21st January 2022
The UK National Contact Point (UK NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises has published its Final Statement regarding a complaint made against Bonsucro in 2019, alleging non-compliance with the voluntary standards contained in the OECD Guidelines.
The complaint was made by Inclusive Development International (IDI), Equitable Cambodia (EC) and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO). The Complainants alleged that Bonsucro had failed to conduct adequate due diligence and apply leverage to its member, Mitr Phol Group – Thailand (MPG-T) in response to allegations that MPG-T had involvement in historical human rights issues that took place in Cambodia between 2008 – 2009, prior to MPG-T’s membership of Bonsucro. The Complainants also alleged that Bonsucro does not have in place adequate human rights policy commitments and an effective grievance mechanism in line with the OECD Guidelines.
Bonsucro engaged fully with the UK NCP’s processes, including a mediation between the parties.
The UK NCP confirmed in its Initial Assessment that its remit prevents it from examining the actions of any party other than Bonsucro. The UK NCP found that Bonsucro did not cause or contribute to any of the adverse human rights impacts related to this complaint, but has found that, when readmitting MPG-T as a member in 2015, Bonsucro did not undertake an appropriate level of due diligence to meet the obligation under the OECD Guidelines. The UK NCP also found that Bonsucro did not use its leverage appropriately when readmitting MPG-T as a member in 2015, but did exhibit examples of good company practice and engagement consistent with the Guidelines. The UK NCP specifically highlighted Bonsucro’s efforts in conducting “a field trip to Cambodia to investigate some of the ongoing issues in sugarcane supply chains” where “Bonsucro met with one of the complainants“. The UK NCP also highlighted Bonsucro’s engagement with the Complainants “as well as evidence of Bonsucro acting to connect complainants with MPG-T” as examples of good company practice.
At the end of 2018, prior to submission of the complaint, Bonsucro had already started work on updating its Code of Conduct, Grievance Mechanism, and member take-on procedures (including due diligence). The Complainants were expressly invited to participate in both targeted and public consultations which shaped these updates, but declined these invitations.
The UK NCP has found that Bonsucro’s new Grievance Mechanism, launched in June 2020 has “established rules of procedure in line with best practice” and that Bonsucro’s new Code of Conduct is “in line with the OECD Guidelines and latest human rights guidance“. It has also recognised that Bonsucro’s policy commitment to respect human rights is in line with the expectations of the OECD Guidelines.
One of Bonsucro’s core strategic aims is to strengthen human rights and decent work in sugarcane farming and milling. This includes improving labour conditions across the sugarcane sector. Bonsucro will continue to pursue its purpose of collectively accelerating the sustainable production and uses of sugarcane. In the next step towards this mission, Bonsucro published its revised Production Standard in January 2022, it also published an updated Certification Protocol in December 2021.
The UK NCP has recommended that Bonsucro should continue to take steps to continually improve its internal processes in respect of due diligence, in line with the general standard under the OECD Guidelines. Bonsucro has already started to implement updated due diligence procedures to align with its new Code of Conduct from April 2020, and is currently completing a review of those procedures, taking into account their operation over the past 20 months. Bonsucro will update the UK NCP on its progress in January 2023.