KUALA LUMPUR (March 1): Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) has established an Expert Stakeholder Human Rights Assessment Commission, and appointed Impactt Ltd as a third-party assessor to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the group’s labour practices across its Malaysian operations.
SDP said Impactt is an ethical trade consultancy with specific expertise in detecting and remediating forced labour issues in company supply chains, in line with the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s 11 indicators of forced labour.
As for the stakeholder panel, SDP said its members include Shift (the leading centre of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights), migrant worker rights activist and human rights researcher Andy Hall, and a representative of the National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW).
“Other stakeholders may be invited to contribute to the work of the Commission where necessary,” the group said in a statement today.
SDP said the commission will also comprise a stakeholder consultation panel which will be providing additional views on Impactt’s assessment methodology, lending further credibility to the entire process.
The panel also is expected to review whether or not forced labour indicators are detected within the group’s operations, and if there are any, to determine how prevalent the issue is.
“The panel will also review any proposed remediation plans recommended for implementation by Impactt Ltd, which will offer stakeholders the comfort of independent and transparent oversight,” SDP said.
SDP group managing director Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha said the formation of the commission is an important and transparent step the group is taking to move forward.
“By working with credible experts who are respected for their knowledge and independence, we will be able to establish if and where there are any gaps in our operations and to work quickly to close them.
“Our objective has always been to ensure better outcomes for our workers, which we expect to achieve at the conclusion of this initiative. At the same time, we hope to assure our stakeholders and the public that the trust they have placed in SDP over the years is well placed,” Helmy said.
On Dec 30 2020, the US Customs and Border Protection issued a withhold release order (WRO) against SDP’s palm oil, based on ‘information that reasonably indicates the presence of all 11 of the ILO’s forced labour indicators in SDP’s production process’.
The WRO was issued after a petition was filed in April 2020 against the group.
Helmy added that since then, SDP has engaged with involved stakeholders to understand the issues raised and to take any necessary remediation measures.
“As we work towards lifting this WRO, we are also, through the establishment of the commission, taking this opportunity to once again reinforce our core values among all our employees. This includes our commitment to leadership and the highest standards of sustainability in the industry.
“Our workers are our priority. Regardless of the extreme stresses of the times we live in, SDP remains steadfast in working towards one of our cardinal principles: zero-tolerance for human rights violations,” Helmy said.
The group, which expects the independent assessments to be completed by May, said it will commit to transparent disclosure to all key stakeholders and the public at large, of the commission’s findings.
Shares of SDP closed one sen or 0.20% higher at RM4.91 today, giving it a market capitalisation of RM33.80 billion.