Sime says waiting for details of alleged forced labour

Sime Darby Plantation says it has put in place SOPs on corporate governance, risk management and internal controls.

PETALING JAYA: Sime Darby Plantation Berhad has responded to a US-based human rights group’s claim that it failed to address issues of forced labour.

In a statement, Sime Darby said it has yet to receive full information on Liberty Shared’s allegations in its petition to the US authorities to ban the import of palm oil produced by the company over alleged child and forced labour on its plantations.

“In the absence of such crucial information, Sime Darby is unable to conduct a full and thorough investigation on the allegations,” it said.

Liberty Shared said it was not convinced that Sime Darby had implemented sufficient corporate governance, risk management and internal controls to supervise and manage plantation managers effectively, putting vulnerable workers at risk of forced labour.

Sime Darby said the group’s claim of risks of bribery, wage theft and money laundering must be substantiated with “strong and clear” evidence as it insinuates the possibility that one of Malaysia’s “most respected” banks is colluding to wage theft and money laundering.

“As a multinational public listed company operating in 16 countries and serving the interests of a large number of stakeholders, Sime Darby has put in place a robust framework and various policies and operating procedures on corporate governance, risk management and internal controls,” it said.

These extend beyond regulatory and commercial requirements.

Sime Darby said it understood Liberty Shared’s concerns over the ability of NGOs which work with them on issues of corporate governance, risk management and internal controls.

“We stand by the excellent work, dedication and passion that our NGO partners have demonstrated in ensuring we continue to improve our operations.

“These organisations have helped both us and the industry at large to devise and implement changes for progress in numerous areas over the years,” it said.

On Liberty Shared’s suggestion to work with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), Sime Darby said it already has a long-standing working relationship with the firm and has on numerous occasions sought its expertise and assistance.

“We have taken note that some of the other recommendations made by Liberty Shared in its latest statement referred to measures that should be adopted ‘by the palm oil industry’ in general. Some of these recommendations have already been clarified and addressed,” it added.