• Distributor Wilmar, singled out for human rights abuses
  • Several companies have confirmed that they are available in Wilmar and Indonesia
  • There are children forced to work and women exploited and discriminated against
Suspicions of child exploitation after everyday products of large companies. Image: Getty

Nestlé, Colgate-Palmolive, Kellogg's, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Elevance, Reckitt Benckiser, AFAMSA and ADM are the nine international companies identified in Amnesty International's latest report for using palm oil allegedly extracted by child exploitation in Indonesia. Their products are for everyday use. Among those made with palm oil are Magnum ice cream, Colgate toothpaste, Dove cosmetics, Knorr soup, KitKat chocolate, Pantene shampoo, Ariel soap, and pre-cooked Pot Noodle Asian-style food. In the investigation, the NGO tried to discover in which cases the companies used palm oil distributed by Wilmar -distributor indicated several times by illegal labor practices- and although it did not obtain a response on specific products, it did confirm that they are supplied with it and in Indonesia.

“Something is not right when nine companies that had a combined income of 325,000 million dollars in 2015 cannot take measures to address the heinous treatment that people who work in the production of palm oil receive, which also earn a misery”, Amnesty International says in the report entitled The big palm oil scandal: labor abuse behind the big brands.

Wilmar is the world's largest producer of palm oil. Based in Singapore, it is obtained from several plantations between its own and those of its subsidiaries located in Indonesia and also through its suppliers in Kalimantan and Sumatra. According to the NGO, the producer uses forced labor and even child exploitation.

Seema Joshi, responsible for Business and Human Rights, recognizes that from theory to practice, respect for human rights is lost along the way. In 2004, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was created, an organism to prevent labor abuse in this sector but it does not seem to be very useful, according to the NGO, which ensures that three of the five palm growers it investigated in Indonesia are certified by that agency (in which there are eight of the nine companies investigated) as producers of sustainable palm oil. “The consumer public will want to know what products are related to abuse and what items are not. Despite submitting such terrible abuses to the consideration of the activities of an important supplier, companies have maintained a very hermetic attitude in relation to what Concrete products are affected, “notes Joshi.

(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI7es73vC4s (/ embed) Youtube Video

Meanwhile, on the shelves of supermarkets many of the brands indicated in this report point in the packaging of their products that palm oil is sustainable. Meghna Abraham is the principal investigator of the origin of palm oil: “Business giants such as Colgate, Nestlé and Unilever assure the consumer that their products use 'sustainable palm oil', but our conclusions reveal that palm oil is far from the palm oil produced using child labor and forced labor is not sustainable, the abuses discovered in Wilmar palm oil production activities are not isolated incidents but systemic events and a predictable consequence of business practice of Wilmar. “

During the investigation, the NGO monitored the origin of the palm oil used by the nine major food and household products companies indicated: seven confirmed buying the product from Wilmar's activity but only Kellogg's and Reckitt Benckiser agreed to collaborate ( in the future) in identifying the specific products made with that oil.

Colgate-Palmolive, Reckitt Benckiser, Nestlé, ADM, Elevance, AFAMSA, and Kellogg's confirmed that their oil is supplied directly from researched plantations; Unilever and Procter & Gamble confirmed that the palm oil they use also comes from Indonesia and Wilmar but they did not specify the refineries in which they are supplied. “Since they are supplied from Indonesia and Amnesty International located palm oil from the plantations that it investigated in 11 of the 15 Wilmar refineries, it is very likely that its supply will come from at least one or several of these refineries.”

Women, children, exploitation and threats

Among the human rights violated, Wilmar's practices go through exploitation of children between 8 and 14 years working in their plantations and those of their subsidiaries that work without security, with toxic products and that in nullified their right to education by not being able to go to school. One of the cases known to Amnesty International is that of a 14-year-old boy who had to stop going to school because his father fell ill and had to get to work transporting palm fruits to help him achieve his goals. His brothers, aged 12 and 10, go to the plantation after class.

Women are also violated their rights with forced labor, discrimination, low wages, exploitation under threat of not charging or charging less (they can earn only $ 2.50 a day).

Lack of safety (special work equipment) and exposure to toxic substances is common among workers in this sector; Paraquat is a chemical that is still used in plantations despite its prohibition by both the European Union and Wilmar.