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RSPO STATEMENT ON THE U.S. CBP’S WITHHOLD RELEASE ORDER FOR SIME DARBY PLANTATIONS

Kuala Lumpur, 31 December 2020: The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) acknowledges the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Withhold Release Order (WRO) on materials imported to the United States from Sime Darby Plantations (SDP). We are concerned about comments made to the media by CBP officials regarding evidence of serious violations of the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) 2018. We have once again urged the CBP to share any information with us that will allow us to properly investigate this matter and report transparently on our findings. 

The RSPO has zero-tolerance for the practices described in the CBP Press Release. This is precisely why the protection of human rights has been so deeply embedded in our standards. We can confirm that an initial review of audit findings earlier this year did not generate any red flags against Sime Darby Plantations. We rely on independent auditors to detect violations of this nature and to date, no non-conformances have been identified on any certified SDP plantations. We have launched an immediate investigation into these new violations cited by the CBP and we would appreciate any specifics that they, or their investigators can share beyond the generic information in the media.

RSPO’s Chief Executive Officer Designate, Beverley Postma, said, “We are deeply concerned to learn of the actions taken against Sime Darby Plantations and we have launched an immediate investigation.  We condemn the use of forced labour or any other form of modern slavery on any plantation, certified or uncertified. Human rights violations remain one of the toughest challenges for all agricultural and industrial sectors that operate in low income communities and we are committed to scaling up our collaboration between governments, civil society and businesses to address the root causes of these issues while increasing the monitoring and enforcement of our standards.” 

Chief Executive Officer Designate, Beverley Postma, continued, “Our long term goal as a global society must be to lift more people out of poverty and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. To do this, we must ensure positive outcomes for migrant workers and their families  who rely on the oil palm industry for their livelihoods. We will take swift action against businesses that intentionally violate our standards, but we must foster a transparent and equitable dialogue with governments and local communities. The RSPO once again calls on the U.S. government and CBP to work with all relevant partners to conduct a full risk assessment of the impact any sanctions will have on these vulnerable populations and to work jointly with the Malaysian government towards a positive outcome that allows both countries to meet their commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Despite the challenges we face, RSPO certification, with its accredited independent third party auditing offers the best global system for surveillance of the agricultural sector where regulatory governance is still developing. The RSPO is committed to enhancing its systems to monitor member plantations on a more consistent basis, and to the improvement of the assurance system overall. 

The RSPO Secretariat remains committed to transparency and accountability and will continue to publish on its website the relevant developments pertaining to this matter. Further, we strongly encourage any organisation or agency that has additional information about human rights violations or violations of the RSPO P&C found on RSPO member plantations to submit a formal complaint through our Complaints System.


ABOUT RSPO:

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. RSPO is a not-for-profit, international, membership organisation that unites stakeholders from the different sectors of the palm oil industry including 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.

This multi-stakeholder representation is mirrored in the governance structure of RSPO such that seats in the Board of Governors, Steering Committees and 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, facilitating traditionally adversarial stakeholders in working together to reach decisions by consensus, and achieving RSPO’s shared vision of making sustainable palm oil the norm.

The seat of the association is in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur with satellite offices in Jakarta (ID), London (UK), Zoetermeer (NL), Beijing (CN) and Bogotá (CO).


For further information, kindly contact:  

Name: Dan Strechay

Position: Global Outreach & Engagement Director

Email: dan.strechay@rspo.org

Name: Fay Richards

Position: Global Communications Manager - EMEA

Email: fay.richards@rspo.org