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Friday, March 01, 2013

The ten largest food corporations’ socially harmful policies

Despite some progress, most companies fail at transparency, 

sustainability, and human rights.

from Oxfam
The social and environmental policies of the world’s ten biggest 
food and beverage giants are not fit for modern purpose and 
need a major shake-up, says international agency Oxfam.  
The “Big 10” food and beverage companies – that together 
make $1 billion-a-day – are failing millions of people in 
developing countries who supply land, labor, water and 
commodities needed to make their products.
Behind the Brands – part of Oxfam’s GROW campaign to fix 
the broken food system – for the first time ranks the 
agricultural policies, public commitments and supply chain 
oversight of Associated British Foods (ABF), Coca Cola, 
Danone, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, 
Pepsico and Unilever.

With 100 percent as a perfect score, ABF (19 percent), 
Kellogg’s (23 percent) and General Mills (23 percent) scored 
most poorly. They have weaker policies than Coca-Cola (41 
percent), Unilever (49 percent) and Nestle (54 percent) for 
Oxfam calls on companies to turn around a 100-year legacy of relying on cheap land and labor to make mass products at huge profits, with unacceptably high social and environmental costs.
“Some companies recognize the business 
case for sustainability and have made 
important commitments that deserve 
praise,” said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive 
Director for Oxfam International.  “But 
none of the ten biggest food and beverage 
companies is moving fast enough to turn 
around a 100-year legacy of relying on cheap land and labor to 
make mass products at huge profits, with unacceptably high 
social and environmental costs. No company emerges with a 
good overall score. Across the board all ten companies need to 
do much more. ”
“These are among the most profitable and powerful brands in 
the world,” said Robert Fox, Executive Director of Oxfam 
Canada. “The standard they set for women’s rights, decent 
work, fair prices and sustainable production has huge 
implications for poor families in Africa, Asia and the Americas. 
Their performance falls far short of what suppliers and 
consumers expect.”

The "Behind the Brands" campaign reveals:
  • While some of the “Big 10” have publicly committed to women’s’ rights, none has committed to eliminating discrimination against women throughout their supply chains.
  • None of the companies has adequate policies to protect local communities from land and water grabs, despite all of them sourcing commodities plagued by land rights violations, such as palm oil, soy and sugar. Not one company has declared "zero tolerance" against land grabs in their supply chains.
  • All ten companies are overly secretive about their agricultural supply chains, making their claims of "sustainability" and "social responsibility" difficult to verify. Nestle and Unilever are most open about the countries they source from, but no company is providing enough information about their suppliers.
“Eighty percent of the world’s hungry people work in food production and these companies employ millions of people in developing countries to grow their ingredients.
  • Companies are generally increasing their overall water efficiency but most have failed to put policies in place to limit their impact on local water sources. Only Pepsi has publicly recognized water as a human right and committed to consult local communities. Nestle has developed guidelines for its suppliers to manage water and was ranked top for policies on water.
  • All of the companies have taken steps to reduce direct emissions, but only five – Mondelez, Danone, Unilever, Coca-Cola and Mars – publicly report on agricultural emissions associated with their products. Unilever alone has committed to halve its greenhouse gas footprint by 2020. None has yet developed policies to help farmers in their supply chains to build resilience to climate change.
  • None has publicly committed to pay a fair price to farmers or fair business arrangements with them across all agricultural operations. Only Unilever – which is top-ranked for its dealings with small-scale farmers – has specific supplier guidelines to address some key issues faced by farmers.
“It’s time these companies take more responsibility for their 
immense influence on poor people’s lives,” said Hobbs. “Eighty 
percent of the world’s hungry people work in food production 
and these companies employ millions of people in developing 
countries to grow their ingredients. They control hundreds of 
the world’s most popular brands and have the economic, social 
and political clout to make a real and lasting difference to the 
world’s poor and hungry.”
“Analyzing their social policies is an important first step. These 
policies indicate a company’s intent to do good. They are 
ultimately how consumers and producers can begin to hold 
them to account,” Hobbs said.

“No brand is too big to listen to its customers,” said Hobbs. “If 
enough people urge the big food companies to do what is right, 
they have no choice but to listen.  By contacting companies on 
Twitter and Facebook, or signing a petition to their CEO, 
consumers can do their part to help bring lasting change in our 
broken food system by showing companies their customers 
expect them to operate responsibly.”
“No brand is too big to listen to its customers…If enough people urge the big food companies to do what is right, they have no choice but to listen.”
The "Behind the Brands" campaign will 
launch in more than 12 countries 
including the US, Mexico, China, Brazil 
and across Europe.
Its first public action will target Nestle, Mondelez and Mars for 
their failure to address inequality faced by women who grow 
cocoa for their chocolate products. Today Oxfam is also 
releasing a brief with first-hand accounts of the inequality that 
women cocoa growers face. Oxfam is urging the three 
companies to do more to know and show how women are 
treated in their supply chains, create an action plan to address 
inequality for women in their supply chains and engage in 
advocacy to influence other powerful actors to do the same.

About Oxfam

Oxfam Canada works with people 

to secure their basic human rights, 

combining support to long-term 

development and humanitarian responses with 

research, advocacy and campaigning against the 

root causes of poverty and injustice.
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