RSPO probes US ban on Sime Darby Plantation palm oil, claims no red flags from earlier audit

RSPO probes US ban on Sime Darby Plantation palm oil, claims no red flags from earlier audit
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KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 31): The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) said today it has launched an immediate investigation into new violations by Sime Darby Plantation Bhd as alleged by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) following the issuance of a withhold release order against the company's palm oil at all US ports of entry.

In a statement today, the RSPO said it can confirm that an initial review of audit findings earlier this year did not generate any red flags against Sime Darby Plantation. 

"We rely on independent auditors to detect violations of this nature and to date, no non-conformances have been identified on any certified Sime Darby Plantation plantations. We have launched an immediate investigation into these new violations cited by the CBP and we would appreciate any specifics that they or their investigators can share beyond the generic information in the media.

"The RSPO has zero-tolerance for the practices described in the CBP press release,” the RSPO said.

The CBP said in a statement late yesterday that effective Dec 30, its personnel at all US ports of entry will detain palm oil and products containing palm oil produced by Sime Darby Plantation and its subsidiaries, joint ventures, and affiliated entities in Malaysia.

"The issuance of a withhold release order against Sime Darby Plantation palm oil is based on information that reasonably indicates the presence of all 11 of the International Labour Organization’s forced labor indicators in Sime Darby Plantation’s production process,” the CBP said.

The RSPO claims that its certification, with its accredited independent third party auditing, offers the best global system for surveillance of the agricultural sector where regulatory governance is still developing. 

The RSPO said it is committed to enhancing its systems to monitor member plantations on a more consistent basis.

RSPO chief executive officer designate Beverley Postma said in the statement: “We are deeply concerned to learn of the actions taken against Sime Darby Plantation and we have launched an immediate investigation.” 

"We condemn the use of forced labour or any other form of modern slavery on any plantation, certified or uncertified. Human rights violations remain one of the toughest challenges for all agricultural and industrial sectors that operate in low income communities and we are committed to scaling up our collaboration between governments, civil society and businesses to address the root causes of these issues while increasing the monitoring and enforcement of our standards. 

"The RSPO once again calls on the US government and CBP to work with all relevant partners to conduct a full risk assessment of the impact any sanctions will have on these vulnerable populations and to work jointly with the Malaysian government towards a positive outcome that allows both countries to meet their commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” Postma said.

On Bursa Malaysia today, Sime Darby Plantation’s share price settled down 17 sen or 3.29% at RM5 during the 12:30pm break for a market value of about RM34.4 billion. The stock was traded between RM5.10 and RM4.95 so far today.

Read also:
US blocks imports of palm oil from Sime Darby Plantation over allegations of forced labour

US Customs didn't give Sime Darby Plantation chance to defend itself against forced labour claims — minister 
Sime Darby Plantation says it’s studying US Custom’s action to understand impact 
MPOCC expresses concern over US import ban on Sime Darby Plantation

Chong Jin Hun