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Palm Oil Giant FELDA Sanctioned Over Forced Labor, Human Trafficking

Major brands Procter & Gamble, Hershey’s, and Unilever linked to illegality and labor abuses

San Francisco, CA – Malaysian palm oil giant FGV Holdings Berhad, formerly FELDA Global Ventures (FELDA), has been sanctioned by the world’s largest palm oil certification scheme, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), after the RSPO confirmed forced labor, complicity in the trafficking of workers, dire living conditions, widespread illegality and over 25 breaches of the RSPO sustainability certification criteria on FELDA plantations.

FELDA
12019 / Pixabay

The RSPO investigation was sparked by story in 2015, which found forced labor, human trafficking and other labor abuses on FELDA-owned plantations.

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“The RSPO’s confirmation of forced labor on FELDA’s plantations is a damning indictment of the company’s modern day slavery practices and its complicity in human trafficking,” said Glorene Das, Executive Director with Malaysian human rights organization Tenaganita. “The Malaysian government, global palm oil buyers, financiers, and the international community must hold palm oil companies to account, especially government-linked companies like FELDA. We cannot allow these crimes to persist.”

Global palm oil buyers are beginning to acknowledge widespread labor violations in the palm oil industry and yet global brands have taken few meaningfully actions to address the issue. Major consumer brands Procter & Gamble, Hershey’s, Unilever, Mars, PepsiCo and Nestle, along with American food giant Cargill, continue to buy from FELDA, despite the fact that all companies have policies against sourcing from these kinds of bad actors.

“Big brands like Procter & Gamble are profiting from FELDA’s modern day slavery practices and must be held accountable,” said Fatah Sadaoui, Palm Oil Campaign Manager forSumOfUs, a global consumer watchdog organization. “To date, Procter & Gamble has failed to hold FELDA accountable for forced labor on its plantations, despite over 160,000 global consumers calling for action.”

This is the second decision by the RSPO in the past several weeks on a high-profile labor complaint. Earlier this month, the RSPO announced a similar decision to sanction, but not outright suspend, major Indonesian palm oil producer Indofood.

“With this decision, the RSPO has again failed to adequately hold accountable one of its member companies found guilty of widespread illegal labor violations,” said Robin Averbeck, Agribusiness Campaign Director for Rainforest Action Network (RAN). “The RSPO has issued a slap on the wrist to both FELDA and Indofood, while allowing these companies to continue selling certified ‘sustainable’ palm oil rife with illegality and labor violations. Such hypocrisy cannot last long in the global marketplace and risks the complete collapse of the RSPO’s credibility.”