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NGO Rejoinder

10 Apr 2024


Rejoinder from ECCHR and foodwatch to NaturAceites' response

[...] The following remarks are not a comprehensive analysis of all the points raised in Naturaceites’ statement. Instead, they highlight topics of central importance, where the assumptions made require a correction. Most importantly, the content of the complaint and therefore the situation of affected communities in Guatemala is poorly addressed in Naturaceites’ statement. If the company’s engagement continues in this manner, Naturaceites will not be able to contribute to constructive solutions in good faith.

1. Accusations differ from prior accusations of the Christliche Initiative Romero

Naturaceites claims in its reply that the allegations “pertain to a previous statement mentioned in a blog by the Romero Initiative”. While there have been past allegations against Naturaceites - of which foodwatch and ECCHR are aware - the complaint submitted under the German Supply Chain Act against Edeka focuses on particular communities and new information related to their situation and gathered throughout the year 2023, including through several interviews. [...]

2. RSPO Audits are a big part of the problem and not sufficient as proof of respect for human rights and the environment

Naturaceites refers in large parts to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palmoil (RSPO) and how events mentioned by the Romero initiative have been dealt with under this mechanism in the past. As said before, these events are different from the ones raised in the complaint by ECCHR and foodwatch.

In addition, RSPO certification based on audits is part of the problem identified in the complaint. Affected communities and their members raise doubt about the robustness of the methodology used by auditors and the results obtained. The complaint specifies detailed shortcomings regarding the two latest audit reports of 2022 and 2023 respectively. Naturaceites’ response does not react meaningfully to these particular allegations. However, they should be at the core of its reply. [...]

3. Respect for land rights and non-occurrence of other violations cannot be proven by mere assertions and a paper trail

As was pointed out several times in the complaint, the land rights of indigenous communities in Guatemala are at best fragile. Formal registers do not necessarily reflect the claims of the communities based on traditional possession of the land. The limits of their lands have been contested for many years. Land rights defenders are vulnerable, criminalized, and exposed to violence, which makes it impossible for them to freely travel to and from their community to submit complaints to administrative authorities in which they have no trust, given the poor record of handling past complaints. Therefore, the absence of formal complaints against land rights Naturaceites allegedly possesses is no sign of respect for the rights of indigenous communities in the area. [...]

4. Suggested measures to achieve improvement are fully inadequate to respond to the accusations made

Proposed measures for improvement mainly consist of promising additional efforts in communicating certain topics and pieces of information to the public. Such communication will not address the root problems raised by the complainants and is therefore inadequate as a reply to all the allegations made.