My grandfather’s legacy: Why I choose to champion human rights, every day
Read Time: 3 minutes
April 25, 2023
By Rodolpho Simas,
Cargill Human Rights lead
Imagine you round the corner of the street, looking back and catching a glimpse of your home before it’s gone from your view. Imagine the feeling of knowing, deep down, that you will never see it again.
My Romanian grandfather experienced that heart-breaking moment in the 1930s, amidst the Great Depression, Germany arming itself and more and more anti-Jewish speeches. The Romanian government officially allied itself with Nazi Germany in 1940, but the danger had long been foreshadowed. For years, the fascist government had installed anti-Jewish laws that made one thing clear to people like my grandfather: he and his fellow Jews were considered less than fully human in his homeland.
Soon afterward, my grandfather arrived as a refugee in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Here, he fell in love with a Black Brazilian woman. The family and life they built together stands as an enduring symbol of the human ability to overcome and thrive in the most extreme circumstances. I am proud to be part of their legacy — and work to perpetuate it with what I do at Cargill.
It’s no coincidence that I have decided to work in the area of human rights and chosen to work for a company dedicated to respecting the human rights of all its employees and those whose lives it touches.”
Rooted in the company’s Guiding Principles, Cargill’s commitment to human rights is fundamental to everything we do. Our actions are driven by our values and our culture of putting people first, championing action and embracing our responsibility to protect people and planet.
Our globally shared understanding of what upholding human rights truly means is always changing. My colleagues and I know we must constantly evolve our approach, to ensure we are taking the right action to respect and protect people in our operations and supply chains. We are systematically examining human rights risks across our businesses, which gives us better visibility into the most pressing human rights issues facing our operations and supply chains. Our honesty and reflection has helped us develop our refreshed Human Rights Policy and informed where we need to focus.
As I think about the urgency and passion needed to do this profound work, I think of colleagues like Pitt Onn Wong, our sustainability engagement manager in Malaysia. Pitt Onn and his colleagues are addressing forced labor in the palm industry with a focus on improving recruitment and labor practices of migrant workers coming to work in that country. We are raising awareness of these issues and understanding our suppliers’ recruitment processes to make sure that those migrant workers are recruited with dignity and respect.
Every day, Cargill employees like Pitt Onn are working to ensure all workers are treated with dignity and respect: ensuring they have freedom of movement, awareness of their terms of employment, and are not burdened with debt because of payments required to secure employment.
As it should be, governments, non-governmental organizations and customers around the world have continued to increase the call to companies to do everything they can to protect human rights. We are continuously building stronger partnerships, designing more effective systems and creating more positive impact across the globe.
Pitt Onn once shared with us some words from his experiences that spoke loudly to me then, and loudly to me now: “Every bit of progress is some form of success we must focus on. It matters to these workers, these people.” I am invigorated by that reality and the optimism it rallies us toward.
My son and daughter always ask me, ‘Daddy, what do you do at work’? In those moments I pause and reflect on the work that we do to improve the livelihoods of many people across the globe, especially those in vulnerable situations – like my grandfather was in the 1930s.
That is my grandfather’s legacy.
Progress is happening.
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