Today, numerous TPC initiatives are active in verifying the sustainable management of natural resources. Commodities now verified against sustainable management standards include coffee (Mutersbaugh 2002 & Philpott et al. 2007), high conservation values (HCV; Carlson et al. 2018 & Edwards & Laurance 2012), organic farming (Blackman and Naranjo 2012 & González and Nigh 2005), rubber (Gouyon 2003 & Kennedy et al. 2016), and soybean (VanWey and Richards 2013 & Stewart 2007). This proliferation of initiatives indicates serious and diverse interests in the business of natural resource certification.
Many tried to compare various standards and somehow rank them along a scale. One popular approach is a desktop document review of the institutional settings and other elements of certification initiatives (e.g. 3KEEL & LMC International 2017, Efeca 2015, IUCN National Committee of The Netherlands 2019, Muhtaman & Prasetyo 2004, Wibowo et al 2018 and Yaap & Paoli 2014). This approach obviously discriminates against less established (often national) initiatives, as they have fewer means for slick translations. It also ignores one crucial practicality of these standards: the conformity assessment (hereafter audit) of requirements. Any ranking based on an approach that ignores the actual practices has little value other than bragging rights, often short-lived due to yet another ranking by yet another consultant.
The many quirks in audit practices, the indicators and their contexts require a paradigm shift to move beyond temporary bragging rights, and objectively assess the differences of national versus international and mandatory versus voluntary standards. Consequently, a quick-and-dirty approach is identified that (1) matches similar indicators in a holistic way and (2) determines the veracity of the matched indicators. This approach was applied to 3 standards for the sustainable management of oil palm estates: the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) System, the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil Certification (MSPO) Scheme, and the International Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).