The social and environmental policies of the world’s ten biggest food and beverage giants need a major shake-up, said international relief and development organization Oxfam America as it launched its new global campaign called ‘Behind the Brands‘.
The campaign was launched with new research that for the first time scores and ranks the agricultural policies, public commitments and supply chain oversight of Associated British Foods, Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever.
The research reveals that 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.
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.
“While some companies are doing better than others, no company has passed the test,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser , President of Oxfam America. “Some companies have made important commitments that deserve praise. But none are moving fast enough to help tackle hunger, inequality and poverty in their supply chains. No company emerges with passing grades. Across the board all ten companies are failing.”
- 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.
“It’s time these companies take more responsibility for their immense influence on poor people’s lives,” said Offenheiser. “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.”
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.
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.
“No brand is too big to listen to its customers,” said Offenheiser. “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.”