New Responsible Recruitment Procedure
As a matter of current practice, SDP is involved in every step of the process of hiring foreign workers. We oversee quota applications, recruitment drives in countries of origin (including interviews and the selection process), immigration clearances, and employee pick-ups at the Malaysian airport. However, we continue to face challenges with cross-border policy gaps and the deep-rooted socio-economic drivers of migration.
In August 2021, we published our new Migrant Worker Responsible Recruitment Procedure outlining our approach to respecting workers’ rights and our measures preventing all forms of forced or bonded labour, slavery, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation. We drafted this new procedure with the support and expertise of migrant labour specialist, Andy Hall.
This document provides operational guidance and includes the following improvements:
An open tender process on the selection of recruitment agents that is fair and transparent
Heavy emphasis on due diligence to ensure recruitment agents adhere to ethical recruitment practices
Training and mentoring recruitment agents
to support ethical recruitment processes
A strict definition of recruitment fees aligned with the ILO definition
Provision of individual lockers for
safe-keeping of passports
Improving transparency in job descriptions
by signing contracts pre-departure
Making grievance channels available at source countries to monitor recruitment mechanisms
The procedure applies to our employees, recruitment agents, and their affiliates at our upstream operations in Malaysia. We require vendors to adopt similar commitments within their own business practices and have started to conduct awareness briefings sessions to support their implementation of responsible recruitment practices. As an immediate control, all vendors sign a Vendor Integrity Pledge in agreement to the Vendor Code of Business Conduct that explicitly mentions adherence to the protection of human rights.
In 2021, all SDP teams involved in the recruitment of workers were trained on this new procedure and webinars were conducted for all shortlisted agencies. This temporary pandemic-related hiring freeze on foreign workers has given us the time and opportunity to carry out an open tender process, perform due diligence, and launch mentorship programmes. Our new procedure will apply to all new foreign hires in 2022, once the recruitment of migrant workers can recommence.
New reimbursement policy for current and former workers
SDP committed to zero-recruitment fees through our Human Rights Charter established in 2015. Following this, we enhanced this policy to better align our practices to the ILO General principles and operational guidelines for fair recruitment and Definition of recruitment fees and related costs ILO definitions and conventions. In August 2021, we launched our Migrant Worker Responsible Recruitment Procedure to further supports our commitment to ensuring workers incur no fees during the hiring process. The procedure includes a list of allowable and prohibited costs to workers. SDP is committed to holding recruitment agencies contractually responsible for reimbursing recruitment fees and other illegitimate expenses incurred by workers.
In February 2022, we announced our intention to reimburse more than 34,000 current and former workers an aggregate sum of over MYR 82 million to remediate recruitment fees incurred. Individual reimbursements were calculated as a sum of the average worker-reported recruitment fees and related costs by nationality. Correct exchange rates, inflation since the date of payment and an interest (at 2%) was applied to represent at least part of the lost economic opportunity cost. All reimbursements will be paid as a single lump-sum payment to foreign workers. We have also established Sinking Fund Governance Committee to oversee the process of reimbursing former foreign workers.
In future, recruitment agents who do not comply with our ethical policies and standards will be required to reimburse workers with costs charged to them during the recruitment process and have their contracts terminated and placed on a list of banned suppliers.
STAKEHOLDER COMMENTARY |
SDP is a leader in palm-oil industry innovation and an ideal partner for Nestlé. A worker helpline is a crucial mechanism for safeguarding workers’ rights because it allows them to raise grievances about issues they encounter during their employment. SDP and Nestlé are aligned in our desire to protect workers’ rights. When we realised that palm oil industry workers in Malaysia lacked such a mechanism, we decided to take action.
That is why SDP and Nestlé partnered with ELEVATE to establish Suara Kami, a helpline initially developed for the manufacturing sector, which we adapted and rolled out across SDP’s Malaysia operations. Suara Kami provides workers with several ways to file grievances, including social media, telephone calls, email, and messaging. Despite taking longer than we anticipated to roll out, the data we collected and the reports we have compiled show that workers have embraced the system and that uptake is driven by its availability in workers’ native tongues. Workers are regularly engaged across all sites on using this essential tool.
Nestlé's ultimate goal is to give all workers across our value chain access to Suara Kami and to expand the programme to companies other than SDP.
The Suara Kami helpline is another step forward in our effort to address social issues in our supply chain through our Human Rights Road Map and our Palm Oil Labour Rights Action Plan. Through these initiatives, we have adopted a holistic approach to social issues instead of addressing them in silos. For example, we are looking at how forced labour and child labour are connected instead of treating them as separate issues. Nestlé’s new Human Rights Roadmap allows us to systematically look at suppliers, Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) and how it cascades across their supply chains, including their upstream operations. Nestlé has reviewed SDP’s Human Rights Charter and concluded that it is robust and transparent, implements effective measures, and is based on solid partnerships.
About the stakeholder: Emily leads Nestlé’s sustainability sourcing activities for palm oil and oversees climate-related matters pertaining to forests. She works closely with SDP’s team on specific sustainability initiatives. William is the head of procurement for vegetable oils and fats, and sugar at Nestlé. He engages with SDP on procurement and the commercial aspects of sustainability.