21st December 2018
Bonsucro’s vision is a sugarcane sector with thriving, sustainable producer communities and resilient, assured supply chains. Bonsucro’s Code of Conduct states that a primary aim of the organisation is to ‘improve the social, environmental and economic sustainability of sugar cane production’.
Bonsucro asks its members to operate under a principle of continuous improvement. Members agree to work towards this stated objective during their membership, including through compliance with the Code of Conduct. The complaints resolution process is an important tool to allow the Bonsucro Board to gain awareness of and take appropriate action in relation to members who fail to do so.
A complaint was made to Bonsucro in 2011 by Inclusive Development International, Equitable Cambodia and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (“the complainants”) alleging a number of serious concerns about the conduct of Bonsucro member Mitr Phol related to activities connected with a number of Economic Land Concessions in Cambodia granted by the Cambodian government, which have since been returned to the Cambodian government.
The complaints resolution procedure applicable to this complaint requires Bonsucro to consider whether the complaint is in scope, develop an action plan aimed at facilitating a resolution of the complaint between the parties, and consider the merits of the complaint itself so that the board can make a final decision. Both the complainants and Mitr Phol have submitted significant amounts of information, which has been carefully considered against the relevant criteria.
Bonsucro sought to explore and facilitate methods by which Mitr Phol and the complainants may resolve the matters between themselves. This process was complicated by the litigation which has been issued in the Thai courts, which, Bonsucro understands, rests on a similar factual background, but which concerns the legal liability of Mitr Phol, rather than Mitr Phol’s compliance with its obligations as a Bonsucro member during the period of its membership (as stated in the relevant documents governing its membership during that time) which is the only relevant and applicable context of this complaint. In issuing its decision, Bonsucro makes no comment in relation to the Thai litigation, which is an entirely separate matter, and nothing in Bonsucro’s decision should be taken as an endorsement of either party’s position in that litigation.
At its Board meeting on 26 November 2018, Bonsucro’s Board carefully considered and discussed:
- The information submitted by both parties;
- The obligations which Mitr Phol had committed to at the time of its original period of membership, when the complaint was made;
- The steps taken to date to facilitate the resolution of the matters between the parties themselves, and whether it would be appropriate to take any further steps, following further approaches made to the parties in November 2018; and
- The scope of its decision-making powers, as applicable to this complaint.
The Board noted the findings of the Thai Human Rights Commission that human rights violations took place in 2008 and 2009 in connection with the Economic Land Concessions in Cambodia which are the subject of this complaint, and further noted that that report places significant emphasis on the obligations of the Cambodian government. It also noted Mitr Phol’s strong denials of any involvement in human rights violations, and its explanations of attempts made to engage in Cambodia. The Board took particular note that its powers in relation to this complaint allowed it only to consider the actions of Mitr Phol during its period of membership, which commenced on 4 June 2010.
Bonsucro understands that no sugar was commercially produced on the sites. No application for certification of the sites according to Bonsucro’s Production Standards was made, and no sugar from the sites appears in Bonsucro labelled products.
Following their discussion, Bonsucro’s Board has made the following decision:
- It would not be appropriate to take any further steps to facilitate the resolution of the matter between the parties, all reasonable steps already having been taken;
- The Board does not consider that it has received cogent evidence that, during its prior period of membership, Mitr Phol breached the terms of Bonsucro’s Code of Conduct in place at the time;
- The Board considers that there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Mitr Phol is committed to improving the social, environmental and economic sustainability of sugar cane production and therefore is eligible to remain as a member of Bonsucro;
- The Board does not consider it appropriate to place any conditions on Mitr Phol’s continued membership of Bonsucro.
The Board would like to invite the parties to engage with Bonsucro on its review of Bonsucro’s Complaints Resolution Process, which will commence in early 2019.