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Finnwatch today published a report into the working conditions and labour rights of palm oil workers on four estates belonging to the IOI Group in Negeri Sembilan and Johor states in Malaysia.
IOI is a member of RSPO and the four estates have been certified by independent auditors (certification bodies) according to RSPO’s Principles & Criteria (P&C) for the production of certified sustainable palm oil. The Finnwatch report contains allegations of non-compliance by the IOI Group, although no formal complaint has been raised to the RSPO.
RSPO is committed to transparency and accountability and welcomes the scrutiny of third parties, including NGOs.
Since becoming aware of these allegations RSPO has visited two of the four IOI estates, namely the Bukit Serampang and Bahau estates to conduct preliminary investigations. Salahudin Yaacob, RSPO Technical Director, stated: “We have already conducted preliminary checks at two of the four named estates and once we will have received the final report from Finnwatch, we will be undertaking further fact-checking and field verification visits to check for any non-compliance by IOI Group or our auditors.
If the RSPO finds that there is a risk that the audit process was not conducted correctly, RSPO can also ask Accreditation Services International (ASI) to conduct an independent assessment. ASI is one of the world’s leading accreditation bodies for sustainability standards systems, whose role is to provide assurance and trust in certification.
RSPO promotes the respect of human rights and labour rights under Principle six of its P&C, which must be adhered to for an RSPO certified estate. Principle six requires employers to respect the rights of all personnel to form and join trade unions of their choice and to bargain collectively, bans any forms of forced or trafficked labour, and contains special clauses to protect foreign workers. For instance, labour laws, union agreements or direct contracts of employment shall be available in the languages understood by the workers or explained carefully to them by a management official.
As far as minimum wage is concerned, Finnwatch claims that the RSPO does not define an adequate living wage. However, Principles 6.5 provides clear guidance on this point: to take into account the differences among palm oil producing countries, each National Interpretation shall define a decent living wage. Where there is no National Interpretation, the legal minimum wage will be used. For peninsular Malaysia this is set at RM 900 per month which is the legal minimum wage of Malaysia.
RSPO understands that monitoring social and labour standards is a priority and has plans in place to raise standards among the certification bodies. For example, on 17-19 September, Verité, an international workers rights NGO, will be running a two-day training for auditors on RSPO’s social and labour standards, as part of their work within the RSPO Human Rights Working Group, in Bangkok.
RSPO will issue further updates when new evidence becomes available from field checks and contacts with all concerned parties.
About the RSPO
In response to the urgent and pressing global call for sustainably-produced palm oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders. The seat of the association is in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur with a satellite office in Jakarta.
RSPO is a not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry - oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs - to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil (Principles & Criteria).
Such multi-stakeholder representation is mirrored in the governance structure of RSPO such that seats in the Executive Board and project-level Working Groups are fairly allocated to each sector. In this way, RSPO lives out the philosophy of the "roundtable" by giving equal rights to each stakeholder group to bring group-specific agendas to the roundtable, facilitating traditionally adversarial stakeholders and business competitors to work together towards a common objective and make decisions by consensus.
Contacts for RSPO
European Director of Outreach and Engagement
T: +44 7779 780 737
Acting Communications Director