by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH/ graphic by MZUKRI
SIME Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) is committed to eradicating instances of non-compliance practices through imposing appropriate and responsive actions should any cases arise.
The oil palm planter issued a statement in response to a petition and malpractice allegations by Hong-Kong based Liberty Shared, noting that the allegations are serious as the group did not seek clarification from SDP.
“As a responsible producer of palm oil, SDP is concerned over the serious allegations in a petition that was submitted to the US Customs and Border Protection.
“These are serious allegations that are against the commitments that we have publicly made.
“We believe over the years, we have made genuine progress in improving our labour practices on the ground through various initiatives and collaborations with multiple partners and non-profit organisations,” said SDP.
The planter said it is aware of the challenges and complexity of the supply chains across the palm oil industry which has led to the implementation of its No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation commitments.
Currently, SDP has access only to the summary of the petition, which provides issues that were raised without any details of proofs and evidence.
“In the spirit of openness, transparency and collaboration that SDP has always upheld, we intend to engage Liberty Shared to further understand these allegations in detail to enable us to conduct a thorough and immediate investigation, and take corrective action, as the findings may warrant.
“We believe this in turn will further help strengthen our practices globally to ensure we embed the respect for human rights on the ground throughout our operations,” it said.
Liberty Shared submitted a petition to the US Customs and Border Protection against SDP on July 20, 2020, claiming that the planter is engaging in a forced and child labour practices.
In the petition, the group urged an import ban on palm oil products produced by SDP or its associate companies.
Liberty Shared said its conclusions were reached through interviews with workers and members of civil society, audit reports and sustainability-related initiatives.
According to the petition summary, the workers who have been interviewed mentioned the imposition of arbitrary penalties, sexual harassment, physical threats and abuse, inconsistent deductions in payments and fees charged for basic facilities.
The US is one of the important markets for Malaysian palm oil, importing 542,161 tonnes of the edible oil last year, according to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board.
SDP’s share price rose nine sen or 1.81% to RM5.05 at the close yesterday, with a market capitalisation of RM34.77 billion.