Sime Darby Plantation Berhad (SDP) and Nestlé today announce a collaboration on a programme to provide a highly enhanced helpline for SDP's plantation workers employed at the Company's estates in Malaysia. The goal of the helpline is to provide an effective avenue for workers to report on working conditions, recruitment, safety and other issues that might affect them directly or indirectly via a technology-enabled communication channel.
"Our collaboration with Nestlé echoes SDP's commitment in its Human Rights Charter to ‘provide access to remedy to anyone who is harmed where the business caused or contributed to that harm'. The enhanced helpline strengthens our existing established grievance procedures and whistle blowing channels which are already available to all of our employees and external parties," said SDP's Chief Sustainability Officer, Dr Simon Lord.
With multiple intake options, the new helpline will allow workers to choose the channel they feel most comfortable with, whether via SMS, Facebook Messenger or a toll-free number, staffed 7 days a week at peak call times, with messaging options for off-hours. The system's multi-language capability is expected to enhance communications, thus raising further understanding, accessibility and promoting trust in the use of the helpline among workers of different nationalities.
The helpline was co-developed by Responsible Business Alliance’s (RBA) Responsible Labour Initiative, of which Nestlé is a member, and by ELEVATE, which implements the world-class Amader Kotha helpline in Bangladesh. “We applaud Sime Darby Plantation’s and Nestlé’s leadership in supporting a truly robust external grievance mechanism for the palm oil sector,” said Heather Canon, Vice President of Worker Engagement at ELEVATE.
As the world’s largest producer of certified sustainable palm oil, plantation workers form the backbone of SDP's operations and approach towards sustainability. In Malaysia, SDP employs more than 39,000 in its Upstream operations, including foreign workers primarily from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nepal.
“The well-being of our workers is extremely important to us. With this helpline, SDP undertakes to not only provide an effective channel for our workers to raise any issues they may have, but more importantly we want to ensure these issues are handled via clear protocols with consistent attention to follow-up and resolution to the fullest extent possible. The independent monitoring by a third party will accord a higher level of accountability for us to act on our workers' grievances,” added Dr Lord.
Magdi Batato, Nestlé Executive Vice President, Head of Operations, said: “This initiative marks another milestone in the implementation of the Nestlé action plan on labour rights in palm oil. We are very clear that human and labour rights abuses have no place in Nestlé’s supply chain. This is why we are committed to tackling this issue and helping drive positive change in the palm oil sector. ”
“We are working alongside other stakeholders including suppliers and we believe these ongoing efforts will help improve the lives of those affected by unacceptable practices,” he added.
In the long run, SDP and Nestlé aim to introduce and promote the helpline system to other players within the industry to address the challenges of managing issues related to their large labour force. The reach and exposure obtained through collective collaboration between plantation companies on this initiative could translate into enhanced data analytics, accurate benchmarking, and worker insights, as well as the opportunity to share solutions and best practices for macro-issues that may arise in the future.
This latest initiative is among SDP’s effort to fulfil its commitment on ‘No-Exploitation’ and reduce any risk of forced labour. These include, among others, SDP’s recruitment process which is conducted ethically and responsibly through the enforcing of no recruitment fee rule for its workers; ensuring workers are able to keep their own passports and personal documents; and providing working contracts that are clear and transparent in workers' native languages.