San Francisco, CA – Controversial palm oil giant IOI Group released a statement today outlining the “new commitments and actions” it has taken over the past nine months, in an effort to reassure customers that it is no longer supplying Conflict Palm Oil, associated with labor and land rights abuses, deforestation and the destruction of peatlands.
A day before, IOI was named in a report released by Rainforest Action Network (RAN), titled Profits over People and the Planet, Not ‘Performance with Purpose’; Exposing PepsiCo’s Real Agenda. The report profiled IOI as one of the ten major importers of palm oil into the USA that exposes major brands to active destruction of rainforests and the violation of human rights across Indonesia, Malaysia, and increasingly Africa and Latin America.
Gemma Tillack, Agribusiness Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network (RAN), responded by issuing the following statement:
“Consumers need to be aware that well known brands like Unilever, Mars, Mondelez and Hershey may once again use Conflict Palm Oil produced by IOI Group in their products.
“IOI has started to make progress addressing the egregious and far-reaching impacts of its palm oil business, but its statement today overplays the progress made, especially on key human rights issues.
“IOI’s statement that the company has ‘addressed the labour issues highlighted in its Peninsular Malaysia plantations, including the ending of all recruitment fees,’ is simply ludicrous. IOI has not issued public policies or verified actions to address the many serious labor violations found in a 2016 investigation by the NGO Finnwatch. During the investigation, workers reported paying large fees to recruitment agencies and being recruited under false promises, which are indicators of forced labor. IOI is claiming to have addressed these issues, yet it hasn’t even taken the first step to issue a public ‘zero recruitment fee’ policy. Additionally, IOI has not publicly addressed the other issues found in Finnwatch’s investigation. These are serious concerns as well, including workers not being paid a monthly minimum wage and the company continuing to hold workers’ passports.
“It is too early to reward a company that has not set a date for returning all passports to its employees, not stopped sourcing from suppliers destroying rainforests like the Leuser Ecosystem, and has not yet resolved a longstanding conflict with the Long Teran community in Sarawak, Malaysia. To this day, communities continue to fight to regain control of their customary lands and for a fair mediation process and compensation.”
RAN continues to call on IOI to issue a strengthened policy and show real results on a number of outstanding issues, including by stating a clear commitment for IOI, all subcontractors and labor brokers to not charge worker recruitment fees, in either receiving or sending countries; to update its freedom of association policy to allow trade unions to freely enter IOI estates; to address and resolve its land conflict in Sarawak, now the longest open complaint in the RSPO system; and to clarify requirements for its third party suppliers by implementing the one unified global methodology for putting ‘no deforestation’ into practice–the High Carbon Stock Approach.
Find the NGO Recommendations on Policy and Implementation Milestones for IOI Group May 2017, here.