At RSPO, our members work to drive change through initiatives that bring all the players of the industry together to initiate change that will push the industry towards elevating the protection of human rights, to ensure the production of sustainable palm oil.
In light of the above, the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) was formed in 2014, with the objective of overseeing the successful implementation of the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) and associated Guidance. Furthermore, to provide the RSPO Secretariat and RSPO members with a better understanding and supportive tools to effectively implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Human Rights and Social Challenges within the Palm Oil Industry
Social issues related to palm oil operations are among the most difficult to identify and audit, as well as the most challenging to manage or remediate. These include, but not limited to:
Human Rights Working Group
Established in 2014, the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) became an official part of the RSPO structure. The work of the HRWG is directly linked to the globally accepted UN Guidelines on Business and Human rights (‘the Ruggie Framework’):
- The State's duty to protect human rights;
- The business responsibility to respect human rights; and
- The access to remedy for human rights victims.
- The responsibility of businesses to respect human rights in the palm oil sector implies that companies apply due diligence to human rights and develop action plans to avoid human rights violations. It also calls on companies to be pro-active and constructive in the remediation of situations where rights have been abused.
The core mission of HRWG is primarily ensuring the successful implementation of the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) 2018, that are relevant for the protection and respect of human rights (link to P&C relevant criteria).The HRWG regularly reviews the Criteria and associated Guidance for adequacy, clarity, relevance and meaningfulness, and works to provide all RSPO members with mechanisms to identify, prevent, mitigate and address human rights issues and impacts.
The following topics are relevant and require specific attention by the HRWG :
- Land rights of communities, both indigenous and non-indigenous, affected by oil palm development and operations, including the gender dimension of land tenure (land ownership, land access, land use) and potential impacts on the right to sustainable livelihoods and the right to food;
- Right to be heard for palm oil affected communities and oil palm smallholders, both men and women, including participatory systems for mapping and consent to new plantings;
- Supply chain responsibilities to respect human rights, including the right of workers, independent smallholders, scheme smallholders, traders, brand companies, retailers and banks/investors and NGOs;
- Rights of vulnerable groups such as women and children are at all times protected.
HRWG Sub Groups
To address and explore practical solutions specifically relating to human rights and social issues faced by the oil palm industry, the HRWG has divided itself into various sub-groups, which complement each other to collectively meet the objectives of the WG.
The following are the existing sub groups of the HRWG:
Human Rights Defenders
Co-Chairs (2015 - 2019)
- Madeleine Brasser - Oxfam Novib
- Alexandra Experton - Cargill Pte Ltd
Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad
Goodhope Asia Holdings Ltd.
The Labour Task Force (LTF) was formed in May 2017 to strengthen RSPO’s labour protection standards and processes, and improve the standards of implementation and compliance among members through a comprehensive program, which addresses the current gaps in the existing systems, and to develop action plans for implementation.
The LTF was formed, not only to recognise the need to proactively address working conditions in the palm oil industry but also to formulate sustainable solutions to safeguard the rights of workers on the ground.
The purpose of these toolkits are to assist communities and members to further understand social issues within the palm oil industry and to assist in finding solutions to address them. Below are a list of courses, tailored by key service providers in the labour industry, which can be accessed via the hyperlinks provided.