ISPO-RSPO Comparative Study

FEBRUARY 23,2016

Bpk. Dwi Pratomo Sudjatmiko, InPOP National Project Director and Director of Perennial Crops at the Ministry of Agriculture, officially launches the ISPO-RSPO joint study. Photo:Nick Hurt/Jakarta/InPOP

17 February 2016, Jakarta –A joint-study between the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil Standard (ISPO) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was officially released in February marking a milestone for closer and effective cooperation between Indonesian and global palm oil sustainability standards.

The study on “Similarities and Differences of the ISPO and the RSPO Certification Systems” is a joint initiative, which is endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture. PT MutuAgung Lestari, an independent certification body with competency to conduct both RSPO and ISPO audits, was appointed to perform the study. Facilitated by The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the study represents a milestone in the formal collaboration between the two sustainability standards and has been touted as an important move toward streamlining the certification process within the Indonesian palm oil sector.

Speaking at the launch of the study, Chairperson of the ISPO Secretariat, Herdradjat Natawidjaja said, “This study marks a turning point in the international community’s effort to support and work with Indonesia’s laws and regulations relating to the palm oil sector. We are looking forward to strengthening the Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil certification standard and to improve market access for the industry.”

Bpk. Herdrajat Natawidjaja, head of the ISPO Secretariat, speaks to the BBC. Photo:Nick Hurt/Jakarta/InPOP

The main findings of the study showed that both ISPO and RSPO aim to contribute to the reduction in loss of forest coverage, reduction of Green House Gas from land use change and adherence to legal requirements. However, the study also demonstrated that there are different elements contained in the requirements of the two standards. Key differences include the protected area and High Conservation Value concepts, oil palm plantation land ownership procedures based on Indonesian law and the concept of Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) process present in RSPO, as well as procedures for new development of plantations.

One of the key recommendations determined by the study is to use the many common elements required by both certification systems as a basis to conduct a joint, more efficient ISPO audit and RSPO certification on plantation companies with an auditor who understands both systems.

"Findings from the joint-study showed how ISPO and RSPO could complement each other and offer robust solutions for all stakeholders beyond what each could accomplish alone. We look forward to continue this joint-effort to make sustainable palm oil the norm in Indonesia." Said Tiur Rumondang, Director of RSPO Indonesia.

The lively multistakeholder discussion during the launch proved to be an opportunity for frank and important debate from all sides of the palm oil sector. The recent plan announced by the French government to issue a biodiversity law that will triple import taxes on palm oil products was a key point of discussion.

“Now is the time for us all to work together, to fight together, to collaborate,” said panel moderator Delima Hasri Darmawan, head of the Indonesian Plantation Entrepreneurs Association (GPPI), who expressed disappointment over the lack of French diplomatic presence at the event.

Nevertheless, the event still attracted a variety of interested global governments including representatives from Denmark, Norway, the UK, the United States and Switzerland, some of who used the study's launch as an opportunity to express concerns to the Indonesian government on behalf of the world’s palm oil buyers.

“Currently, we recognize RSPO but not ISPO. Why? Because there is a communication issue, we don’t know where the palm oil comes from. There’s also a credibility issue, problems with governance and transparency. We will recognise ISPO when it is a true multistakeholder standard, when it is audited independently… ideally we would love to recognise ISPO,” said Andy Roby, Senior Forestry Advisor at the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).


Andy Roby, Senior Forestry Advisor at the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), speaks during the ISPO-RSPO Study launch event. Photo:Nick Hurt/Jakarta/InPOP

For the UNDP, the study signified an urgent global call for collective action on issues of sustainability.

“Last year’s COP21 summit in Paris emphasised the urgency for a coordinated global response to climate change. This study provides us with an essential stepping stone to enhance the cooperation needed to ensure the sustainability of Indonesian palm oil and should be seen as a good example acting on the global call to work together,” explained UNDP’s Asia Manager for the Green Commodities Programme, Tomoyuki Uno.

Moving forward, the ISPO Secretariat and RSPO are expected to continue high-level expert dialogue in order to develop concrete activities that mutually enhance the competiveness and sustainability of Indonesian palm oil. While the date is yet to be set it’s expected that the Indonesia Palm Oil Platform (InPOP) will host discussions with RSPO, ISPO, relevant government Ministries and other interested parties to move the study’s recommendations forward. A key follow-up item requested during the launch was to focus on high-conservation value (HCV) protection in plantations, one of the main discrepancies highlighted within the comparative study.

To learn more about the similarities and differences of the ISPO standard and RSPO standard download an electronic copy of the study via the following websites: or

To view more photos from the ISPO-RSPO study launch visit InPOP's Facebook page.

Download the study in Bahasa Indonesia here.

Download the study in English here.

Event Participants:


  • Moderator Delima Hasari Darmawan, Director of the Indonesian Plantation Entrepreneurs Association, GPPI
  • Herdrajat Natawidjaja, Head of the ISPO Sekretariat
  • Tiur Rumondang, Director of RSPO in Indonesia
  • Hariyadi, Mutungagung Lestari

Indonesian Government

  • National Land Agency, BPN
  • The Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil Secretariat, ISPO
  • The Ministry of Agriculture
  • The Ministry of Environment and Forestry, KLHK

Development Partners

  • Danish International Development Agency, Danida
  • International Finance Corporation, IFC
  • Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Norad
  • The Embassy of Switzerland
  • The Sustainable Trade Initiative, IDH
  • UK Climate Change Unit, UKCCU
  • United Nations Development Programme, UNDP
  • United States Agency for International Development, USAID

Private Sector

  • Asian Agri Group
  • Daemeter Consulting
  • First Resources Limited
  • Goodhope Holdings
  • Indonesia Palm Oil Association, GAPKI
  • Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge, IPOP
  • Indonesian Plantation Entrepreneurs Association, GPPI
  • Indonesian Vegetable Oil Industry Association, GIMNI
  • Kencana Agri Ltd
  • Mutungagung Lestari
  • Plantation Fund Management Board, BPDP
  • PP London Sumatra Indonesia Tbk, Lonsum
  • PT AJA Sertifikasi Indonesia
  • PT Bakrie Sumatera Plantations Tbk
  • PT Dharma Satya Nusantara, DSN Group
  • PT Evans Indonesia, PTEI
  • PT Ivo Mas Tunggal
  • PT Provident Agro Tbk
  • PT Sai Global Indonesia
  • PT Salim Ivomas Pratama Tbk
  • PT Sari Mas Permai
  • PT SMART, Sinar Mas
  • PT System Engineering Indonesia, SEI
  • PT Trakindo Utama
  • PT Triputra Agro Persada
  • Sampoerna Agro Tbk
  • TUV Nord Indonesia
  • TUV Rheinland Group
  • Wilmar International

Civil Society

  • Amanah
  • Fauna and Flora International, FFI
  • Indonesia Palm Oil Board, DMSI
  • Indonesia’s Smallholder Palm Oil Union, SPKS
  • Maastricht University, Netherlands
  • Mongabay
  • Oxfam
  • The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, RSPO
  • WWF-Indonesia