Sime Darby Response to FOE Allegations
Sime Darby Bhd has been informed that Friends of the Earth Europe (FOE) has sent
letters to several shareholders of the company in which it has made false and malicious
allegations against Sime Darby Plantation Liberia’s (SDPL) operations. (FOE's letter to Corporate Investors is attachment 1)
It is clear that neither FOE, nor its partner organisation the Sustainable Development
Institute (SDI), represent the interests of local communities in Liberia. Its published
report about the actions of SDPL is inaccurate, and has been withdrawn. Despite
this, FOE has chosen to embark on this campaign of misinformation in their letter
to the shareholders.
Most importantly, representatives of local communities in Liberia are on record
as criticising the claims and behaviour of both SDI and FOE. FOE relies, in its
letter to the shareholders, on the supposed 28-point declaration of community demands
dated 29th November 2012. This document is unreliable, and has been strongly condemned
by local communities. On 6th December 2012, the Elders of Gbarpolu county held a
press conference expressing their surprise that the declaration had been crafted
without their knowledge. The Elders issued a statement which concluded: “we
would like to state categorically that SDI is no longer welcomed as their activities
are creating more harm than good for our people.” (The statement of The Elders is attachment 2).
Strangely enough in what is reflective of FOE’s modus operandi, SDPL, government
officials, highly credible and respected local NGOs, the community’s leaders
and even several distinguished and reputable members of the Liberian media were
not informed of or invited to the “conference” that led to the declaration.
As stated above, SDI’s published reports are also themselves inaccurate. ‘Uncertain
Futures’ (published in August 2012) was withdrawn from the SDI website after
SDPL wrote to SDI informing them of several errors in the report (see attachment 3). Furthermore, Mustapha Foboi, the
chairman of the Project-Affected Communities (PAC) of Gbah Town wrote to SDI in
September 2012, denouncing the report, stating that the PAC were not consulted or
involved in the research that went into it. (Mr Foboi’s letter is Attachment 4).
FOE reproduces much of the inaccurate content in its letter to the shareholders.
For the avoidance of doubt, Sime Darby is clear in its rejection of these claims,
and would comment as follows:
§ Sime Darby Plantation and all its subsidiaries and associates believe in
responsible and sustainable agriculture. Sime Darby Plantation is the world’s
largest producer of certified sustainable palm oil, a world leader in sustainable
agriculture and continues to enhance its already leading efforts at improving agricultural
practices. Sime Darby Plantation is a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable
Palm Oil (RSPO).
- SDPL commenced operations in mid-2011. It has thus far planted up just over 7,000
ha of land, all of which was part of the 12,594 ha of rubber concessions held by
Guthrie, SDPL’s predecessor before the onset of civil war in Liberia. The
concept of foreign investment in Liberia’s agriculture is supported by the
IMF and the World Bank, and such investments can bring about the revitalisation
of an economy devastated by war.
- SDPL recognised after the first few months of development in Liberia that mistakes
were made when seeking Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from communities
due largely to a lack of awareness of local conditions. SDPL took the decision to
cease operations and commence the multi-stakeholder engagements to address the issues.
As a result, SDPL has developed a refined approach to FPIC and local communities
are involved in participatory mapping processes to ensure that claims to land rights
and use are recognised and registered.
- SDPL currently employs nearly 4,000 people, which is about eight times more than
the number required. This was a conscious decision that was made by SDPL to ensure
that every family in the PAC has at least one employee with the company, thus ensuring
that every family in the community enjoys the benefits accorded to employees and
that there is no chance of the malnutrition and hunger as alleged by FOE in its
- Due to SDPL’s strategies, all PAC enjoy free access to social amenities (schools,
medical care, infrastructure), 100 kg of subsidised rice a month besides permanent
employment and wages that are higher than local industry standards.
- Sime Darby Plantation is also involved in the Smallholder Acceleration and REDD+
Programme (SHARP), a multi-stakeholder partnership to support sustainable development
of smallholders in the agriculture sector.
- SDPL is not involved in any deforestation of any sort. FOE also claims concern for
large scale deforestation and conversion of primary and secondary forests in Gbarpolu
county. SDPL has not entered Gbarpolu county. Even if and when we do, as a matter
of company policy, which has been well documented and articulated, all high conservation
value forests (HCVF) will be protected, including primary and secondary forests.
Where lapses have been identified by SDPL, we have acknowledged them, agreed on
a compensation plan and learned lessons for the future. SDPL will continue to work
closely with all PAC, government organisations, responsible and credible NGOs and
civil society groups to ensure that all genuine stakeholders in the development
of Liberia remain engaged and are working towards a common good. We believe that
our actions are in compliance with RSPO, the UN Global Compact and The Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Sime Darby is proud to be a significant
investor in Liberia. As a Malaysian company, it knows from experience how palm oil
plantations can help to stimulate a young economy. It believes that its investment
will bring about positive change to Liberians, currently trapped in poverty and
the threat of starvation.
If you have any questions on SDPL’s operations in Liberia, please do not hesitate
to contact us or our colleagues below. We will be happy to give you a true and accurate
picture of what is actually happening on the ground.
Leela Barrock – Group Head, Communications & Corporate Affairs
Dr. Shariman Alwani – Group Head, Value Management & Investor Relations
Carl Dagenhart – Head, Corporate Communications (Europe & Africa)
Attachment 1 -
FOE's letter to Corporate Investors
Attachment 2 -
The statement of The Elders
Attachment 3 -
Sime Darby’s response to Uncertain Futures report
Attachment 4 -
Mr Foboi’s letter
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