Oxfam slates firms' secrecy over supply chains

6 March 2013

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6 March 2013 | Anna Reynolds

Oxfam has accused the world’s largest food and beverage companies of being “overly secretive” about their supply chains.

As part of its ‘Behind the Brands' campaign, the charity rated the organisations on their policies in seven areas: worker rights and conditions; development of farmers who produce ingredients; land management; water use; climate change; how they protect women’s rights; and the transparency of their supply chains, policies and operations.

The Behind the Brands scorecard is part of Oxfam's GROW campaign which aims to fix the “broken system” of food production. All 10 companies provided data over the past year to Oxfam, which was used as the basis for the ratings.

However, the charity said all 10 firms examined were overly secretive about their agricultural supply chains, making their claims of sustainability and social responsibility difficult to verify, with none of the companies providing enough information about their suppliers. Furthermore, while some of the companies have publicly committed to women’s rights, none have committed to eliminating discrimination against women throughout their supply chains.

Another finding was that none of the companies have publicly committed to pay a fair price to farmers.

Jeremy Hobbs, executive director at Oxfam International, said in a statement: “None of the 10 biggest food and beverage companies are moving fast enough to turn around a 100-year legacy of relying on cheap land and labour to make mass products at huge profits, with unacceptably high social and environmental costs.

“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 send 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 is currently targeting the inequality faced by female workers in the cocoa supply chain. Oxfam is encouraging companies to show how women are treated in their supply chains and create an action plan to address problems.

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