Press Releases

August 04, 2015

RSPO responds to Modern Day Slavery Findings on RSPO Member Felda Global Venture’s Plantations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, August 4, 2015

CONTACT: Laurel Sutherlin, laurel@ran.org

RSPO responds to Modern Day Slavery Findings on RSPO Member Felda Global Venture’s Plantations

Coalition of NGOs continues call for an open investigation into The Wall Street Journal’s findings

August 4, 2015 (San Francisco, CA) - On the heels of a major investigative article from The Wall Street Journal exposing serious human rights and labor abuses in Malaysian grower Felda Global Venture’s plantations, a coalition of civil society groups issued a statement calling on the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) for an open investigation into the abuses. Conditions including human trafficking, forced labor, and withholding of wages were documented, all of which are violations of the RSPO’s Principles and Criteria, as well as basic human rights.  

The RSPO has responded stating it takes the allegations very seriously and the RSPO Complaints Panel has requested that the RSPO Secretariat conduct an independent assessment of RSPO Certification Bodies’ competency in identifying cases of non-compliance related to worker and human rights issues. The Panel notes that “this should not be confined to Felda but should consider and report comprehensively to the RSPO on the extent of these issues as they affect all RSPO certified members, initially within Malaysia. Depending on the outcome of this report, it may be desirable to commission further reports from other regions."

The coalition of NGOs, which includes Finnwatch, Humanity United, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), Organisasi Penguatan dan Pengembangan Usaha-usaha Kerakyatan (OPPUK), Pesticide Action Network Asia & the Pacific (PANAP), Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Sawit Watch, Sum of Us, Tenaganita, Trade Union Rights Centre (TURC) and Walk Free has issued the following in response:

“We applaud the RSPO’s move to investigate the competency of its own certification bodies in identifying non-compliances related to worker and human rights issues. This is not the first finding of serious workers’ rights violations on RSPO member plantations and the systems enabling such serious violations must be fully and transparently investigated.  

“However, we remain vigilant in our calls for the RSPO to openly investigate The Wall Street Journal’s findings of human trafficking, forced labor and other labor abuses on Felda’s plantations specifically. Given the severity of abuses documented, the RSPO should treat this situation with great urgency and take immediate action.

“We are calling for a fully transparent investigation into labor abuses on Felda’s plantations with the findings fully disclosed, and we encourage the RSPO to include third-parties and/or independent observers with labor expertise. If an open investigation confirms the findings of the WSJ, the RSPO must uphold its own Principles and Criteria and suspend Felda’s membership until these very serious violations are proven to be remedied.  

“International buyers, including Cargill, Wilmar, Procter & Gamble and Nestlé, as well as those unnamed, must also act immediately to remedy labor violations in their supply chains. If Felda does not remedy all labor violations in a transparent manner, buyers must publicly sever all financial ties with the company.”

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To see the Free and Fair Labor in Palm Oil Production: Principles and Implementation Guidance, visit:  

 http://www.humanityunited.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/PalmOilPrinciples_031215.pdf  

To see The Wall Street Journal’s “Palm-Oil Migrant Workers Tell of Abuses on Malaysian Plantations,” visit http://tinyurl.com/q68g2cr