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The Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry organization that groups palm producers, environmental groups and food companies, said Thursday that Indonesia-based Sinar Mas Agro Resources & Technology (SMAR.JK) has breached its policies and that the firm's membership in the group is at risk.
"Members who have been found to not be in compliance and who continue to be in noncompliance with the RSPO regulations could ultimately face sanctions, including the suspension and, eventually, the termination of their membership of the RSPO," it said.
The comments by RSPO could diminish Smart's hopes that global conglomerates could resume purchases of palm oil products from the company. Global food giants Nestle SA (NESN.VX) and Unilever NV (UN), as well as U.S.-based fast food chain Burger King Holdings Inc. (BKC), are on the long list of food companies that has suspended sourcing of palm oil from Smart in response to claims by Greenpeace that the producer is involved in deforestation.
In August, Smart issued results from an independent audit--carried out by the Control Union Certification and the British Standard Institute--refuting charges by environmental group Greenpeace that it had cleared large swathes of land with high conservation value and drained peat lands to cultivate palm crop.
Smart said the audit provided evidence that "the firm had operated responsibly and within the laws and regulations set out by the Indonesian government," but BSI said subsequently that some aspects of its report were misreported, and that Smart had set up plantations on deep peat in two estates.
RSPO said on its website that its grievance panel had written to Smart and its parent firm, the Singapore-listed Golden Agri Resources Ltd (E5H.SG), about the breaches revealed by the auditors. Golden Agri is not a member of the RSPO.
The industry body has urged Golden Agri to stop announcing publicly it was in the process of obtaining RSPO certification for its estates or that it planned to become a RSPO member.
"Golden Agri is not a member of the RSPO, nor has the RSPO yet received a membership application from the company. The panel encourages Golden Agri to submit a full and complete application for membership (and) documentation RSPO would need in order to review the application," the agency said.
-By Shie-Lynn Lim, Dow Jones Newswires; +603 2026 1233; firstname.lastname@example.org