Indonesia: RSPO Investigating Reports of Ongoing Labor Abuse at Indofood Plantations

Sheany Jakarta Globe 11 Dec 17;

Jakarta. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or RSPO, announced last week that its complaints panel is currently investigating reports of ongoing worker exploitation at plantations belonging to Indonesian food giant Indofood and that there are plans to conduct onsite verification soon.

United States-based environmental organization Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Indonesian labor rights advocacy group Oppuk and the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) published a report in late November detailing grim working conditions at plantations owned and operated by Indofood. This includes exposure to hazardous pesticides, payments below the minimum wage and the use of child labor.

The research was conducted at three plantations in North Sumatra, operated by London Sumatra Indonesia (Lonsum) – a listed subsidiary of Indofood's plantation arm, Indofood Agri Resources (IndoAgri). The plantations are certified as "sustainable" by the RSPO – the leading certification scheme in the palm oil industry.

Details of the alleged labor abuses at Indofood-owned plantations were first made public in June last year, with the most recent report showing that "conditions on the plantations remain largely the same."

RAN, Oppuk and the ILRF lodged a formal complaint against Indofood with the RSPO in October last year, which led to the suspension of SAI Global Indonesia – the firm that certifies Indofood's plantations – in December 2016.

The suspension, according to information posted by Accreditation Services International – the RSPO's accreditation body – on its website, was lifted on July 6 this year.

In response to the Jakarta Globe's request for comment, RSPO country director Tiur Rumondang said in an email on Thursday (07/12) that the organization has been "communicating with relevant stakeholders" and reaffirmed their commitment to transparency and accountability. She added that they encourage "members to respond to allegations against them in a similar manner."

"The complaints panel is investigating the matter and onsite verification is being planned," Tiur said.

She said the panel is also in contact with RAN, Oppuk and the ILRF "to move the plans forward" and that it has mandated the RSPO secretariat to follow up with Lonsum on the new allegations of reprisals against workers.