaws in the industry body’s certification of ‘sustainable’ palm oil by supporting a resolution to improve the quality, oversight and credibility of assessments by third-party auditors.

EIA Forest Campaigner and report author Tomasz Johnson said: “It is reassuring that most RSPO members have accepted the evidence presented in our report and have voted for this resolution. But the extent to which this resolves the problems we have identified will only be clear when the recommendations are implemented.

“The damage done by the absence of oversight in this system is extensive and serious. We expect to see an immediate reaction by the RSPO that reflects this. EIA will be closely monitoring progress in delivering the Resolution.”

Released on Monday, the report Who Watches the Watchmen? by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) with Malaysian NGO Grassroots revealed major flaws in the system of scrutiny which underpins the RSPO’s guarantee of sustainable production.

Critical problems identified include:

  • auditors producing fraudulent reports that disguise violations of the RSPO’s rules and greenwashing the violation of indigenous rights;
  • auditors failing to identify indigenous land rights claims;
  • auditors failing to identify the risk of trafficked labourers being used in plantations;
  • auditors producing substandard assessments that fail to identify the habitat of critically endangered species;
  • clear conflicts of interest between palm oil producers and the companies they are hiring to audit their operations.

As RSPO members met for in Kuala Lumpur this week for their 12th Annual General Assembly, the report strongly urged them to work to restore credibility to the certification process by supporting a resolution seeking quality audits and improved scrutiny; ‘Resolution 6h’ was adopted on Thursday by 158 votes to 209.


  • Interviews are available on request; please contact Forest Campaigner Tomasz Johnson via [email protected] or telephone +44 20 7354 7960.



  1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.
  1. Grassroots’ mission is to promote protection of forests and communities who call them home through participating in projects that have the same aim and initiating worthwhile efforts to further forest conservation. It engages in projects that contribute to its mission, partnering with civil society groups and engaging corporate and government sectors.
  1. Who Watches the Watchmen? is available to read and download at


Environmental Investigation Agency
62-63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY
Tel: +44 207 354 7960