Preventing and Reducing Child Labor and Forced Labor in Palm Oil Supply Chains

Preventing and Reducing Child Labor and Forced Labor in Palm Oil Supply Chains

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Project Duration: January 2019 - December 2022

Fiscal Year & Funding Amount:
FY2018: USD 6,000,000

The Problem

U.S. businesses import palm oil as an ingredient in a broad array of goods – from cosmetics to candy – for production and sale to U.S. consumers. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, palm oil is often produced under unacceptable working conditions, including through the use of child and forced labor.

In South America, Colombia and Ecuador have emerged as the fourth-largest and eighth-largest exporters of palm oil worldwide, respectively. Workers in South America’s palm oil sectors are at risk for unacceptable conditions of work, child labor, and forced labor – in part as a result of common practices in the industry, such as informal work arrangements and recruitment processes, and isolated worksites that are difficult for labor inspectors to monitor.

As business practices and norms in South America’s palm oil sectors affect a growing share of the global market, companies operating in that region are well positioned to lead the way toward robust social compliance systems. 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.  

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:
Social Accountability InternationalJE Austin Associates

Contact Information: (202) 693-4843 / Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT)