KUALA LUMPUR: An immediate investigation has been launched into allegations of human rights violations allegedly committed by Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP), as cited by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has asked CBP to share any information that would allow it to properly investigate the matter and report its findings transparently.
“We can confirm that an initial review of audit findings earlier this year did not generate any red flags against SDP.
“We rely on independent auditors to detect violations of this nature and to date, no non-conformity (of rules) was identified on any certified SDP plantations,” it said in a statement today.
According to a CBP statement, it has issued a withhold release order (WRO) against SDP’s palm oil. With the order, its personnel at all US ports of entry will detain palm oil and palm oil-based products produced by SDP and its subsidiaries, joint ventures and affiliated entities in Malaysia, effective Dec 30, 2020.
The WRO was issued based on information that indicated the presence of forced labour in SDP’s production process.
The RSPO expressed concern about comments made to the media by CBP officials regarding evidence of serious violations of the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) 2018.
RSPO CEO-designate Beverley Postma said the organisation has zero-tolerance for the practices described in the CBP press release, which is why the protection of human rights has been so deeply embedded in RSPO standards.
“We condemn the use of forced labour or any other form of modern slavery on any plantation, certified or uncertified,” she said.
Postma added that human rights violations remain one of the toughest challenges for agricultural and industrial sectors that operate in low-income communities.
Therefore, it is committed to scaling up its collaboration between governments, civil societies and businesses to address the root cause of these issues while increasing monitoring and enforcement of its standards.
“The RSPO once again calls on the US government and CBP to work with all relevant partners to conduct a full risk assessment of the impact any sanctions will have on these vulnerable populations (the poor, including migrant workers and their families).
“We also urge them to work jointly with the Malaysian government towards achieving a positive outcome that allows both countries to meet their commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” Postma said.
SDP, meanwhile, has denied knowledge of any forced labour in its plantations, saying that even if the allegations were true, it would be a breach of its own strict policies.