The increase in palm oilproduction and subsequent demand in the South-Eastern region of Asia representsa multi-level crisis, linking the crisis of biodiversity loss to that of climatechange, of progress, and ultimately, of legitimacy. This crisis has beenpresent in South-East Asia through a myriad of multinational routines. Firstly,the quick increase of palm oil across the region is due to the reason of, one,the EUs climate policy and in particular, the role that agricultural fuels arehoped to play in reaching Kyoto Protocol and post-Kyoto Protocol emission reductiontargets. Secondly, multinational corporations (MNCs) from Malaysia, Singaporeand Indonesia and similar regions have created global supply chains that linkthe plantations with refineries and inherent manufacturing. These Multi NationalCorporations are driving the Omni-directional expansion of palm oil in the aforementionedregion.
Thirdly, migrant networks of Indonesian palm oil workers are creating anew multi-national space between Singapore and Malaysia. And finally, thescandals surrounding the quick expansion of palm oil plantations have givenrise to a political space connecting South-East Asia to Europe in which multinationalcampaign collusions interfere. More so, the over-working ofworkers has been at the epicentre of arguments in the industry. In 2015, forcedlabour and human trafficking on the plantations of one of Malaysia’s largestpalm oil companies, Felda Global Ventures, made front page news in the WSJ, showing that the global brands thatare buying Conflict Palm Oil produced by forced labour which were covered indetail by the newspaper. Shortly after in June 2016, Indonesia’s largestconglomerate, Indofood, was systematically exposed for gross violations of workers’ basicrights, including maintaining a heavy reliance on invisible temp workers—unsocial workers whohelp harvesters meet exorbitantly high demands, but have no direct employmentcontract with the company—and casual workers; paying unethically and inhumanelylow wages that often did not meet minimum wage; setting unattainable targets,which resulted in children working on the plantation; putting workers’ healthand safety at risk; and undermining Freedom of Association. By the end of2016, Amnesty International released a appalling expose? of human rightsabuses, including the use of forced and child labour, on Wilmar and itssuppliers’ Indonesian plantations. The market has been slow torespond to the increasing number of exposes of palm-oil worker exploitation, aswell as new legislation in the United States, United Kingdom, and France, whichhave imposed bans on imported goods produced using such illicit labour andrequire increased due diligence reporting related to illicit and illegal labourand human trafficking in supply chains. Global brands and retailers in theConsumer Goods Forum — a group of 400 major global brands — have publiclystrived to drive reformations in their palm oil supply chains.
The leadingindustry certification scheme, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO),has created a new Labour Task Force to address existing gaps in its standard —and in the implementation and compliance of its standard — by its members, and financierssuch as BPN Paribas and HNBC have recently updated their palm oil tradepolicies to openly require no deforestation, no new development on peat, and noexploitation by their clients.