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New Tool Encourages Monitoring of Working Conditions in Palm Oil Plantations


The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and technology company Ulula have partnered to introduce a simplified and inclusive mechanism to report potential workers’ incidents and abuses, and to monitor employee satisfaction and social investments in oil palm plantations. The tool, which has been made available free of charge through simple feature phones, enables palm oil workers to anonymously submit a complaint. The workers will also have an option to provide their contact details, allowing the RSPO Secretariat to follow up on cases and direct workers to take a brief survey that assesses the risks of coaching and retaliation.

The partnership between RSPO and Ulula has started with a pilot project in the course of an independent field verification related to a complaint case in North Sumatera, aiming to test Ulula’s tool in an oil palm plantation setting for the first time.

RSPO believes it is “vitally important” to continue developing and testing new technologies that will effectively address challenges in the palm oil industry.

Palm oil has proven an ingredient of choice for the food, personal care, cleaning, and cosmetics industries, and has brought benefits to its producing countries, thanks to the strong demand driven by the high yield of the oil palm and the versatility of the oil derived from it. “This said, the production of industrial agricultural crops, including palm oil, has become a topic of debate due to the historical link to negative social and environmental impacts,” RSPO says. The palm oil supply chain today remains one of the most difficult to monitor due to its complexity. The large scale of oil palm plantations has also proven to be a challenge for the monitoring of labor rights and working conditions, resulting in criticism and demand for industry reform.

The Ulula platform offers an opportunity to reach palm oil workers through simple mobile phones to make them more visible across the supply chain – such monitoring systems will contribute to better social outcomes, and subsequently better business outcomes, for all, the company says.

In recent years, companies have increasingly committed to sourcing sustainable palm oil, including such giants as Kraft Heinz Company and Unilever.

 

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