Palm oil is an important source of income to millions of employees, workers, smallholders, and communities, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia, where 85% of the world’s production originates.
As the demand for palm oil continues to rise, we must continue to improve the livelihoods of those who depend on the industry.
First published in 2017, our Human Rights Charter (HRC) outlines our strong commitments to fundamental human rights in line with international documents such as the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP).
In 2020, we revised our HRC to bring it into closer alignment with UNGP principles and terminologies and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) 2018 Principle & Criteria (P&C) requirements. The HRC applies to all our employees, workers at our operations and supply chain, and partners in communities surrounding our operations. We have also published a dedicated Policy on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. The policy outlines SDP's commitment to protecting the identity of human rights defenders and other people who raise issues so that those who exercise their human rights whilst engaging with SDP are protected from threats, violence, and all other forms of intimidation and retaliation.
The events that unfolded in 2020 and 2021 have reinforced our belief that people are the backbone of our company. Unprecedented crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating flash floods in Malaysia have tested our measures in protecting employees and surrounding communities. SDP has also been subjected to an extra layer of scrutiny due to concerns about forced labour at our Malaysian upstream operations. Faced with these challenging circumstances, we realise that whilst we have committed to stringent standards in principle, we must improve their implementation on the ground. Despite these setbacks, we will continue to strive to go above and beyond the minimum requirements and set an excellent example for the industry.
Update on the Finding by the US Customs and Border Protection[GRI 3-3, 409-1]
On 30 December 2020, the United States Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) halting palm oil exports originating from SDP’s Malaysian plantations from entering US ports. The WRO was initiated by a petition raised by the NGO Liberty Shared, in April 2020, alleging indications of forced labour at SDP’s upstream operations in Malaysia. Following this, in January 2022, the USCBP determined that certain SDP palm oil products are produced using convict, forced or indentured labour, by issuing a Notice of Finding, effective 28 January 2022.
In early 2021, we contracted a London-based ethical trade consultancy, Impactt Ltd., to conduct an independent evaluation of labour practices at our upstream operations in Malaysia. Impactt was engaged to carry out an assessment against the 11 International Labour Organisation (ILO) forced labour indicators, based on a combination of evidence, including workers’ testimonies, documentation review, site inspections, and management interviews. The assessment began in April 2021 and was initially slated for completion in May. However, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the requirement for other specialised third-party input, completion against all 11 indicators was delayed until the end of September 2021.
In December 2021, Impactt was contracted to undertake verification, including on-the-ground verification against the full scope of the intended work, and the report has recently been completed.We will continue to engage our stakeholders on our progress.