Kuala Lumpur, 14 November 2022: The RSPO Secretariat has completed an independent and comprehensive on-ground verification assessment of Sime Darby Plantation Berhad (SDPB) certified operations in Malaysia following the US Customs and Border Protection Withhold Release Order (US CBP WRO) on 30 December 2020.

In early 2021, RSPO initiated an independent verification assessment consisting of field visits, interviews with relevant stakeholders, and desktop research to:

  • Verify SDPB’s compliance to the RSPO Standards, especially Principle 6 of the 2018 RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C) on Respect for Workers’ Rights and Conditions, and;
  • Verify if evidence exists to substantiate the allegations highlighted in the US CBP WRO within SDPB’s operations, with reference to the RSPO Principles and Standards.

The assessment team identified violations of RSPO Standards, including particularly in the payment of unreported recruitment fees to agents, sub-agents or other third parties and the retention of passports. At the time of the Assessment, measures were being undertaken by SDPB to address these issues, the final results of which remain to be seen.

Additionally, the assessment team identified a number of areas where further strengthening of SDPB’s systems and processes are required. The detailed findings are listed in this letter.

According to RSPO Chief Executive Officer, Joseph (JD) D’Cruz, the RSPO Secretariat is mandated to defend the integrity of the standards and systems that have been put in place in partnership with its members, while constantly finding ways to improve these standards and systems.

“The independent verification assessment was initiated to ensure that any violations of the RSPO Principles and Criteria are identified and addressed. We welcome the proactive steps taken by SDPB to identify and address weaknesses in their systems and processes. However, it is important that RSPO as a global partnership also assess any weaknesses or failures that occur to ensure that we collectively learn from such events”, added JD.

Following the findings of the assessment, SDPB is required to address weaknesses identified in existing systems and processes which will involve audits, development and dissemination of new guidelines and programmes, as well as training for staff. The Compliance Subdivision of the RSPO Secretariat will be monitoring the implementation of the activities for a period of six months (December 2022 – May 2023). Any unsatisfactory implementation of said activities could result in further sanctions.

The verification assessment ascertained that monitoring by the Certification Bodies needs to be strengthened to competently implement all RSPO-specific requirements. The RSPO Secretariat will instruct the Accreditation Body to maintain a rigorous accreditation assessment of Certification Bodies that issue an RSPO P&C Certification for SDPB management units.

The protection and respect of human rights are an essential pillar of the RSPO P&C, which governs the production of certified sustainable palm oil by producers that have chosen to become RSPO members.

The RSPO is committed to enhancing its monitoring systems on a more consistent basis and to improving the RSPO Assurance system overall. Any organisation or agency with additional information about violation(s) of the RSPO Standards found on any RSPO member plantations is encouraged to submit a formal complaint through the Complaints System.


About RSPO:

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders. RSPO is a not-for-profit, international, membership organisation that unites stakeholders from the different sectors of the palm oil industry including oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs, and social or developmental NGOs.

This multi-stakeholder representation is mirrored in the governance structure of RSPO such that seats in the Board of Governors, Steering Committees and Working Groups are fairly allocated to each sector. In this way, RSPO lives out the philosophy of the “roundtable” by giving equal rights to each stakeholder group, facilitating traditionally adversarial stakeholders in working together to reach decisions by consensus, and achieving RSPO’s shared vision of making sustainable palm oil the norm.

The seat of the association is in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur with satellite offices in Jakarta, London, Zoetermeer, Beijing, Bogotá and New York.

For further information, kindly contact:

Name: Irene Fischbach


Position: Director of Stakeholder Engagement & Communications

[email protected]

Name: Sangeetha Umakanthan


Position: Deputy Director, Communications

[email protected] 

View letter: SPDB Decision Letter – 14 11 2022

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