FGV appeals against RSPO resuspension of Serting mill complex

  • Plantations
  • Wednesday, 08 Apr 2020

FGV Holdings' cooking oil on display at a supermarket.

KUALA LUMPUR: FGV Holdings Bhd (FGV) has lodged an appeal against the resuspension of its Serting mill complex by the complaints panel (CP) of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

FGV said on Wednesday it also appealed against the decision to suspend all certification processes for currently uncertified FGV mills.

In a statement, it said this decision was communicated to FGV on Jan 13,2020. FGV submitted its appeal to the RSPO on April 3.

In its appeal, FGV pointed out two independent verification bodies appointed by the RSPO, Bureau Veritas Certification (BVC) and TUV Nord (M) Sdn. Bhd. (TUV), had in fact recognised FGV’s efforts and progress made in its operations.

The two bodies had stated:

“Positively recommend that FGV has demonstrated their compliance and positive progress to fulfill the RSPO Complaint Panel Directive as stated in RSPO Complaints Panel’s Directives letter to FGV dated 28th Nov 2018 throughout their complexes in Peninsular Malaysia.” (BVC, October 2019)

“It could be concluded, FGV Sahahat is putting efforts to address CP directives. However, there were several concerns outline in the verification findings.” (TUV, October 2019)

FGV said the two mill complexes audited by TUV are in the Sahabat region of Sabah and are still uncertified, and thus, by extension unprepared for audits. Both mill complexes are scheduled for certification in 2021.

FGV said the CP identified seven non-compliances, one of which was classified as major. This was in relation to the presence of undocumented workers, a matter which was true only for the two uncertified estates in Sabah and which had been transparently communicated to the CP and all FGV’s stakeholders over the span of several months.

“Mindful of the complexity and historical context of undocumented population in Sabah, and in keeping with FGV’s commitments to support national efforts to eradicate poverty and to respect human rights, FGV had worked with the Sabah Immigration Department and several foreign embassies to document and regularise 6,158 workers by end-June 2020.

“The CP was aware of this timeline and had acknowledged and agreed that the matter is complex as it involves three governments and amendments to state policies and procedures. An action plan for this exercise was submitted to the RSPO’s CP on Feb 13, however FGV is yet to receive a response from the CP.

“Five non-major non-compliances have been rectified since the audits were concluded and in accordance with FGV’s timelines for completion. Of these five, three were also found in the two uncertified complexes in Sabah.

“The remaining two non-compliances were found in mill complexes in Peninsula Malaysia and involved the timing of socialisation exercises of several new policies and procedures.

“One non-compliance was vaguely worded. FGV is still awaiting a response from the RSPO seeking greater clarity, ” it said.

FGV, commenting on the Serting mill complex, where the original 41 non-compliances were identified in November 2018, the independent audit revealed that there was only one remaining non-compliance.

This is related to the complaint by workers that they had to pay some fees to the recruitment agency in their home country to expedite the recruitment process.

“It is important to note that FGV’s Guidelines and Procedures for the Responsible Recruitment of Foreign Workers was adopted on 27 June 2019 and the socialisation of these Guidelines among third parties is still ongoing, a fact the RSPO is aware of.

“It is also unclear whether the workers interviewed during the audit were recruited before or after the adoption of the said Guidelines. Thus, this non-compliance relates again to the timing of new policies and procedures that FGV has adopted, ” it said.

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