There's an ingredient in much of the food you eat and products you use that you may never notice but could be produced by forced or child labor. Palm oil is ubiquitous in our food and cosmetics and its production is rapidly expanding around the world as a biofuel. Last week, the US Department of Labor released a new report revealing that palm oil from Indonesia may be tainted by child labor and palm oil from Malaysia may be produced by forced labor.
Workers in Southeast Asia are often lured to work on palm oil plantations with promises of a better life, but often find unsafe conditions, long hours, low or no pay and many are even held in work camps under tight security.
Forced and child labor in palm oil production is unacceptable, but US corporations like Cargill purchase much of Malaysia and Indonesia's palm oil which makes them very influential over conditions on these plantations.
While over 45 companies have signed on to the Rainforest Action Network's pledge to source responsible palm oil (or eliminate its use altogether), Cargill lags behind in ensuring that it is not sourcing products produced by forced or child labor. The company has made some progress recently on its own plantations in preparation for an audit, but Cargill still lacks appropriate labor rights safeguards for the palm oil it trades, refines and sells from various plantations throughout Indonesia and Malaysia.
Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network
These conditions are completely unacceptable. I do not want to buy products that contain palm oil produced under these conditions. While I know that Cargill has made some recent improvements on its own plantations, you must do more to ensure that labor rights exploitation does not occur among your suppliers.
Cargill should support the Rainforest Action Network's pledge for the palm oil industry. Your company should independently monitor and audit suppliers for labor conditions; appropriately remediate cases of forced and child labor in partnership with grassroots non-governmental organizations and governmental officials; and institute appropriate business practices to ensure that suppliers are able to effectively implement international worker rights.