International civil society calls on FGV investors and buyers to take robust, transparent action to address ongoing risks
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Emma Rae Lierley, Emma@ran.org, +1 425.281.1989
San Francisco, CA – Continued controversy plagues Felda Global Ventures (FGV) following The Wall Street Journal’s exposé of human trafficking, forced labor, withholding of wages and other abuses of workers on the company’s palm plantations in July 2015. Following a drawn out and heavily criticized process, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Complaints Panel came to a decision last week to revoke its certification for FGV in the mill areas investigated.
The RSPO ordered an immediate suspension of FGV’s Pasoh palm oil mill; re-audits of all three FGV mills audited; and a one year time-bound action plan and quarterly reports to address all major and minor non-compliance’s highlighted in a recent audit report before FGV certification is reconsidered.
Meanwhile, FGV brought further controversy upon itself by recently issuing a press release with the sweeping headline, “Independent Assessment Clears FGV of Human Trafficking Allegations.” Wild Asia, the party commissioned by FGV to conduct the assessment, has since denounced the statement, stating it was made without their consultation. Wild Asia’s assessment was limited to only five days in the field, visiting a single palm oil mill complex, and would not be nearly sufficient to support such a sweeping claim by FGV.
The civil society coalition monitoring the ongoing situation issued a letter to FGV buyers and financiers on February 29, 2016, calling on companies that purchase palm oil from or invest in FGV — such as Wilmar, Cargill, Procter & Gamble, and Morgan Stanley — to take direct responsibility for their company’s supply chains and investment portfolios.
“Given FGV’s continuous failure to admit a problem exists or change practices that would solve the problems identified, buyers and investors must take immediate, transparent and robust actions to address the ongoing risks of serious human rights violations in FGV’s operations,” stated Abby McGill, Campaigns Director of International Labor Rights Forum.
“Responsible buyers and financiers must suspend financing and buying from FGV if it fails to transparently meet its performance milestones, or make significant progress to address forced labor, human trafficking and labor violations by the time of the audit,” McGill continued. “Adequate practices and procedures must be in place to address labor violations, and remedies must be agreed to for current conflicts, before responsible buying and financing continues.”
The international coalition of civil society groups is calling on FGV buyers and investors to demand for the public release of Wild Asia’s report, as well as engage directly with FGV, mandating that the following actions are taken in a timely, transparent manner:
- Felda Global Ventures must publicly release a Policy on Employment of Migrant Labor and a Corrective Action Plan that includes monthly performance milestones for addressing forced labor, human trafficking and other labor violations documented by The Wall Street Journal. Specifically FGV must adopt a Policy and Plan to:
- Prohibit the charging of fees to workers by FGV, labor contractors or recruiters;
- Prohibit the confiscation and holding of identity documents by FGV, labor contractors or recruiters;
- Pay workers the statutory minimum monthly wage based on an eight-hour workday, which is documented through regular wage slips written in a language understood by the workers and which reflect any deductions; and
- Establish a legitimate, accessible and transparent grievance mechanism, which aligns with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
- Within six months time or sooner, buyers and investors should commission a skilled labor assessor to independently and transparently verify FGV’s compliance with its Policy and Corrective Action Plan.