Rain Forest Action Network Calls For System Reforms

In November 2018, The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) called for system reforms to make newly revised Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) have more impact.

Robin Averbeck, Agribusiness Campaign Director, at Rainforest Action Network (RAN) said that the group welcomed the decision to strengthen the RSPO’s certification standard to align with market expectations that palm oil companies will comply with ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ (NDPE) production practices, but that it was important to remember that a strong certification standard is meaningless without enforcement.

“The RSPO’s recent decision to not suspend Indofood—a RSPO ‘sustainably’ certified company proven to be systematically and illegally violating workers’ rights for over two years— is evidence of the failures of the RSPO system. A certification scheme which continues to allow labor exploitation to be certified and sold under a ‘sustainable’ label cannot last long,” said Averbeck.

“If the RSPO wants to build it’s reputation in the marketplace, and show strong enforcement of it’s newly revised standard, it must suspend Indofood’s RSPO membership and certification until independently verified corrective actions are undertaken to remedy the systemic labor violations across Indofood’s plantations,” said Averbeck.

Averbeck noted that the only system providing independently verified ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ palm oil is the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG).

“If the RSPO fails to reform its auditing, compliance and grievance systems it will continue to be a certification scheme criticized for greenwashing unsustainable practices,” added Averbeck.

“The RSPO is running out of time to gain credibility in the marketplace. RAN, and the world’s consumers call for no delays or exemptions as the RSPO moves to put the revised standard into effect,” said Averbeck.

In late November 2018, the Malaysian palm oil giant, FGV Holdings Berhad, formerly FELDA Global Ventures (FELDA) was sanctioned over forced labor and human trafficking. This was after the RSPO confirmed forced labor, complicity in the trafficking of workers, dire living conditions, widespread illegality and more than 25 breaches of the RSPO sustainability certification criteria on FELDA plantations.

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

Glorene Das, Executive Director with Malaysian human rights organization Tenaganita said that 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.

“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,” said Das.

Fatah Sadaoui, Palm Oil Campaign Manager, SumOfUs, a global consumer watchdog organization said in a press release that big brands like Procter & Gamble are profiting from FELDA’s modern-day slavery practices and must be held accountable.

“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,” added Sadaoui.

Averbeck notes that the RSPO has failed again to adequately hold accountable one of its member companies found guilty of widespread illegal labor violations.

“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,” said Averbeck.

Note: Modern American News will continue to monitor the news and developments from the RAN and the palm oil trade.

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