US Customs and Border Protection said it had "sufficient" evidence the plantation profited from forced labour © Igor Golovniov
US Customs and Border Protection said it had "sufficient" evidence the plantation profited from forced labour © Igor Golovniov

Ferrero cuts Malaysian supplier over forced labour

20 April 2022

Ferrero Rocher has announced it will stop sourcing palm oil from a Malaysian supplier after it was found to be using forced labour. 

Ferrero – which owns Nutella and Kinder – said it would stop sourcing from Sime Darby Plantation after US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) found the company used forced labour in its supply chains.

Ferrero said it had requested suppliers to cease relationships with Sime Darby – the world’s biggest oil palm planter by acreage – on 6 April, after CBP said in January said it would seize the company’s palm oil as it had determined there was “sufficient information” to prove there was convict, forced or indentured labour at its plants.

Ferrero said in a statement to Reuters: “On 6 April, we have requested all our direct suppliers to stop supplying Ferrero with palm oil and palm kernel oil sourced indirectly from Sime Darby, until further notice.

“Ferrero will comply with the US Customs and Border Protection's decision.”

Last year CBP issued a withhold release order – which came into effect on December 30, 2021 – on all crude palm oil and palm kernel oil and derivative products from Sime Darby.

Ferrero’s decision to terminate relationships with Sime Darby followed similar decisions by chocolate maker Hershey, agricultural trader Cargill, and food manufacturer General Mills.

Sime Darby said: “Since the Withhold Release Order was issued on 30 December 2020, Sime Darby Plantation Berhad has cooperated fully with the USCBP.

“In response to these allegations, the company had appointed an independent ethical trade consultancy to undertake a full-scale, independent assessment spanning its facilities across Malaysia.”

The company said progress had been delayed due to Covid-19 restrictions across Malaysia but work was now “close to completion”.

In October, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) recognised Ferrero for its sustainable palm oil sourcing. 

Ferrero came third on the WWF’s Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard out of 227 global companies, which were ranked on their actions and progress in efforts to make the global palm oil industry more sustainable.

Separately, Cadbury owner Mondelez International was recently accused of having child labour in its supply chains on cocoa farms in Ghana. 

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