Sustainability Claims Riddled With Fraud, Abuse
Today Amnesty International has published a damning new report into the practices of major consumer goods multinationals. The human rights NGO unpicks the palm oil supply chain and finds evidence of forced labor, child employment and dangerous working conditions within the palm oil supply chain.
Although the company primarily under investigation is Wilmar, the world’s largest palm oil producer, it is the brand names that this firm suppliers that faces the charity’s opprobrium. Colgate, Nestlé and Unilever all come under heavy criticism for allowing conditions to emerge in their supply chains that many would regard as shocking.
Amnesty International interviewed 120 workers within Wilmar’s plantations, as well as digging deeper into their suppliers in Indonesia.
“Corporate giants like Colgate, Nestlé and Unilever assure consumers that their products use sustainable palm oil, but our findings reveal that the palm oil is anything but,”noted Meghna Abraham, Senior Investigator at Amnesty International.
“Companies are turning a blind eye to exploitation of workers in their supply chain. Despite promising customers that there will be no exploitation in their palm oil supply chains, big brands continue to profit from appalling abuses.”
Palm oil is a highly versatile product that is estimated to be in half of all consumer products, ranging from toothpaste to shampoo. It is mostly produced in Indonesia, which services over half of global demand.
The palm oil sector is rife with corporate social responsibility issues and is linked to deforestation, where its land-intensive farms denude the Indonesian jungle and deny rare species, such as orangutans, of habitation. It also is an area of alleged worker exploitation.
The Amnesty International report describes a punishing work regime with demanding performance targets. Failure to meet objectives can yield financial deductions. Penalties are levied at the manager’s discretion.
Many laborers, the reporters find, feel compelled to work 10-11 hour-long days, accumulating to exceed the legal maximum of 40-hours per week in Indonesia. Despite this grueling schedule many claim they are paid beneath the legal minimum wage.
The report finds that, such are the pressures under which workers are placed, they enlist their spouses and children to toil unpaid to avoid penalties from the employer. The charity found children as young as eight in employment, many of whom dropped out of school to meet their quota.
“I get the premi [bonus] from the loose fruit that’s why my kids help me<” said a plantation worker. “I wouldn’t be able to meet the target otherwise. The foreman sees my children helping me. The foreman says it is good that my child is helping me.”
Indonesia bans child labor.
Amnesty International also finds evidence of using paraquat, highly dangerous herbicide. The chemical is banned in the European Union and Wilmar itself has made commitments to phase out its use. The report finds that suppliers are still routinely making use of the chemical.
The investigators found one instance of a worker that was splashed in the face by the chemical, leading to severe injuries. “I can’t see through the eye. I get headaches in part of my head, when I do, my eye feels really swollen. I still get a bit dizzy.”
These allegations are obviously serious and, if true, highly damaging to the brands concerned. Wilmar acknowledge the report’s findings, and urged many within the industry to help combat these issues.
Read The Full Story About Palm Oil Abuses at http://www.forbes.com/sites/jwebb/2016/11/30/amnesty-international-slams-colgate-nestle-and-unilever-for-palm-oil-supply-chain-abuses/2/#456cd1564161