Living in Malaysia, odds are you’ve at least heard of Sime Darby at least once. The Malaysian trading conglomerate has its hands dipped in a wide range of industries from the industrial, plantation, motors and logistics sectors to the healthcare, insurance, and retail segments as well.
That being said, it turns out that the palm oil arm of the company, Sime Darby Plantation Bhd, is being accused of alleged child and forced labour in its supply chain. A Hong Kong-based anti-trafficking NGO called Liberty Shared has filed a petition with the US Customs and Border Protection agency against the company urging a ban on imports of the firm’s palm oil products.
The petition, which was filed back in April 2020 reveals consistent complaints of arbitrary penalties, threats of and actual sexual harassment, physical threats and abuse, various and inconsistent deductions in pay, varying conditions of accommodation, and fees charged for basic facilities from the workers and civil society it interviewed.
Thats not including the numerous claims of deceit from the workers interviewed. According to the report, a number of them claimed to have been deceived by the company into believing that they would be working in factories with a salary thats higher than what they’ve been actually receiving. Taking into account the deductions, some have claimed they don’t even earn minimum wage.
Malaysia happens to be the number 2 producer of palm oil in the world, with Sim Darby Plantations making up a big part of the local industry. At the same time, the US is one of the largest importers of Malaysian palm oil products. One of the policies that the US has in place prohibits entry of goods that arrive at their ports if there is reason to believe they contain materials made with forced labor.
Should the US place a ban on imports from Sime Darby Plantations, perhaps its a good time for the company to look into its supply chain and the conditions in which their workers are living in.