Business World

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Firms including Kellogg's, Unilever and Nestle 'use palm oil from child-labour plantations'

Some of the Unilever products Photo: PA
Some of the Unilever products Photo: PA Business Desk Business Desk

Companies that make many of our household items have sourced palm oil from Indonesian plantations where labour abuses were uncovered, a recent report has found.

The Amnesty International report said that the palm oil from these plantations could be traced to nine multinational companies - including Unilever, Nestle, Kellogg and Procter & Gamble.

Unilever makes some of the most popular goods sold in this country, including Knorr soups, Lyons Tea, Dove, Hellmann’s, Lynx,Flora margarine, Domestos, and Pot Noodles.

The report states that children as young as eight worked in "hazardous" conditions at palm plantations run by Singapore-based Wilmar International and its suppliers on the Indonesian islands of Kalimantan and Sumatra.

Indonesia is the world's biggest producer of palm oil, with the sector employing millions of workers, and plantation operators maintaining it is difficult to have complete oversight of labour conditions.

Amnesty said it interviewed 120 workers and alleges that many of them worked long hours for low pay and without adequate safety equipment.

"Despite promising customers that there will be no exploitation in their palm oil supply chains, big brands continue to profit from appalling abuses," said Meghna Abraham, senior investigator at Amnesty.

The NGO said it chose Wilmar as the focus of its investigation as the company is the world's largest processor and merchandiser of palm and lauric oils, controlling more than 43pc of the global palm oil trade.

Other companies operating palm plantations in Indonesia include Golden Agri-Resources Ltd, Indofood Agri Resources Ltd and PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk.

"We acknowledge that there are ongoing labour issues in the palm oil industry, and these issues could affect any palm company operating in Indonesia," a spokesperson for Wilmar said.

"The focus on Wilmar ... is often used to draw attention to problems in the wider palm oil industry."

In an emailed statement, Kellogg said it is committed to ensuring that its palm oil is obtained from "known and certified sources that are environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable."

If Kellogg finds or is made aware of any supply chain violations, it would discuss corrective actions with its suppliers, it said. "If the concerns are not adequately addressed, we take action to remove them from our chain."

Unilever said while significant progress has been made to tackle environmental issues associated with palm cultivation, more needs to be done to address "these deeply concerning social issues" and promised to work with its partners.

Nestle and Procter & Gamble did not immediately provide comment.

Additional reporting from Reuters

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