FGV appeals against RSPO decision on suspension

  • Plantations
  • Thursday, 09 Apr 2020

FGV Holdings

PETALING JAYA: FGV Holdings Bhd has appealed against the decision by the Complaints Panel (CP) of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to re-suspend the certification of its Serting Mill Complex in Negri Sembilan and suspend all certification for its uncertified mills.

The decision by the RSPO CP was made known to FGV on Jan 13.

In a statement yesterday, FGV said the group had submitted its appeal to the RSPO on April 3. In its appeal, the planter pointed out that two RSPO-appointed independent verification bodies, Bureau Veritas Certification (BVC) and TUV Nord (M) Sdn Bhd (TUV), had recognised FGV’s efforts and progress in its operations.

BVC in its October 2019 report positively recommended that FGV demonstrated compliance and made positive progress to fulfil the RSPO CP directive. In a separate report in October 2019, TUV said it could be concluded that FGV Sahabat in Sabah was putting in efforts to address the CP directives However, there are several concerns in the verification findings.

FGV, meanwhile, has emphasised that the two mill complexes audited by TUV are located in the Sahabat Region of Sabah and are actually still uncertified, and thus, by extension unprepared for audits. Both mill complexes are scheduled for certification in 2021.“The CP identified seven non-compliances, one of which was classified as major, ” it added. 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 past months.

Given the complexity and historical context of the undocumented population in Sabah, and in keeping with FGV’s commitments to support national efforts to eradicate poverty and respect human rights, FGV has 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, ” explained FGV.

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

The remaining two non-compliances were found in mill complexes in Peninsular Malaysia and involved the timing of socialisation exercises of several new policies and procedures. In fact, one non-compliance was vaguely worded and FGV is still seeking clarity from the RSPO.

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.

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

It is 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. In addition, there was a lapse of about three months between the completion of the verification audits and the letter from the CP.

During that time, the situation was dynamic and there were several ongoing efforts to revise and improve FGV’s internal policies, processes and guidelines, and also, compliance with the RSPO’s Principles and Criteria.

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