News Release: Aligned global questionnaires to ease assessment pressures for companies along the palm oil supply chain – less time on questionnaires leaves more time for action

15 November 2023

The Working Group for Aligning Palm Trader Performance Assessment, which represents nine organisations across the world that are involved in assessing palm oil supply chains, has today announced a major step forward in their collective efforts.

The Working Group, which includes CDP and SPOTT, has created an aligned set of questions, which builds on the Accountability Framework Initiative’s alignment process and Common Methodology. The aligned set will be used by all involved organisations and initiatives in their assessments from early 2024. It means that companies will be able to cut down significantly on the time and resources invested in gathering data and answering these assessments, as each organisation they report to can request information in an aligned, consistent way.

Sian Allen of 3Keel, who convenes the Working Group, summed up why the issue needed action, saying: “Organisations worldwide are striving to address and mitigate the environmental and human rights issues in their palm oil supply chains. But companies are overwhelmed by the number of questionnaires and surveys they receive from buyers and lack capacity to answer them properly, often failing to respond at all or providing basic, inadequate answers.

“An aligned set of questions across the sector, globally, means that it will be easier to identify gaps and make changes. Critically, it will mean less time filling questionnaires and more time taking action to make an impact.”

Justin Dupre-Harbord of Proforest, who has spearheaded the initiative alongside Sian, explained: “This represents a crucial first step in achieving greater consistency and alignment in how traders and refiners in the palm oil sector are assessed and should create greater efficiency for all actors gathering and providing data on sustainability performance. Going forward we [the Working Group] hope to continue further aligning on how data is gathered, shared and used among our organisations to create greater efficiency in how we identify focus areas for working on environmental and human rights issues.”

Kamal Seth, Director, WWF Global Palm Oil, said: “WWF strongly endorses the alignment of this questionnaire, recognising that increased transparency and enhanced reporting are vital components of the palm oil sector’s pursuit of sustainable production, trade and consumption. Starting from 2024, the Global Palm Oil team will incorporate elements of this questionnaire into our annual Palm Oil Traders Index.”

Afifuddin Mohamed Roslan of Sime Darby Plantation, welcomed the development: ”For so many organisations to come together to align on their questionnaires is a welcome breakthrough. We strive to inform palm oil buyers about their purchases and highlight industry-leading practices behind it as best and efficiently possible. The alignment work would mean less time on duplicated, overlapping information-gathering and more time on taking action to make an impact on the ground.”

Georgios Tolis, Sustainability Specialist at Cargill Edible Oils Europe, welcomed the development:”For so many organisations to come together to align on their questionnaires is a welcome breakthrough, as it means less time on duplicated, overlapping information-gathering and more time on taking action to make an impact on the ground. We are looking forward to seeing the full integration in action from next year.”

Ariane Denis, Head of Sustainable Sourcing at Transitions, said: “Evaluation questionnaires are powerful transformation tools in their ability to encourage and support palm industry players to adopt more transparent and sustainable practices. Transitions encourages all collaborative efforts between players in the sector and, in this respect, values the alignment work carried out for the trader-refinery questionnaires, which will be deployed for the next SPI campaign.”

The full set of questions is available here.

Next steps to operationalise

Each organisation will integrate the aligned list of questions as far as possible into their individual questionnaires and assessments. In 2024, traders and refiners will see significantly more alignment between the questionnaires they receive and will be able to respond with the same answer to many of the questions across these questionnaires. (Note: The individual organisations of the working group have distinct ways of structuring their tools and have varied focuses in terms of the issues they cover and therefore will still include additional questions as needed for their purposes).

Side event around RSPO Annual Conference, 21 November

The Working Group will host a one-hour session on the side of the RSPO Annual Conference for all interested stakeholders to receive information on this work and ask questions. Everyone welcome: Tuesday 21 November, 5.30-6.30pm Jakarta time, Cascade Lounge (next to the stage) in Hotel Mulia Senayan Jakarta, Jl. Asia Afrika Senayan Jakarta 10270, Indonesia.




Group members

Nine logos representing the working group members