This Policy Brief characterizes the different palm oil production patterns in Southeast Asia, identifies the contributions and limitations of existing sustainability initiatives in the region, and issues recommendations for actors in importing countries and more generally those of the palm oil sector.


  1. In South-East Asia, any palm oil sustainability initiative should aim at better regulating large scale plantation practices while encouraging the development of smallholders, the impact of the former on social and environmental issues being in most cases way more important than that of the later.
  2. Existing initiatives (certifications, corporate commitments, landscape approaches) need to be strengthened to improve the sustainability of industrial production.
    ■ In the case of certification, independent audit systems must sever the link between audited companies and auditing firms. Stronger control of these auditing firms is also necessary. The approval procedure should strengthen the requirements concerning the training of auditors. In addition, forests with high environmental value (high conservation value [HCV] or high carbon stock [HCS]) must be recognized in the criteria for certification.
    ■ In the case of corporate commitments, a better understanding of the negotiations between buyers and suppliers of palm oil would help identify possible margins of progress.
  3. Governments and development operators of importing countries, in particular developed countries, should strengthen cooperation with producing countries in order to foster the development of policies that simultaneously allow independent smallholder to capture a greater share of added value and encourage conservation regulation in high environmental and social value areas.
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