RTRS vs. RSPO: Membership, Certification, and Deforestation
The Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS) was established in November 2006, with the goal of promoting sustainable soy production on a global scale. The first RTRS standard was established in 2010, with the aim of ensuring “socially equitable, economically feasible and environmentally sound” soy production (RTRS, 2014). The first producers, all located in South America, were certified in 2011. Global certification began in 2012, and has continued through 2020. However, today, the organization has 168 members, whereas a similar association, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), has over 4,000. Not only that, but in 2019, the RTRS certified 4 million tons of soy, roughly 4% of global production, while the RSPO certified 17.17 million tons of palm oil, approximately 19% of global production. The RSPO was established in 2004, only two years before the RTRS, and the two organizations were planned to be run in similar fashions, raising the question of why the difference in their membership and certification is so stark. Our research finds that this contrast is likely a result of a perceived inability of the RTRS to help members achieve their reputational goals, the lack of involvement of key producers in the RTRS, and the lack of influence of certain groups over outcomes and decisions of the RTRS. As both organizations are now working to fight the deforestation they have caused, recognizing the differences that allow the RSPO to be more successful may be helpful in improving the RTRS’s efforts to combat deforestation.