Palm oil and palm-based ingredients are found in approximately 50% of common consumer products. Besides its use as a cooking oil, palm oil is found in many food products such as packaged bread, breakfast cereals, margarine, chocolate, ice cream, biscuits, and snack food. It is also used in household detergents, shampoos, creams, soap, lipsticks and in biofuels for cars and power plants.
This report investigates labour exploitation on plantations in Indonesia that provide palm oil to Wilmar, which is the world’s largest processor and merchandiser of palm and lauric (palm kernel) oils and controls over 43% of the global palm oil trade. The report also traces the palm oil produced in Indonesia for Wilmar to a range of consumer goods companies that use palm oil in their products.
Amnesty International found serious human rights abuses on the plantations of Wilmar and its suppliers. These included forced labour and child labour, gender discrimination, as well as exploitative and dangerous working practices that put the health of workers at risk. The abuses identified were not isolated incidents but due to systemic business practices by Wilmar’s subsidiaries and suppliers, in particular the low level of wages, the use of targets and ‘piece rates’ (where workers are paid based on tasks completed rather than hours worked), and the use of a complex system of financial and other penalties. Workers, especially women, are employed under casual work arrangements, which make them vulnerable to abuses.