KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 18): The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has required Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) to complete an action plan over the next six months to address the weaknesses identified in its existing systems and processes.
The sustainable palm oil organisation said its secretariat instructed SDP to do this on Nov 14, following the completion of its independent verification assessment of the plantation’s Malaysian operations.
RSPO had undertaken the assessment following the United States Customs and Border Protection’s withhold release order (WRO) on all palm oil and products containing palm oil produced by SDP on Dec 30, 2020.
It said the assessment team identified violations of RSPO Standards, including the payment of unreported recruitment fees to agents, sub-agents or other third parties, and the retention of passports.
“Additionally, the assessment team identified a number of areas where further strengthening of SDP’s systems and processes are required,” it said in a statement published on its website.
RSPO noted that SDP had taken actions to address the reported issues, although the final results remained to be seen.
“The Compliance subdivision of the RSPO Secretariat would be monitoring the implementation of the activities (the action plan) for six months, from December 2022 to May 2023,” it added.
Many remedial actions taken
In response to RSPO’s findings, SDP said it had taken many measures to ensure the safety, well-being and rights of its workers were recognised by RSPO.
“These measures are part and parcel of the continuous improvement programme (CIP) we have in place, which is today an essential and entrenched part of our operations,” it said in a statement on Thursday (Nov 17).
SDP notes that it developed and implemented measures that were entirely new to the industry and hopes these measures would be adopted by other industry players, as well as considered and incorporated by the RSPO in its principles and criteria.
Among the remedial actions were the reimbursement of all current workers who may have previously paid agents or sub-agents to secure employment with the company and an enhanced Responsible Recruitment Procedure to ensure the company made every effort to eliminate debt bondage, it said.
“Besides, all workers were provided with secure personal lockers within which they can safely store documents such as passports, as well as improve its grievance systems to ensure SDP workers have a voice and [that] it is heard loud and clear,” it added.
SDP chief sustainability officer Rashyid Redza Anwarudin said the group is confident to be able to mitigate the risks of forced labour in its operations with all measures in place.
“We look forward to working with the RSPO and our supply chain partners to share lessons learned with the wider industry,” he said.
RSPO chief executive officer Joseph D’Cruz said RSPO welcomed the proactive steps taken by SDP to identify and address weaknesses in their systems and processes.
“However, it is important that RSPO as a global partnership also assess any weaknesses or failures that occur, to ensure that we collectively learn from such events,” he said.