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3 Mar, 2013

Oxfam Survey Slags Big Brand Food Multinationals for Exploiting Land, Labour


London, 26 Feb 2013 (Oxfam Press releases) – 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.

ABF (19%), Kellogg’s (23%) and General Mills (23%) scored most poorly. They have weaker policies than Coca-Cola (41%), Unilever (49%) and Nestle (54%) for example.

“A 100-year legacy of relying on cheap land and labor”

“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 are 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.”

The ‘Behind the Brands’ campaign reveals:

  • While some of the “Big 10” have publicly committed to women’s rights, none have committed to eliminating discrimination against women throughout their supply chains.
  • None of the companies have 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.
  • 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 have yet developed policies to help farmers in their supply chains to build resilience to climate change.
  • None have 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.

Public action to target Nestle, Mondelez and Mars

“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.”

The ‘Behind the Brands’ campaign will launch in more than 12 countries including the US, 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.

  1. Oxfam has engaged with all 10 companies during the last year who have cooperated in providing data to inform this scorecard. The scorecard will be updated if companies change their policies.
  2. Oxfam rated the companies on their policies on seven topics: how they ensure the rights of the workers and farmers who grow their ingredients, how they protect women’s rights, management of land and water use, climate change and the transparency of their supply chains, policies and operations. It did not review other important policies such as those dealing with nutrition, tax and waste, for example.

Behind the Brands scorecard, 6 Feb 2013


Case studies:

Oxfam media briefing

Take action

Go Behind the Brands now!

See more at: http://www.oxfam.org/en/grow/pressroom/pressrelease/2013-02-26/ten-biggest-food-beverage-companies-failing-millions-people#sthash.eg0tyq3u.dpuf

The Big 10 response to Behind the Brands, so far

28 February, 2013  – There has been a great response to the Behind the Brands launch on Tuesday (Feb 26) so far, showing that consumers clearly care about the people behind the foods they buy. Thousands of people have taken action – the start of what we hope is a movement to reverse the 100-year legacy of the world’s ten largest food and beverage companies, who for too long have taken advantage of cheap land and labor to make mass products at huge profits.

People have asked the companies tough questions on Twitter. In Beijing, campaigners talked to shoppers in one of the city’s biggest shopping malls. In the US they went to the headquarters of Coca-cola, Pepsi and Mondelez and spoke to employees about the problems their bosses’ policies – or lack thereof – are causing poor food producers. The New York Times, the Financial Times, Reuters, the BBC and the Guardian were among the media that covered an issue that, until now, has been largely overlooked.

So how did the companies respond?

Danone did not respond at all.

Associated British Foods – the worst performer on Oxfam’s scorecard – said “the idea that ABF would use a ‘veil of secrecy’ in order to hide the ‘human cost’ of its supply chain is simply ridiculous.” It is understandable ABF would be disappointed at being the lowest scoring company of all ten of the food giants we ranked, but the facts behind those scores are clear for everyone to see in Oxfam’s report.

Coca-Cola reiterated its commitment to the environment, sustainability and female workers, but did not properly address its poor scores on land and farmers.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi met Oxfam staff who were handing out materials at the company’s US headquarters. She was surprised and disappointed to hear that PepsiCo scored lower than its competitors. That Indra Nooyi at least paid personal attention to the news is promising, but we hope her senior team can translate this concern into action.

Mars said it appreciated Oxfam’s focus on the “serious issues” facing cocoa farmers and recognized the important role women must play in tackling them. We welcome steps Mars has taken to do right by small-scale farmers, including its commitment to source 100 per cent certified cocoa by 2020. But these individual projects must also be accompanied by more comprehensive policies extending to land, water and women’s rights.

Mondelez said it recently committed $600 million over ten years to its Cocoa Life and Coffee Made Happy programs, and described its global leadership in sourcing certified cocoa. While it was pleased Oxfam was raising awareness about problems, it felt that the Behind the Brands scorecard was a “missed opportunity” to engage companies in positive change. Oxfam is happy Mondelez is reiterating its public commitment to the people who grow their ingredients, but  listing out its community initiatives is not enough, though these are certainly very welcome. We made a specific request that Mondelez commit to a full assessment of gender inequality in its cocoa supply chains followed by a plan of action to address its problems.

General Mills and Kelloggs committed to review the findings and to do more.

Nestle’s formal response on its website said it was taking Oxfam’s challenges seriously. The company highlighted its support to small scale farmers and to the sustainable use of water and in addressing child labor. But the company did score poorly on land and women, which is concerning as they rely heavily on them. Nestle does not have any guidelines requiring suppliers to take a zero tolerance approach to land grabbing, nor does it know how many women are in their cocoa supply chain and whether they are at risk of being excluded and exploited.

Unilever welcomed our emphasis on greater transparency and the importance of the role of women and of land rights, which the company says it has highlighted at the G20. However Unilever also said Behind the Brands was a “missed opportunity” to look at all the organizations that needed to come together on the critical issue of global food security. “Change of this nature requires wide partnerships, and needs to stretch beyond looking at the role of branded food companies”, it said.

Unilever is right to say food security challenges will only be tackled if they are addressed comprehensively by a range of actors from consumers to governments to companies. Food companies need to take a leading role in making this happen as Unilever is doing, for example, by including smallholder farmers in food value chains. We look forward to seeing specific new commitments and public actions from Unilever to address where there are gaps in their sustainability such as preventing land grabs and pursuing equality for women.

Overall, we think that a handful of the ‘Big 10’ companies went to some length to engage positively with the arguments that published in Behind the Brands. But with a few exceptions, we feel that their responses overall have been tepid and largely predictable at best – an underwhelming reply to the scale and urgency of the problem, given the undoubted power that they wield.

Time for action!

Let’s get these companies to act! Sign up to join our social media Thunderclap, which we’ll release on International Women’s Day March 8

– See more at: http://blogs.oxfam.org/en/blogs/13-02-28-response-behind-brands-so-far#sthash.UsGoWSyU.dpuf