Sort by
Sort by

Human rights issues in palm oil

palm oil

How are you addressing human rights issues in the palm oil sector?

Human rights abuses, including forced labor and child labor, are unacceptable. We are working hard to prevent and address human rights abuses by taking action in our supply chain with our partners and our suppliers, to assess, address and remediate human rights risks and by helping tackle root causes through collective action and engagement with all relevant stakeholders, including workers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments.

For a number of years, we have been working with partners, including the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Earthworm Foundation, and Verité to improve transparency, traceability and supplier practices in the palm oil industry. In 2021, we published our upgraded Labor Rights Action Plan for Palm Oil (pdf, 400Kb).

As part of this Action Plan, we are implementing a Program Assurance Framework to ensure that labor rights requirements are cascaded throughout our entire supply chain. This will enable us effectively assess, address and report on labor rights risks.

We also engage directly with our suppliers and sites in our supply chain to conduct assessments, develop action plans, and monitor progress made. 47 refineries, representing the most significant volumes in our supply chain, currently have time-bound roadmaps. We also support the development of tools to address specific human rights risks that are prevalent in the palm oil sector.

We recognize that more remains to be done to solve these deeply engrained and complex issues. Collective action is key to efficiently drive the changes that are needed in the palm oil industry. As such, we participate in a number of multi-stakeholder initiatives together with the Consumer Goods Forum, the Responsible Labor Initiative and the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment among others.

What concrete actions have you taken as part of your global action plan?

In 2021, we started testing a Program Assurance Framework with five suppliers to ensure that labor rights requirements are cascaded throughout our entire supply chain. This will be rolled out to all suppliers by 2023 and will enable us effectively assess, address and report on labor rights risks throughout our supply chain.

We continue to engage directly with our suppliers and sites in our supply chain conducting assessments, developing action plans, and monitoring sites previously assessed to review progress and strengthen their action plans.

We also support the development and deployment of guidelines and tools aimed at helping palm oil buyers and producers to understand and address specific labor-related issues. For example, we are supporting an Earthworm Foundation project to improve targets and payment systems for harvesters in Indonesia and to build close engagement with mills to address the issue of casual workers in Indonesia. A pilot was carried out with one company in North Sumatra, Indonesia, resulting in 51 workers promoted from casual to permanent, 411 harvest workers receiving salary slips and improvements in working and living conditions (distribution of Personal Protection Equipment, improved access to water, and improved housing). The objective is to scale up this work based on the key learnings gathered through this pilot and extend it to Malaysia.

We supported Earthworm Foundation in the development of a Directory of Social Services to help businesses improve the welfare of children living in or near plantations. It addresses four priority areas: Education, Community Engagement, Birth Registration and Other Child Protection-related services for children and youth living in rural areas in Sabah.

We are also addressing the practice of workers’ passport retention. We are working with our suppliers to raise awareness about the issues related to this practice, helping draw procedures to return the passports to the workers and installing lockers for workers across plantations. We are encouraged by the fact that several of our suppliers, including Wilmar and Fuji Oil, are now returning the passports to their workers.

As we believe that grievance mechanisms are critical to address labor rights risks, we also launched a worker helpline within Sime Darby Plantations in Malaysia. The helpline was developed together with ELEVATE and the Responsible Business Alliance. We aim to promote the helpline system among other players in the industry.

How do you work with others in the palm oil sector to drive change?

Given the complexity of the palm oil industry and the estimated four million people that it employs in South East Asia, progress in addressing labor and human rights issues relies on cross-industry efforts. We therefore participate in a number of multi-stakeholder initiatives to help transform the palm oil sector.We commissioned and contributed with other members of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), to a research report by the FLA and an action plan on forced labor in the palm oil sector. In parallel, we are supporting engagement with suppliers, governments and certification bodies on the Forced Labor Priority Industry Principles and the development of industry guidance and tools to support their implementation.

We are part of the Responsible Labor Initiative, a multi-industry, multi-stakeholder effort focused on ensuring that the rights of workers vulnerable to forced labor in global supply chains are consistently respected and promoted, and of the International Human Rights and Business (IHRB)’s Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment.

We also actively participated in the consultation process to strengthen the Principles & Criteria (P&C) of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). We welcome the adoption of the revised P&C and believe this addresses key gaps that we have been calling out in the standard, including requirements on stronger Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), community protection, and labor rights. We are now continuing to work within RSPO to strengthen the assurance systems for implementing their P&C.

Are you ending your relationship with FGV Holdings following allegations that the company uses forced labor?

We are aware of the allegations against FGV. We do not source from FGV directly but palm oil from its affiliated companies enters our supply chain indirectly. We have regularly engaged with FGV to understand where they are making progress and to explain where more work needs to be done. We will continue to help ensure they take appropriate actions to eliminate labor rights abuses in our supply chains.

What is your response to Amnesty International’s report on labor abuses in palm oil?

Practices such as those identified in Amnesty International’s report have no place in our supply chain. We engaged extensively with Amnesty during the drafting of the report, including supplying detailed information on our relationship with palm oil supplier Wilmar and on our actions to address human rights and labor rights issues in the sector.

We continue to work closely with Wilmar and our partner Earthworm Foundation to address the gaps with our Responsible Sourcing Standard identified in Wilmar’s supply chains. We are working with them to improve the traceability to plantations and put in place targeted action plans to address labor risks.

What is your response to the Solidar Suisse report on labor rights in palm oil supply chains?

Human rights abuses, including forced labor and child labor, are inacceptable.

We have been in contact with Solidar prior and after the publication of the report are disappointed to see that the explanations we have provided pertaining to Nestlé’s substantive on-the-ground efforts have not been reflected in the report. We are working hard to address human rights abuses, including in Malaysia, through our dedicated global Action Plan on Labor Rights in Palm Oil Supply Chains. We recognize that more remains to be done to solve these deeply engrained and complex issues. While we will continue to play our part in addressing these issues in our own supply chain, successfully addressing these challenges require collective action by all stakeholders, including consumer good companies, palm oil producers and governments.

Responses to Amnesty International letters

Find out more

Still have a question?