Palma Futuro: Preventing and Reducing Child Labor and Forced Labor in Palm Oil Supply Chains

Project Duration:
January 2019
December 2022
Funding and Year:

This project works to improve the implementation of social compliance systems that promote acceptable conditions of work and the prevention and reduction of child and forced labor in palm oil supply chains in Colombia and Ecuador. It will also disseminate best practices in social compliance systems in these and other palm oil producing countries, particularly Brazil and Peru.

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The Problem

Palm oil is an ingredient in approximately half of all packaged products bought at supermarkets, and the means of production. Risks of unacceptable conditions of work, child labor, and forced labor, have been reported in the global production of palm oil.

A number of standard-setting social compliance systems have been established to encourage sustainable palm oil production, including certification programs, voluntary initiatives, and mandatory national standards. However, many of these initiatives have comparatively weak or insufficiently monitored and enforced criteria on labor standards relative to other social and environmental criteria.

In South America, Colombia has emerged as the fourth-largest exporter of palm oil worldwide, and Ecuador as the eighth largest, alongside a number of other fast-growing industries in the region. As business practices and norms begin to take hold in these emerging industries, companies are well-positioned to establish sustainable social compliance systems that respect international labor standards as a fundamental operating principle. However, some companies face obstacles in adopting and implementing such systems and may require additional support and technical guidance to move forward in their efforts.

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Our Strategy

The project provides technical guidance to participating palm oil companies in Colombia and Ecuador to assist them in developing robust social compliance systems. Under this approach, tools for organizational systems management are incorporated into the eight components of a social compliance system laid out in ComplyChain, USDOL’s app to support the efforts of companies that seek to address child labor and forced labor within their own supply chains. The project works to help the companies assess the risks of child labor, forced labor, and unacceptable conditions of work in their business and production processes in order to develop robust standards and a system for monitoring compliance, as well as ensuring enforcement when violations occur. The project collaborates with and builds the capacity of many different stakeholders to support social compliance, such as national palm oil business associations in Colombia and Ecuador, researchers, worker organizations, and civil society organizations.

The project also promotes “South-South” cooperation through the sharing of good practices among its participant companies in Colombia and Ecuador, as well as palm oil producers in Brazil and Peru, facilitating study tours and informational exchanges. The project also works toward engaging the global palm oil industry as a whole, for example, by participating in industry forums and publishing guidance for producers and auditors.

Grantee: Partners of the Americas
Implementing Partners: JE Austin Associates, Social Accountability International
Contact Information:
(202) 693-4843
Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT)