Companies in the palm oil sector should adopt the concept of Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD), which is a key tool to support business practices and enhance businesses' positive impact.
Deputy Prime Minister and Plantation and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said HRDD would ensure Malaysia was a preferred destination for migrant workers and the palm oil industry.
HRDD is defined as a risk management tool for organizations to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for how they address actual and potential adverse human rights impacts in their operations, supply chains and business relations.
Fadillah said the palm oil industry in Malaysia had the potential to be a trendsetter for other industry transformations in the region and globally, and therefore, HRDD should not be deemed a burden.
"It should be seen as an advantage for businesses as HRDD has been embedded in the legislation of certain countries that Malaysia exports to.
"It allows Malaysian businesses to lead the industry by example, enhance their resilience and secure the exportability of their products globally, and setting in place strong systems to anticipate market disruptions in times of crisis.
"All businesses, from smallholders to multinationals, need access to practical tools to help them implement HRDD and increase their positive impact. People-positive practices will help businesses deliver positive and sustainable outcomes for their workers, businesses and investors," he said at the launch of the People-Positive Palm (P3) First Learning Series Workshop.
Organized by the Consumer Goods Forum, Human Rights Coalition, Fair Labor Association, and International Organization on Migration (IOM), P3 is aimed at supporting companies in the palm oil sector to eliminate forced labor from their operations and supply chains.
Fadillah said the alignment of business and government efforts was important to ensure the duty to protect human rights, and encourage economic growth and business responsibility to respect, support and empower each other.
Malaysia, he said, would continue to strengthen its efforts to support people through positive approaches such as policies and action plans with institutional partners such as the International Labor Organization and the United Nations Development Program.
The government, he added, was already taking steps to further this goal, which included the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) on Forced Labor and the planned launch of the NAP on Business and Human Rights.
"These initiatives will help to ensure that the palm oil industry in Malaysia can set an example for other industries' transformations.
"Malaysia can lead the way in the region and globally, encouraging other countries to follow in the path towards people-positive industries and demonstrating how HRDD can be effectively implemented on the ground.
"I hope the palm oil sector, through a pragmatic business approach to HRDD, will address root causes of forced labor in a sustainable and structural manner.
"There is still much to do towards solving all the issues that we face, but charting the right course right from the outset is extremely important," he said.