Indonesian & Malaysian palm oil firms acknowledge increasing need to respond to human rights concerns, not just environmental ones

Author: Hannah Koh, Eco-Business, Published on: 15 April 2017

"Has the conversation about palm oil moved from environment to people?", 12 April 2017

The debate surrounding the palm oil sector’s sustainability is moving from the environment to focusing on social issues, say industry practitioners at a conference in Singapore...

Rashyid Redza Anwarudin, vice-president and head of sustainability reporting and social performance at...palm oil giant Sime Darby commented: “What we’ve seen in the last three years is a shift from an interest in the palm oil sector’s environmental issues to social issues. There is more interest in how Sime Darby is performing in human rights, sexual harassment and management of foreign workers.”

Noting a similar increase in pressure over social and labour issues, Wilmar International’s general manager - group sustainability, Perpetua George, credited it to the progress made in environmental conservation.

She said that while deforestation was a relatively well understood issue, labour exploitation was “undefined” by comparison.

George went on to announce that Wilmar... has joined forces with fair labour non-profit organisation Verite  to find scalable solutions to address labour abuses in its supply chain.

...Smallholder farms are usually run by families with planted oil palm area of less than 50 ha... 

Smallholders are often blamed for the slash-and-burn practices that result in the haze, and Lee Chen Chen, director of policy programmes, SIIA, pointed out that smallholders usually have the least access to resources, technology and finance.

Denys Collin Munang, chief international business officer of Malaysia’s Felda Global Ventures Holdings, said that considering the significant costs of meeting sustainability standards, it made more sense for smallholders to focus on adopting basic sustainable agricultural practices first rather than pursue certification. Felda is the world’s third largest oil palm estate operator.

Read the full post here

Related companies: Felda Global Ventures Sime Darby Wilmar International