Kuala Lumpur, 1 March 2021 – Sime Darby Plantation Berhad (SDP) has appointed Impactt Ltd as a third-party assessor to its newly established Expert Stakeholder Human Rights Assessment Commission (the Commission).
Impactt, an ethical trade consultancy with specific expertise in detecting and remediating forced labour issues in company supply chains in line with the International Labour Organization’s 11 indicators of forced labour, will now begin to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of SDP’s labour practices across its Malaysian operations.
The Commission shall also comprise a Stakeholder Consultation Panel (the Stakeholder Panel) who will be providing additional views on Impactt’s assessment methodology, lending further credibility to the entire process. The Stakeholder Panel is also expected to review whether or not forced labour indicators are detected within SDP’s operations, and if there are any, to determine how prevalent the issue is. The Panel will also review any proposed remediation plans recommended for implementation by Impactt, which will offer stakeholders the comfort of independent and transparent oversight.
The members of the Stakeholder Panel include Shift – the leading center of expertise on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; Mr Andy Hall – a migrant worker rights activist and human rights researcher; and a Representative of the National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW), the largest trade union for plantation workers in Malaysia. Other stakeholders may be invited to contribute to the work of the Commission where necessary.
“Establishing the Commission is an important and transparent step we are taking in order to move forward. By working with credible experts who are respected for their knowledge and independence, we will be able to establish if and where there are any gaps in our operations and to work quickly to close them. Our objective has always been to ensure better outcomes for our workers, which we expect to achieve at the conclusion of this initiative. At the same time we hope to assure our stakeholders and the public that the trust they have placed in SDP over the years is well placed,” said SDP’s Group Managing Director, Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha.
On 30th December 2020, the United States Customs and Border Protection issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) against SDP’s palm oil based on ‘information that reasonably indicates the presence of all 11 of the International Labour Organization’s forced labour indicators in Sime Darby Plantation’s production process’. The WRO was issued after a petition had been filed in April 2020 against SDP, which was then announced in July 2020. Since then, SDP has engaged with involved stakeholders to understand the issues raised and to take any necessary remediation measures. However, in the absence of useful information from the complainant, despite various engagements, and conscious of the fact that nearly a year has passed since the original petition was filed, SDP made the decision to establish the Commission.
“As we work towards lifting this WRO, we are also, through the establishment of the Commission, taking this opportunity to once again reinforce our core values among all our employees. This includes our commitment to leadership and the highest standards of sustainability in the industry.
“Our workers are our priority. Regardless of the extreme stresses of the times we live in, SDP remains steadfast in working towards one of our cardinal principles: zero-tolerance for human rights violations,” Mohamad Helmy said.
SDP expects the independent assessments by Impactt to be completed by May 2021, upon which the Company commits to transparent disclosure to all key stakeholders and the public at large of the Commission’s findings, as well as any remediation measures the company may take to ensure safe working and living conditions for all its workers, now and into the future.