LCA of RSPO Certified Palm Oil

This project aims to develop time-series of life cycle (LCA) results of RSPO certified versus non-certified palm oil. Further, the LCA is differentiate between producing countries and type of growers (estates and smallholders)

The client

Crowdfunded project

Our role

2.-0 LCA consultants have started this initiative. The project is promoted and endorsed by Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – but carried out independently of RSPO.

RSPO certified palm oil: what are the life-cycle benefits?

The problem

Recently, our first crowdfunded project on a comparative LCA of RSPO certified and non-certified palm oil was finalized. The study shows that RSPO certified palm oil emits 35% less GHG emissions and is associated with 20% less impacts on biodiversity compared to non-certified palm oil. These results are valid for the average of Indonesia and Malaysia in 2016. However, palm oil producers (certified or not) are not static, and neither are the effect of certification on producers as well as the criteria for being certified. E.g. it is expected that GHG emissions are further reduced in the future as a larger share of especially certified palm oil mills will install biogas capture in the palm oil mill effluent (POME) treatment. Further, new RSPO criteria on no establishment of new oil palm on peat and no deforestation of high conservation value (HCV) land are expected to lead to lower the share of oil palm cultivation on peat and to higher shares of landbank set-aside as nature conservation.

Therefore, it is highly relevant to follow the development over time.

In additional to temporal differences in results, different countries and type of growers (estates and smallholders) will also have an influence on the impact of palm oil production. It is important to trace such differences in order to learn about the potential for improvement options in different producer segments.

Palm oil using companies are currently showcasing their contribution to GHG reductions due to their commitments of buying RSPO certified palm oil. They do this by using the results of our first crowdfunded project on the impact of RSPO certified palm oil for Indonesia and Malaysia in 2016. As the impact of RSPO certified versus non-certified palm oil is not static, it is important to consistently track the developments to make correct claims.

The solution

Become a partner of this project and contribute to the development of the next life cycle assessment (LCA) comparing RSPO certified palm oil to non-certified palm oil where results are tracked over time, per country and per type of grower (estates and smallholders).

The features of the project are:

  • A complete cradle-to-gate LCA study of RSPO certified and non-certified palm oil, including the following life cycle stages: oil palm plantation, palm oil mill and refinery
  • Data and results are differentiated:
    – Time-series
    – Major palm oil producing countries
    – Type of growers (estates and smallholders)
  • Complying with ISO standards and subject to critical review and/or the publication of a paper in a peer reviewed scientific journal.
  • Covering a wide set of environmental impact categories, including GHG emissions and biodiversity.
  • Using both consequential and attributional life cycle inventory (LCI) modelling.
  • Addressing both direct and indirect land use changes, and hereunder the effects of nature conservation are included.
  • Using state of art emissions models for:
    – Field emissions relating to N- and P-inputs as well as pesticides
    – Field emissions relating to cultivation of drained peat soils
    – Methane emissions relating to palm oil mill effluent (POME) treatment
    – Palm oil mill boiler energy balance
  • Identification of improvement options with special emphasis of different countries and types of growers

Why this is needed

  • For certified producers, to show the life cycle impact advantage of RSPO certified palm oil over non-certified palm oil;
  • For palm oil using companies, to be able to claim environmental impact reductions derived from their sustainable procurement policies;
  • Identification of improvement potentials for palm oil producers in different contexts;
  • Enable certification institutions, such as RSPO, to set targets for the impact of certification in terms of GHG emissions and biodiversity impacts reductions;
  • For environmental footprinting of products containing certified sustainable palm oil.


  • A comprehensive study report.
  • An article submitted to a peer reviewed scientific journal.
  • Life Cycle Inventories (LCIs) of certified and non-certified palm oil.


The project was officially launched on 6th November 2019 with a platform presentation at the RSPO RT2019 conference in Bangkok. A scientific paper documenting the outcomes of the study will be submitted to a peer reviewed scientific journal in 2024.

Become a member

Joining the new crowdfunded project will grant you access to all data and results, and you have access to influence the scope of the project.

The price of subscription is a one-time amount at 3,500 €. The funds from new subscriptions will be used to expand the scope of the project. For additional 2,000 € the results for a specific palm oil mill and its supply-base will be calculated and provided in a small report, including a comparison with the results of the main study.

For subscription (or questions), please contact us. To go to the club click here.

Outreach of the finalized crowdfunded project 2016-2019

  • Poster at the RSPO RT 14 conference (Nov 2016)
  • Poster at the LCM conference (Sept 2017)
  • Poster at the ICOPE conference (Apr 2018)
  • Platform presentation at the LCAfood conference (Oct 2019)
  • Executive summary (Oct 2019)
  • Platform presentation at the RSPO RT17 conference (Nov 2019)

Members of the finalised crowdfunded project 2016-2019