The Indonesian food firm Indofood has withdrawn from the Rountable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification scheme after recent allegations of labour violations and an audit on its palm oil plantations last summer, just-food reported 30 January.

The decision was made following audits conducted by the RSPO on two of Indofood’s plantations in Indonesia, after allegations made by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), International Labor Rights Forum and the Indonesian labour rights body OPPUK in November last year, just-food wrote.

Indofood operates it oil palm plantations through its Singapore-based subsidiary, IndoAgri Resources.

US food and drink giant PepsiCo, which is partnered with Indofood, said that it held consultations with the company over the accusations.

"PepsiCo and our Indonesian joint venture decided some time ago to no longer receive palm oil from IndoAgri, owner of PT Lonsum," PepsiCo told just-food.

The RSPO had sanctioned Indofood in November for 20 violations of its principles and criteria, as well as 10 violations of local labour laws related to its palm oil facilities.

A 17 January letter from Muhammed Waras, the group head of sustainability at Lonsum, addressed to RSPO chief executive Darrel Webber, read: “We are extremely disappointed with the process and decision of the [RSPO] Complaints Panel. We are not in agreement with some of the findings and NCs [non-conformities] from the audit carried out from 4-7 June.

"We have therefore decided to concentrate our sustainability journey and practices on implementation of the mandatory Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil standards."

Webber issued a response letter to Waras on 23 January to explain that Lonsum was not an RSPO member anyway, but a subsidiary of an RSPO member.

“If the letter's intention is to withdraw RSPO membership of Lonsum: Lonsum is not a registered member of the RSPO," Webber wrote. “It is a subsidiary of a registered RSPO member, PT Salim Ivomas Pratama. As such, matters related to membership such as renewals, fees, updates, suspensions, termination etc will be dealt directly, between PT Salim Ivomas Pratama and RSPO.”

He continued: “If the letter's intention is to withdraw RSPO certificates held by Lonsum mills: Lonsum will remain subject to decisions and instructions made by the RSPO Complaints Panel, even if a request to withdraw RSPO certificates is granted to the mills mentioned in the appendix to your letter.”

PepsiCo said in its statement provided to just-food: “We are very disappointed to learn of IndoAgri's attempt to withdraw PT Lonsum from the RSPO. This is unacceptable and inconsistent with our policy and commitments on sustainable palm oil. We support the RSPO's Complaints Panel process and continue to urge IndoAgri to act immediately to resolve the identified issues and strengthen their palm-oil policy and grievance mechanism.”

The investigation that Indofood underwent last year was the result of years of independent reports and labour rights violations being documented on Indofood-owned plantations, RAN wrote in a statement on 5 November.

RAN reported in November that many palm oil buying food companies had already cut ties to Indofood prior to its sanction, such as Cargill, Fuji Oil, Unilever and other food companies.