LETTER | We refer to the statement made by Liberty Shared (LS) dated Aug 4, 2020, titled ‘Response from Liberty Shared to statement by Sime Darby Plantation Bhd dated July 10, 2020, and statement by Malaysia’s Ministry of Human Resources dated July 16, 2020’.
Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) welcomes the recommendations made by LS in the statement. In that regard, and where applicable, we shall take into consideration those recommendations as part of our continuous and on-going efforts to improve SDP’s internal controls and governance.
In view of this latest statement by LS, we also believe it is important for us to point out and clarify the following:
(i) Despite our request to LS, SDP has yet to receive the full details and information of the breaches and serious allegations alleged in LS’s petition. In the absence of such crucial information, SDP is unable to conduct a full and thorough investigation on the allegations. As per our previous statement dated July 10, 2020, we had provided our responses to LS’s petition summary in the best possible manner, based on statements contained in the petition summary, and our internal records relating to the matters raised.
(ii) In its latest statement, LS highlighted the risks of bribery, as well as wage theft and money laundering when our workers hold their account at the same bank as SDP. These issues were not mentioned in LS’s earlier petition summary report to which we had clarified our position and current practices.
SDP views this statement with serious concerns as it is insinuating the possibility of one of Malaysia’s most respected banking institutions colluding to wage theft with SDP, in addition to money laundering.
This veiled remark must be substantiated with strong and clear evidence, as by implication, it also raises the question on the credibility of the related financial institution that is subjected to stringent banking laws and regulatory framework. SDP has no means to investigate these issues thoroughly without substantive details.
Moreover, if there were any instances of such allegations previously, the vocal, independent and formidable National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW) would have brought the issue to light and conducted an immediate probe into the issue.
The Malaysian Department of Labour has also been conducting regular inspections on the wages paid and would have taken prompt action against SDP, had wage theft occurred.
(iii) As a multinational public listed company operating in 16 countries and serving the interests of a large number of stakeholders, SDP has put in place a robust framework and various policies and operating procedures on corporate governance, risk management and internal controls, that extend beyond the regulatory and commercial requirements. They were painstakingly developed over the years and strictly put into practice, in line with the core values embraced and subscribed by the Board, Management and employees of SDP. These include the following:
Sustainability committee – which oversees the Group’s objectives, policies and practices pertaining to sustainability, more particularly the “People, Planet and Prosperity” elements covering environment, community relations, safety and health;
Governance and audit committee – which oversees the Group’s financial reporting and performance as well as good governance practices, including matters relating to ethics and integrity, and reviews the efficacy and effectiveness of internal controls within the Group;
Group’s risk management framework – which has been established to identify, evaluate and manage risks that would impede the achievement of SDP’s long term and short term strategies and objectives;
Risk management committee – which oversees the risks management framework and policies within the Group;
Human rights charter – which defines our commitment to respect, support and uphold fundamental human rights as expressed, amongst others, in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights;
Modern slavery act statement – which is a disclosure we made pursuant to Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 regarding our efforts to address slavery and human trafficking issues in our supply chains;
Code of business conduct – which provides guidance on the standards of behaviour expected of all directors and employees, and where applicable, counterparties and business partners. Our Code of Business Conduct also includes elements of respecting human rights;
Anti-corruption policy statement – which is our commitment to conducting business professionally with integrity and in compliance with the laws of the jurisdictions in which the Group operates.
As part of our commitment to ethical business practices, SDP has also implemented an Anti-Corruption Management System (ACMS), in which we adopt a zero-tolerance policy against all forms of bribery and corruption.
The ACMS is based on the requirement of ISO 37001:2016 and is managed via an independent function within the Group. In line with the ACMS, SDP provides channels to communicate any concerns on bribery and corruption without fear of retaliation;
Whistleblowing policy and channel – which are established to help all stakeholders raise concerns, without fear of retaliation, on any wrongdoing that they may observe within the Group; and
Conflict of interest declaration – which is a declaration made by all our Directors and employees to ensure that business decisions are made in the best interests of the Group by avoiding conflicts of interest and situations that have the potential to generate conflicts of interest.
(iv) In its latest statement, LS had also questioned the ability of non-government organisations (NGOs) in assisting with issues pertaining to corporate governance, risk management and internal controls. While we understand the concerns raised, SDP stands by the excellent work, dedication and passion that our NGO partners have demonstrated in ensuring we continue to improve our operations.
These organisations have helped both us and the industry at large to devise and implement changes for progress in numerous areas over the years. We will continue to engage and work with NGOs and like-minded organisations that share a common objective to further improve our own standards and practices, as well as raising the bar on sustainable growth for the industry.
(v) With regards to LS’s suggestion on working with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), SDP would like to reassure that we have a long-standing working relationship with the distinguished firm and have on numerous occasions sought their expertise and assistance.
(vi) We have taken note that some of the other recommendations made by LS in its latest statement referred to measures that should be adopted ‘by the palm oil industry’ in general. Some of these recommendations have already been clarified and addressed by SDP in our previous statement dated 10 July 2020, which can be viewed here.
As always, we welcome feedback from any of our stakeholders with any information that can help us to conduct a full and proper investigation on any malpractices that may have occurred within our operations, and help us in our on-going and continuous effort to further improve our practices.
SDP would not hesitate to take action against any officer, staff or individual found to be guilty of any offence. We do not condone misdeeds and any such suggestion goes against the core values of our company that we zealously guard.
In the spirit of openness, transparency and collaboration that SDP has always upheld, we intend to continue engaging with LS to obtain further clarification and discuss its latest statement.
SDP endeavours to provide further updates on this matter as well as our continuing discussion with LS, as soon as there are any new developments that would be of interest to our stakeholders.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.