The SEnSOR programme is investigating sustainability in three main areas: Biodiversity, Environment (including soil, water and greenhouse gases) and Society (including community and labour rights, and livelihoods). All these areas interact and impact on each other so we have adopted an integrated approach whereby experts from these diverse fields work together on key themes such as the High Conservation Value (HCV) Process and Agricultural Best Practice.

In the current phase we have two major projects underway. The first project takes what we have learned about RSPO’s impact on conserving forests and biodiversity at the plantation scale and will expand this to landscape scales using computer modelling techniques by comparing oil palm landscapes with a predominance of RSPO plantations versus those without. One of our key findings from our previous work with smallholders is that certain characteristics within this diverse group make communities more likely to become certified. Understanding these pre-conditions for certification fully is essential for quantifying the impact of RSPO in generating improvements, and so this is the focus of our second project. Additionally, have a number of ongoing linked projects. For more details about all the projects, click on the summaries below.

In the first phase (2015-16) we focused on establishing a solid evidence base from which impacts can be tested. This entailed drawing together the existing state of knowledge on Biodiversity, Environment and Society and collecting new baseline data in areas where research is lacking. These reports can be found in the reports tab on the main menu.

In the second phase we focused on three priority areas for conducting new field research and computer modelling to test the impact of RSPO certification: 1) the impact of HCV areas for improving connectivity 2) impacts of RSPO certification on smallholder land management and livelihoods and 3) the capacity of HCV areas to support biodiversity and carbon storage.

For the third phase we ran three core projects: Project 1: A scoping study into the the possible unintended impacts of RSPO on biodiversity and ecosystems; Project 2: an investigation into how effective RSPO forest set-asides are in retaining biodiversity and carbon; Project 3: A study of the outcomes of RSPO certification for livelihoods and the provision of ecosystem services in the smallholder context.


The SEnSOR Programme generates independent scientific research by International world-leading Universities and research Institutions. The programme is facilitated by the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) which has more than 30 years’ experience in facilitating scientific field research in SE Asia.




University of York, UK
Wageningen University (Netherlands)
Van Hall Larenstein University (Netherlands)
University of Leeds, UK
University of Hawaii, US
University of Oxford, UK
University of California, US
University of Liverpool, UK
Universitas Sumatera Utara
UPM Malaysia


The RSPO provides core funding for the SEnSOR programme through a legal agreement that enshrines our freedom to publish findings independent of RSPO involvement. We have also received matched funding from a variety of partners including the UK government’s Natural Environment Research Council, Darwin Initiative and Foreign and Commonwealth Office for a number of SEnSOR projects. The independence of our research is protected by contractual agreement.

We are currently fundraising to expand the programme further. If you are interested in supporting the programme please contact Glen Reynolds.