1 December 2020
Thank you for reaching out about the deeply concerning article published by the Associated Press on 18 November about human rights violations against female palm oil plantation workers.
We are committed to having an open, collaborative dialogue to address the challenges related to human rights facing the palm industry. We want to reiterate that Cargill does not tolerate the use of human trafficking, forced labor or child labor in our operations or supply chains. Following are some of the specific actions we are taking on the ground to focus on health and safety, responsible recruitment, and transparent contract and pay practices in producing countries to tackle these issues and to protect and empower women in the palm oil supply chain.
- Malaysia: Since 2014, we have been working with Earthworm Foundation to improve the welfare of workers in Cargill’s Westport and Port Klang refinery supply chains in Malaysia. In 2019, we identified direct suppliers who have agreed to participate in the Labor Transformation Program, an Earthworm Foundation initiative to help suppliers refine their management practices on labor rights. The goal of the program is to generate continuous improvement on social issues prevalent in the Malaysian palm oil industry: employment contracts, recruitment practices, grievance mechanisms, and freedom of movement. This year, the program has expanded to include four additional topics: freedom of association, wages and working hours, health and safety, and access to safe accommodation.
- Indonesia: We are collaborating to support a second phase of the Decent Rural Living Initiative focused on gender committee pilot projects, contract innovations, and the potential for multi-party collective bargaining agreements in Indonesia. An example of a gender committee project is Cargill’s Jungle Queen committee which aims to empower women and address topics such as sexual harassment.
- Guatemala, Indonesia and Malaysia: We are partnering with suppliers in Guatemala, Indonesia and Malaysia to support use of the Ulula worker voice system in our supply chains to amplify workers’ ability to provide feedback and help suppliers appropriately address worker concerns. This is in addition to our Ethics Open Line.
- Global: Through our Palm Policy, Cargill is committed to a transparent, traceable, and sustainable palm oil supply chain and aims to deliver palm oil that is produced in accordance with “No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation” (NDPE) practices. In the fourth quarter of 2019, 93% of Cargill’s palm oil volume globally was covered by NDPE policies and 58% of our direct traders/refiners had put in place a credible NDPE implementation plan to cover their supply chains. We conduct monitoring through secondary sources and engagement with local stakeholders to hold palm suppliers accountable to our policies. If a supplier is not compliant with our Human Rights Commitment or Palm Policy, we transparently engage, and suspend where appropriate. We hold ourselves and our suppliers accountable to comply with our policies, responding to grievances, and setting time-bound action plans to drive progress.
We are committed to treating all people in all of our supply chains with dignity and respect and have written this formally into our Commitment to Human Rights, which we enhanced in 2019 to detail the principles we embed into our policies and systems to protect human rights around the world. This Commitment applies to our workplace, communities in which we operate, and supply chains. Our Supplier Code of Conduct extends Cargill’s Guiding Principles into the supply chain and sets requirements for our supplier partners. We recognize that this is an area requiring continuous review and improvement.
We support the UN Sustainable Development Goals’ ambitions to promote decent work for all around the world and across the supply chains in which we operate. Addressing these issues requires a multi-stakeholder approach, including the local government, to improve the framework in which we are operating to ensure there are better working conditions in place. Until there is better regulation, we will advance our position in collaboration with other industry actors to improve the conditions for all people across the palm supply chain. This includes engaging human rights experts to support the review and improvement of our human rights strategy, due diligence, monitoring and remediation in our palm oil supply chain, building on existing industry tools and guidelines. More specifically, we are focusing on responsible recruitment, labor rights and improvement in working conditions.
This is a critical topic that we take very seriously, and we would welcome a conversation with Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, particularly in light of the fact that Cargill is working with an external partner on reviewing our Human Rights Strategy and implementation in its palm supply chain this year, and simultaneously working on Human Rights Strategy and operational planning at the Corporate level. We have recently initiated the latter work and are planning stakeholder outreach to guide our strategy and plans in the early new year.