Sime Darby laments ‘lack of opportunity’ to respond to labour charges

Sime Darby Plantation says it is committed to upholding human rights in its operations and supply chain.

KUALA LUMPUR: Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) said today it was not given the opportunity to explain to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) a petition submitted by Hong Kong-based anti-trafficking group Liberty Shared (LS).

This comes in the wake of speculation that SDP may be the next major plantation firm to face a withhold release order or import ban from CBP, after FGV Holdings Bhd was hit with sanctions over allegations of forced and child labour.

SDP said despite numerous attempts to engage with the CBP, it has not been given the chance to respond to the allegations and adequate details of the claims were not provided to them.

In a statement, SDP said that despite releasing three press statements calling on LS to offer specific details about its findings, it has not been provided with the full details of the allegations.

“We will continue our engagements with the sincere hope of being able to obtain the details of the allegations for us to address them at the earliest opportunity,” it said.

LS filed its petition with CBP on April 20 after allegedly finding instances of labour abuse on SDP estates when interviewing workers and examining audit reports, public disclosures and sustainability initiatives.

SDP reaffirmed its “serious commitment to upholding human rights and genuine intention to remedy any lapses in our operations and supply chain”.

“They are further underscored by our plan, following our engagement with LS, to commission an independent review of our governance, procedures and practices related to the areas of concern, the details of which will be announced in due course.”

SDP’s exports to the US are currently worth about US$5 million, a fraction of its total revenue, but it considers the region a valuable growth market.