By NG MIN SHEN / Pic By BLOOMBERG
Sime Darby Plantation Bhd has been ranked first on a recent study on Asean business and human rights, reaffirming the company’s focus on sustainability in an industry facing accusations of its implication in deforestation and abuse of human rights.
The study titled “Human Rights Disclosure in Asean” is a collaborative project undertaken by the Asean CSR Network, the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University and Article 30.
Sime Darby Plantation chief sustainability officer Dr Simon Lord called the ranking a “positive encouragement” for the firm to continuously improve its sustainability standards and protection of human rights.
“The palm oil industry continues to be under scrutiny over allegations of unsustainable practices and human rights abuses. Sime Darby Plantation is serious in addressing the risks of these issues occurring within our operations through various policies and initiatives,” he said in a statement yesterday.
A total of 250 listed companies from Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore were assessed in the study which measured the companies’ disclosure through materials made public against the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the Global Reporting Initiative Standards.
“The commitments we pledged in our Human Rights Charter and Responsible Agriculture Charter are further strengthened by our partnership with various other independent organisations and non-government organisations, to ensure that we are on the right track where human rights are concerned,” Lord added.
Although Malaysia requires environmental, social and governance reporting as a rule for listed companies, there are no clear guidelines on disclosure directives in relation to human rights.
Nevertheless, the company has chosen to put these measures in place to achieve sustainable operations throughout its value chain.
The world’s largest oil palm planter by area also said the enactment of its Human Rights Charter, which was developed in-house by the company’s Human Rights Taskforce (HRTF) in 2015, was an important step towards preserving the rights of communities the group is associated with.
The HRTF was co-chaired by the company’s group human resources, group sustainability and quality management divisions, as well as other key departments from its operations.
Lord also congratulated employees of the firm who made the ranking possible, particularly knowing that “human rights solutions may appear simple in concept, yet pose many challenges during execution”.
The companies in the study were scored based on a 30- point diagnostic framework spanning six categories, namely fundamental human rights commitments, policy statements on human rights, operational information, due diligence, monitoring and reporting, and claims and remediation.
These firms were measured partly against the UNGPs, which were endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Counsel in June 2011 and are globally accepted as an objective measure of social responsibility and sustainability.
Under the UNGPs, governments and business enterprises must ensure effective remediation should violations or harm occur while protecting and respecting fundamental human rights.