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Environmental & Social Impact Award

Winner: Mars – Addressing forced labour risks

Entry Overview

Recruitment fees may leave workers at risk of debt bondage – a form of forced labor where a person’s work is demanded to repay a loan. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to these exploitative fees often paid to informal recruitment agents and middlemen. 80% of the workers in the Malaysia Palm Oil sector (the largest palm oil origin) are migrant labor and, without remediation, may be at risk of forced labor.

In Malaysia, we have been working on a multiyear collaboration with our Tier-1 palm oil supplier, its Tier-2 palm plantation operator, and a not-for-profit organisation, on remediating worker-paid recruitment fees and implementing new recruitment practices designed to safeguard the rights of migrant workers. Achievements so far include:

•The repayment of approximately USD $5.8 million to roughly 3,000 migrant workers.
•An improved ethical recruitment model, shifting to more direct recruitment from lower-risk recruitment channels.
•A new system to identify worker-paid fees prior to departure from sending countries.
•An enhanced grievance mechanism and communication process with workers to understand the effectiveness of this new model.
•Third-party verification of new recruitment and grievances.

We have taken the learnings from this initiative and are working with our other Tier 1 palm oil suppliers and their Tier 2 palm plantation operators to achieve similar results in Malaysia and other countries from which Mars sources palm oil.

Press release

Official announcement of the World Procurement Awards 2024 winners and highly commended

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Judges’ feedback

“What is most compelling about this, is the way the company worked at multiple levels to protect the those workers who didn’t have anyone advocating for them. Absolutely LOVE this project.”

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