The SEnSOR programme investigates the impact of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) of sustainability, focusing in particular on biodiversity and smallholder livelihoods. The programme of research ran between 2015 and 2023 over five phases and has yielded 17 academic publications, and 23 technical reports and policy briefs, with more in the pipeline. All these outputs can be found in the “reports” section of the main menu.

In the first phase 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.

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.

In the fourth and fifth phases we focused on two major projects. The first investigated management and monitoring practices among RSPO companies and modelling HCV landscape connectivity in Malaysia and Indonesia. The second project investigated the impact of the implementation of the RSPO’s independent smallholders standard to test whether it has solved any of the barriers to certification that the SEnSOR programme identified in its earlier research.

Additionally, SEnSOR-linked projects funded by other sources investigated aspects of biodiversity and livelihoods sustainability in more detail, to add to the depth and breadth of knowledge that can be used to inform improvements to policy and practice. See further details in the project summaries below.


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)
Lancaster University, UK
Swansea University, UK
University of Leeds, UK
University of Hawaii, US
University of Oxford, UK
University of California, US
University of Liverpool, UK
Universiti Malaysia Sabah
University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus


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.