The social impact of palm oil

Why is sustainable palm oil beneficial for the worker on the plantations?

For palm oil production to be called sustainable, workers rights should be protected. This can be done for example through RSPO certification which ensures that labour rights in the value chain are respected and that there is no child labour, forced labour or discrimination. Health and Safety regulations on the plantation make up on important part of the RSPO audit process.

Sustainably produced palm oil supports to address social problems such as lack of respect for worker’s rights and land conflicts associated with palm oil production. The positive impacts that sustainable oil palm cultivation has on rural households and communities in producer countries are increased and the risks of social problems hampering the supply chain can be removed. It can generate employment for landless laborers, for example:
– In Uganda young adults migrated to oil palm regions because of the better employment opportunities.
– In Indonesia oil palm cultivation created rural employment for many landless laborers.
– In Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia households in the palm oil sector benefited from higher employment income.

Too often palm oil producers and their customers do not take enough responsibility to ensure that the rights of their workers are met. Approximately 5 million workers make their living in the palm oil industry of the world’s largest palm oil producer, Indonesia. While palm oil production has largely contributed to the national GDP, wages for the workers on palm oil plantations remain low. Also, labour rights violations are a widespread problem in the sector and include lack of contracts, high production targets that encourage child labour, health and safety issues, sexual harassment and lack of freedom of association. However, some companies show that it does not have to be that way and that business can be done in a social responsible way.

The RSPO has developed guidelines to help its members implement a Decent Living Wage on their plantations. When workers receive a Decent Living Wage, they are able to provide their families with a decent standard of living. The guidelines take into account needs such as decent housing, sanitation facilities, adequate clean water supply, medical care, and the educational needs of children. They account for transport and clothing costs and costs for unexpected events.

Furthermore, sustainable palm oil production can improve rural infrastructure. Such as in Indonesia, where palm oil cultivation improved electrification, road and market infrastructure, schools and healthcare facilities. In Colombia municipalities with palm oil cultivation had lower poverty rates and higher food security. For here more information.