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Cargill’s response to the Associated Press article on palm oil  

November 25, 2020

On November 18, the Associated Press published an article describing deeply concerning human rights violations including allegations of violence against female palm oil plantation workers.

First, sexual exploitation or assault is a crime and should be investigated thoroughly by local law enforcement. As a responsible company, we expect our global suppliers to share our commitment to following the law and provide safe and healthy working conditions at all of their operations. If violations are found, we hold our suppliers accountable through our Supplier Code of Conduct which extends Cargill’s Guiding Principles into the supply chain.

We have an Ethics Open Line and dedicated local phone numbers in place through which grievances can be raised anonymously. We ask anyone who has experienced or has more information on the violations as described in the Associated Press article to come forward. Cargill will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who raises a concern or participates in an investigation or whistleblowing.

Cargill’s Commitment to Human Rights

Cargill does not tolerate the use of human trafficking, forced labor or child labor in our operations or supply chains. We expect all Cargill employees and our suppliers to adhere to our formal Commitment to Human Rights, which we enhanced in 2019 to detail the principles we embed into our policies and systems to protect human rights around the world. This Commitment applies to our workplace, communities in which we operate, and supply chains.

Advancing Human Rights on the ground in our palm supply chain

Our efforts on the ground in our palm supply chain in Malaysia, Indonesia, Guatemala and globally focus on health and safety, responsible recruitment, and transparent contract and pay practices to protect and empower our workers, especially women who depend on their work in palm oil to earn a living and support their families.

Malaysia: For the past six years, we have worked with the Earthworm Foundation to improve the welfare of workers in Cargill’s Westport and Port Klang refinery supply chains in Malaysia. In 2019, we identified direct suppliers who have agreed to participate in the Labor Transformation Program, an Earthworm Foundation initiative to improve management practices on labor rights. The goal of the program is to improve social issues prevalent in the Malaysian palm oil industry: employment contracts, recruitment practices, grievance mechanisms, and freedom of movement. This year, the program has expanded to include four additional topics: freedom of association, wages and working hours, health and safety and access to safe accommodations. 

Indonesia: We are supporting the Decent Rural Living Initiative focused on gender committee pilot projects, contract innovations and the potential for multi-party collective bargaining agreements in Indonesia. An example of a gender committee project is Cargill’s Jungle Queen committee which empowers female workers and addresses systemic issues such as sexual harassment.

Guatemala, Indonesia and Malaysia: We are partnering with suppliers in Guatemala, Indonesia and Malaysia to support the use of the Ulula worker voice system in our supply chains to amplify workers’ ability to provide feedback without retaliation, air grievances and then to help suppliers appropriately address those worker concerns. 

Global: Through our Palm Policy, Cargill is committed to a transparent, traceable, and sustainable palm oil supply chain. We supply palm oil produced in accordance with “No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation” (NDPE) practices. In the fourth quarter of 2019, 93% of Cargill’s palm oil volume globally was covered by NDPE policies and 58% of our direct traders/refiners had put in place a credible NDPE implementation plan to cover their supply chains. We conduct monitoring through secondary sources and engagement with local stakeholders to hold palm suppliers accountable to our policies. If a supplier is not compliant with our Human Rights Commitment or Palm Policy, we transparently engage on action plans to achieve compliance, and suspend where appropriate.

This is a critical topic that we take very seriously and we remain committed to having an open, collaborative dialogue to address the challenges related to human rights facing the palm industry. The health and safety of all who work in our supply chains to nourish the world is our top priority.