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Transparency and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil: Why was SGS Malaysia’s accreditation terminated?

RSPOOn 31 December 2015, Accreditation Services International terminated SGS Malaysia’s RSPO accreditation. REDD-Monitor asked RSPO for further details about this. “We will not announce any further details,” Jan van Driel, RSPO Head of Certification, replied.

Van Driel’s responses to REDD-Monitor’s questions are posted below, in full. First, let’s see what we know so far.

ASI’s website tells us that, “The RSPO Accreditation of SGS Malaysia Sdn Bhd was withdrawn effective 31 December 2015.” But ASI provides no further details.

ASI’s website has a list of all RSPO certification bodies, which reveals that SGS Malaysia is the first certification body to have had its accredition terminated.

ASI’s announcement gives the contact details of Kenny Looi at SGS Malaysia. I’ve written to Looi asking him for further details and look forward to posting his response in full when it arrives.

UPDATE – 7 April 2016: Kenny Looi’s response is posted here.

On 19 January 2016, RSPO posted an announcement on its website, explaining that the RSPO certificates that SGS Malaysia issued remain valid for 90 days and that during this period certificate holders can find another RSPO certification body “to enable the transfer of the certificate”.

Towards the end of RSPO’s announcement is the suggestion that anyone wanting more information should contact László Máthé at ASI and Jan van Driel at RSPO. I’ve written to Máthé asking for further details (including whether ASI’s assessment of SGS Malaysia is available to the public). I will post his response in full when it arrives.

    UPDATE – 10 February 2016: László Máthé, ASI Lead Assessor and Accreditation Program Manager – RSPO & RSB, replied shortly after this post was published. Here are his responses to my questions, in full:

    REDD-Monitor: Why was SGS Malaysia terminated?

    László Máthé: SGS Malaysia’s accreditation was withdrawn due to breaches of accreditation requirements. Please contact SGS directly for more information:

    REDD-Monitor: Is ASI’s 2015 assessment of SGS Malaysia available to the public? If not, why not?

    László Máthé: RSPO PC assessments will be made public as of November 2015. Before this date the reports were not published. Office assessments and supply chain assessments will continue to be confidential.

    REDD-Monitor: Will ASI make any public statement about the termination of SGS Malaysia? If so, when?

    László Máthé: No we are not planning to make a public statement.

RSPO’s announcement explains what termination means:

SGS termination

Once ASI makes the decision to terminate the certification body, the certification body is no longer allowed to make claims associating themselves with the RSPO scheme. Here’s a screenshot of SGS Malaysia’s website:

SGS Malaysia RSPO

Clearly, SGS Malaysia’s website claims an association with the RSPO scheme, five weeks after ASI made its decision to terminate SGS Malaysia.

But RSPO’s Van Driel is unconcerned. “See announcements that SGS certificates remain valid until 1st April​”, he said after I’d pointed him towards SGS Malaysia’s website.

Here are Van Driels’ responses to REDD-Monitor’s questions, in full:

REDD-Monitor: Why was SGS Malaysia terminated?

Jan van Driel: See the announcement on our website and ASI website. We will not announce any further details.

REDD-Monitor: Is ASI’s 2015 assessment of SGS Malaysia available to the public?

Jan van Driel: See ASI website.

REDD-Monitor: The only mention on the RSPO website about this is a statement about transfer of SGS certified RSPO certificates. Is the RSPO going to produce a public statement about why SGS Malaysia was terminated?

Jan van Driel: See reply on 1.

REDD-Monitor: How many certificates had SGS issued? What area of oil palm plantations does this represent? Will RSPO produce a public list of these certificates?

Jan van Driel: Further details will not be published. More data you can get from the RSPO website.

REDD-Monitor: According to the RSPO website, certifying bodies that have been terminated are not allowed to “Make claims associating themselves with the RSPO scheme”. But five weeks after SGS Malaysia was terminated, the SGS Malaysia website states,

“SGS provides comprehensive, transparent Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil Certification for large and small palm oil producers and processors, and to anyone who benefits from sustainable palmoil worldwide.”

(The same statement also appears on SGS’s main website.)

Has RSPO contacted SGS to get these (and similar) statements removed? How long does the RSPO give terminated CBs to remove this sort of statement from their websites?

Jan van Driel: See announcements that SGS certificates remain valid until 1st April​.

Leave a Reply

  1. @Robert Hii (#1) – It didn’t go much better with Máthé at ASI. His reply arrived one-and-a-half hours after the post was published. See the update in the post, above.

  2. Opaque transparency.

    Bet you if this was some third world certification company, the dirt would be laid bare. But SGS…gasp.See reply on 1

  3. Is there any update on the reasons for SGS’ termination?

    Kind regards

  4. @Zardine Collins (#4) – No, I’m sorry, I haven’t heard anything more. SGS has changed its website and its page about RSPO is now about “Alternative Fuels“:

    SGS offers the same comprehensive range of inspection, auditing, analyses, sampling, testing, calibration and monitoring services for the alternative fuels market as we do for traditional energy markets, with the same hallmark of quality and integrity.