Focuses on third-party expert assessment and protecting workers’ rights
Petaling Jaya, 15 July 2021 – Sime Darby Plantation Berhad (SDP) today dissolved its Expert Stakeholder Human Rights Assessment Commission (the Commission) to provide more time for an independent evaluation of its labour practices to be carried out. Although SDP had hoped to complete the assessment by May 2021, strict movement and travel restrictions imposed throughout Malaysia as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic have meant that Impactt Ltd. (Impactt) has not yet been able to finish its assessment.
SDP Board’s Sustainability Committee shall take over the important oversight function over the evaluation exercise. The Sustainability Committee is chaired by independent director Dato’ Henry Barlow. The other members of the committee are senior independent director and chair of the Board Governance and Audit Committee Datuk Zaiton Mohd Hassan, chair of the Board Risk Management Committee Zainal Abidin Jamal, chair of the Board Nomination and Remuneration Committee Dato’ Halipah Esa, and Tunku Alizakri Raja Muhammad Alias.
The Commission, established on 1 March 2021, comprised Impactt, the ethical trade consultancy organisation, and a Stakeholder Consultation Panel, which included Human rights activist Mr. Andy Hall, Australian Human Rights lawyer Professor Justine Nolan and a representative from the National Union of Plantation Workers, the largest trade union for plantation workers in Malaysia. Mr. Hall, meanwhile, will continue working with SDP to review and improve our foreign worker recruitment processes. This work will involve collaborating in a programme aimed at creating a new standard for the ethical recruitment of foreign workers. Mr. Hall’s ongoing contributions and expertise in this area are very much appreciated.
“We would like to thank the Commission, particularly Mr. Hall, for their work and support over the past months”, said Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha, SDP’s Group Managing Director.
As the assessment is incomplete, SDP has been unable to engage with the Commission as anticipated. Malaysia is in the midst of a severe nationwide lockdown, and face to face interviews and field assessments would put people at risk. SDP’s main priority is to prevent the spread of the virus and keep its workers safe.
“Whilst Impactt has carried out important work, we appreciate the limitations of a remote assessment, and the need to verify and evaluate data collected. We want to address any gaps in our operations and thus will continue to work proactively. We are moving forward, working with Impactt and key stakeholders to protect the rights of workers and keep them safe,” Mohamad Helmy added.
As soon as is practicable, the evaluation will resume. In the meantime, SDP continues to work proactively, moving forward with Impactt and other key stakeholders to review its operations. As previously stated, SDP will implement any necessary changes to improve the working and living conditions of all its workers.
Impactt and the Commission were appointed to undertake an evaluation of SDP’s operations after the United States Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) imposed a Withhold Release Order (WRO) on oil produced from its Malaysian plantations. SDP is committed to implementing any required improvements recommended pursuant to Impactt’s findings.