Supermarket Scorecard on Human Rights

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Why we need laws to stop exploitation in global food chains. The coronavirus pandemic has brought a whole new meaning to a trip to the supermarket. Despite stockpiling, the people in Germany did not have to worry about their food. Even though individual products were temporarily unavailable, the shelves were usually well stocked.

 

Bananen Ecuador_© M. Haegele_Oxfam

By Oxfam

Oxfam is an international relief and development organization, which helps women and men in poor countries to build a better future for themselves. In crises and disasters, Oxfam saves lives and helps to rebuild livelihoods.

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However, our seamless supply of food has a darker side: Suffering, exploitation and discrimination are a daily occurrence in the supply chains of German supermarkets. Oxfam has been showing for years how these companies push prices down and enter into unfair contracts with suppliers, which results in people on tea plantations in Assam, India, or fruit plantations in Ecuador and Costa Rica working under inhumane conditions. Our case studies on foods such as tea, grapes and wine or tropical fruits such as bananas and pineapples show: Workers in South America, Africa and Asia have to work for up to 12 hours a day for low wages and under unhealthy conditions. And the corona pandemic has only exacerbated this situation. Social distancing and working from home are not an option for plantation workers and small-scale farmers. COVID-19 puts them at particular risk because they come into contact with toxic pesticides over the years when picking the crops, which can trigger chronic respiratory illnesses.

In reaction to these case studies and the associated pressure from the public, there have been isolated cases of progress for the workers on fruit plantations. However, none of the criticised supermarkets have changed their business model based on dumping prices. Oxfam’s supermarket scorecard aims to help companies do just that.

 

What is the supermarket scorecard?

Since 2018, Oxfam’s annual supermarket scorecard has been analysing the human rights policies of the largest supermarket chains in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and the USA. Oxfam has used international standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines as a basis for developing almost 100 assessment criteria.

The supermarket scorecard assesses four areas: Transparency and corporate governance, conditions for workers at suppliers, conditions and trade relationships with small-scale farmers as well as gender equality and women’s rights. Publically disclosed information in sustainability reports and on websites are used as a benchmark for this.

 

The most important findings from the 2020 supermarket scorecard

Oxfam’s supermarket scorecard, which is in its third year, shows one thing in particular - it works! Supermarkets can change their business policies and focus more on the rights of those people around the world who plant and harvest food.

 

However, this does not happen without pressure. There is a reason why the company with the best score in Germany is Lidl, which Oxfam has been addressing with campaigns and case studies for ten years.

 

Among the German supermarkets, Lidl made a leap forwards this year and increased its score from nine per cent in the previous year to 31 per cent. Aldi Süd and Rewe have made improvements to their human rights policy and both achieved 25 per cent of the total score. Aldi Nord has also made progress and achieved 18 per cent. Therefore, these three supermarkets are in the middle of the supermarket scorecard.

 

As in 2019, very little has been changed at Edeka, which is at the bottom of the list with a mere 3 per cent – both in Germany and internationally.

The British supermarket chains remain the international forerunners: Tesco and Sainsbury’s received 46 and 44 per cent of the total score – so did not even achieve half of the total possible points.

 

As an interim conclusion, yes, there have been changes, but no turning point. All supermarkets have a long way to go before they are one hundred per cent focused on human rights. Despite making some progress, supermarkets are still doing too little to tackle exploitation of the people who produce the foods on their shelves.

 

Overview of German supermarkets

Aldi Süd and Nord, Lidl and Rewe have started publishing risk analyses on human rights violations during the cultivation of their products around the world. Lidl also makes the majority of its direct suppliers public. This enables workers and trade unions in the production countries to speak directly to the company if there are grievances from the suppliers: A milestone, even though many companies previously claimed that it is almost impossible to create transparency throughout global supply chains.

 

Aldi Süd and Nord and Lidl have also undertaken to develop risk analyses and action plans for risk products together with local trade unions and civil society in order to implement better working conditions. The measures not only improve the conditions for the local workers but also signal a paradigm shift since the discounters refused to enter into a serious dialogue with local trade unions up to now.

 

In January 2020, many German retail companies signed a self-commitment to implement living wages and income in global supply chains. These included Lidl, Rewe and Aldi – but not Edeka. However, supermarkets did not earn points simply by signing; Oxfam considers the public information on specific steps to implement the initiative to be too sparse for this. In addition to the self-commitment, Lidl has launched specific projects to pay a living wage in Brazil, Ghana and Ecuador. Rewe receives points for agreeing to issue a public report on its progress in this area each year.

All supermarket chains, with the exception of Edeka, are conducting projects with small-scale farmers, in which they can earn a higher income with better knowledge.

 

Other than Edeka, all of them have finally improved their women’s rights policy: Lidl has signed the UN Women Empowerment Principles, international principles to empower women in companies and therefore undertakes to support women and ensure gender equality in all its branches around the world as well as among its suppliers. Aldi Süd and Nord have undertaken to conduct a specific risk analysis together with local women for three risk products. Rewe supports small-scale farmers in Ghana to earn higher wages.

Overall, German supermarket chains are still relying too much on questionable labels such as the Organisation Rainforest Alliance. Many studies conducted by civil society organisations, including Oxfam, have proven for years that these labels do not adequately protect human rights.

 

What are British supermarket chains doing better?

Despite the considerable progress made by German supermarket chains, the British companies with the top performers Tesco and Sainsbury’s still achieve the best results. Why? First, both have been working for a long time on focusing their corporate policies on human rights and have made quite a few changes in challenging areas. For example, Tesco has been proactively supporting the self-organisation of workers at its suppliers in Latin America for some time now. And with success: In Peru, for example, all of Tesco’s suppliers have employee representatives.

Another reason for the comparatively high score may be the UK Modern Slavery Act, a law that requires companies to report incidents of and measures to address modern forms of slavery in their supply chains. Yet, all things considered, the British supermarket chains have not even reached 50 per cent of the total score.

 

What is the problem? The issue of price policy.

In the German food retail industry, the Schwarzgruppe (Lidl and Kaufland), Aldi, Rewe and Edeka hold 85 per cent of market shares. This means that manufacturers wanting to sell significant quantities of food on the German market cannot overtake them. As a result, the companies have the power to dictate supplier prices and conditions to their own benefit. And this is at the expense of the wages of the workers and small-scale farmers in cultivation countries of the Global South. In order to substantially improve their situation, a change in price policy would be crucial. However, in January 2020, Edeka advertised cheap prices with the slogan “We are slashing prices”, and a few months later, Aldi joined in with a “Price, Price, Baby” campaign

 

The aggressive advertising with low prices causes a downwards spiral because this makes consumers focus even more on the price. But in the end, it is the workers in the global supply chain who pay for this price battle: Without the fair distribution of costs for higher social standards, they will never receive a living wage.

 

So far, none of the companies evaluated scored points in the purchasing policy indicator, which evaluates whether supermarket chains select their suppliers not just based on low prices but also according to humane working conditions. While Aldi Süd and Nord, Lidl and Rewe say that their purchasing policy includes requirements to observe human rights, they do not provide specific evidence of this – neither do Tesco or Sainsbury‘s.

 

We need laws for more fairness in retail and to care for human rights

Despite the progress that has been mentioned, supermarkets are still not doing enough to prevent the exploitation of the people who produce the food on their shelves. To ensure that companies like Edeka can no longer shirk their responsibility, a binding foundation is required: A supply chain law that is binding on supermarkets and all transnational companies. Only this kind of law can ensure that companies are not left to decide at random whether they observe human rights in their supply chain. A legal framework is also necessary for effective environmental protection by companies abroad. Oxfam is therefore part of the Supply Chain Law Initiative that has developed a specific proposal for a German law.

 

Oxfam also calls for Germany to take this opportunity to ensure more fairness in the food sector i.e. fair supply conditions in the food supply chain and an end to selling food at dumping prices. This is the only way to prevent retailers passing on their costs to suppliers and eliminating respect of human rights in the long term. The EU Directive (2019/633) that prohibits unfair trade practices such as the short-term termination of supply contracts must be implemented into German law with such provisions that are fully effective. This means that at least unfair trade practices are comprehensively prohibited and that authorities with expertise such as the Federal Cartel Office are responsible for their implementation. This is the only way companies can implement business policies that keep up with globalisation in the 21st century and not at the expense of people in farming countries.

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The farmes themselves are the benchmark

A contribution by Andreas Quiring

Strong farmes are the key to a self-determined, sustainable development. Social innovations can help make the farmers’ actual needs the benchmark.

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Kakaoernte

Doing More With Less

A contribution by Jochen Moninger

Innovation is the only way to end hunger worldwide by the deadline we have set ourselves. The secret lies in networking and sharing ideas – and several initiatives are already leading by example.

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Video diaries in the days of Corona: Voices from the ground

A contribution by Sarah D´haen & Alexander Müller, Louisa Nelle, Bruno St. Jaques, Sarah Kirangu-Wissler and Matteo Lattanzi (TMG)

Young farmers’ insights on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa @CovidFoodFuture and video diaries from Nairobi’s informal settlements.

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(c) Thomas Lohnes / Brot für die Welt

The hype about urban gardening: farmers or hobby gardeners?

A contribution by Stig Tanzmann

Urban gardening is becoming increasingly popular in northern metropoles. People who consider themselves part of a green movement are establishing productive gardens in the city, for example on rooftops or in vacant lots. In severely impoverished regions of the global South, urban agriculture is a component of the food strategy.

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A new U.S. Africa policy?

An article by Jan Rübel

After four years of Donald Trump in the White House, it is time to take stock: What policies did the Republican government pursue in African regions? And what will change in favor of Joe Biden after the election decision? Here is an evaluation.

 

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JOERG BOETHLING / GIZ

Continent in an uptrend

A report by Dr. Agnes Kalibata (AGRA)

Partnering for Africa’s Century: Innovation and Leadership as Drivers of Growth and Productivity in Rural Areas

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How do you campaign “Food Systems”?

Interview with Paul Newnham, Director of the SDG 2 Advocacy Hub.

The UN Food Systems pre-Summit in Rome dealt with transforming the ways of our nutrition. How do you bring that to a broad public? Questions to Paul Newnham, the Director of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 Advocacy Hub.

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Mr. Marí, what happened at the alternative summit?

An Interview with Francisco Marí (Brot für die Welt)

Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World) did not attend the UNFSS pre-summit. Instead, the organisation took part in a counter-summit that took place at the same time. A conversation with Francisco Marí about the reasons, the process - and an outlook for the future

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How can the private sector prevent food loss and waste?

An interview with David Brand (GIZ)

From a circular food system in Rwanda to functioning cooled transports in Kenya: The lab of tomorrow addresses development challenges such as preventing food loss and waste

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From lost products to safe food - Innovations from Zambia

A contribution by GIZ

In Zambia, innovative approaches are used to address the problem of post-harvest losses in the groundnut value chain. GIZ's Rapid Loss Appraisal Tool (RLAT) can help to develop more such approaches.

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A Climate of Hunger: How the Climate Crisis Fuels the Hunger

A photo reportage by the Zeitenspiegel agency

Every one degree Celsius rise in temperature increases the risk of conflict by two to ten percent. The climate crisis is a humanitarian crisis, as the photos by Christoph Püschner and Frank Schultze illustrate.

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‘None of the Three Traffic Light Coalition Parties is Close to the Paris Agreement’

An Interview with Leonie Bremer (FFF)

At the climate conference in Glasgow, activists from various groups protested again – Leonie Bremer from ‘Fridays for Future’ was there too. How can climate protection and development cooperation work hand in hand?

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Social justice and climate justice: Fair Vibe at the Youth Climate Conference

At LCOY Germany, the local youth climate conference, views on climate protection from all political spectrums are discussed. The Fairactivists, a programme of Fairtrade Germany, participated with a panel discussion on the link between social justice and climate justice.

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Mozambique: How informal workers find jobs through an app

A Contribution by Leonie March

There are only about 1 million jobs in the East African country. The majority of the population works in the informal sector, and it can be difficult for them to find customers. Biscate offers a digital solution - without the need for internet, data or smartphones.

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Stepping into the future: How youth organisations are driving change

A contribution by Felix Chiyenda

Together they are stronger: In many African countries, young men and women are coming together to form youth organisations. These organisations help young people in rural areas to earn a living in the agricultural and food sector, creating prospects for the future in rural areas.

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Podcast: Fighting world hunger together

Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Podcast of the Federal Government

At the start of World Food Week around World Food Day on 16 October, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that the fight against global hunger will only be successful with international responsibility and solidarity (german only).

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(c) Privat

How much private investment is the agricultural sector able to bear?

By Pedro Morazán

Small farmers in developing countries must modernise their farming methods, but poorly understood reforms could exacerbate poverty instead of alleviating it.

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Uli Reinhardt/Zeitenspiegel

Enough of being poor

By Marcellin Boguy

In western Africa a new middle class is emerging. Their consumer behaviour is determining the demand for products – home-produced and imported goods, on the internet or at the village market. The people of Ivory Coast in particular are looking to the future with optimism.

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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

From start to finish: a vision of interconnectivity

A contribution by Tanja Reith

At the moment, the agricultural industries of African countries exist in relative isolation. Imagine peasant farmers digitally connected to the value chains of the global food industry. How could this happen? A guidebook.

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Developing countries hit doubly hard by coronavirus

A contribution by Gunter Beger (BMZ)

In most African countries, the infection COVID-19 is likely to trigger a combined health and food crisis. This means: In order to cope with this unprecedented crisis, consistently aligning our policies to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is more important than ever, our author maintains.

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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

Can this end world hunger?

A report by Stig Tanzmann

Time to dig deeper: We can only benefit from technical progress if we have a solid legal framework for everybody. But so far, none is in sight - in many countries. Instead, international corporations grow ever more powerful.

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Frank Schultze / Agentur_ZS

The communicator

A contribution by Jan Rübel

What do electrical engineering, telecommunications and agriculture have in common? They arouse the passion of Strive Masiyiwa: Thirty years ago, he started an electrical installation company with $75, later riding the telecommunications wave as a pioneer. Today he is committed to transforming African agriculture.

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(c) Privat

Borderless food security

A contribution by Christine Wieck

Enabling smallholders to trade across regions and borders promotes food security and economic growth. Although everyone is calling for exactly that, implementation is still difficult

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© GIZ

Actual Analysis: The locusts came with the crises

A report by Bettina Rudloff and Annette Weber (SWP)

The Corona-Virus exacerbates existing crises through conflict, climate, hunger and locusts in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. What needs to be done in these regions? To face these challenges for many countries, all of these crises need to be captured in their regional context.

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Successful Blueprints for African Agriculture

A Contribution by GIZ

At the 8th German-African Agribusiness Forum (GAAF) representatives from business and politics discussed successful investment models to improve living conditions in Africa.

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Our Food Systems are in Urgent Need of Crisis-Proofing: what needs to be done

An Artikel by TMG

Based on a scientific study by TMG Think Tank, the authors highlight various challenges in the fight against the hunger crisis. The findings show that climate change, conflict and covid-19 are increasing food and energy prices.

 

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2022, a year of crisis – What does it mean for African trade and food security?

A Contribution by Ousmane Badiane

The Africa Agriculture Trade Monitor 2022 (AATM) was published by IFPRI and AKADEMIYA2063. The report analyses the short- and long-term trends and drivers of African agricultural trade flows, including regional policies and the role of global markets.

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COVID-19 and Rising Food Prices: What’s Really Happening?

A Contribution by IFPRI

Taking a look at the data (as of February 11th 2022) what the current price hike means for world hunger and what can be done to prevent from another food crisis.

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Agricultural prices and food security – a complex relationship

A Contribution by Dr. Fatima Olanike Kareem and Dr. Olayinka Idowu Kareem

High agricultural prices affect developed and developing countries alike, but the problem is aggravated for the latter through the lack of or inadequate resilience measures. Dr. Fatima Olanike Kareem, AKADEMIYA2063, and Dr. Olayinka Idowu Kareem, University of Hohenheim, explain what can be done to mitigate the negative effects on food security.

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Earth’s well, all’s well!

A Contribution by Fairtrade Germany

With the annual topic "Earth’s well, all’s well!", Fairtrade Germany is focusing on the concept of agroecology at all levels - and is thus taking the next step towards achieving greater global sustainability. At the Green Week trade fair, Fairtrade Germany will show how this can be achieved taking the cocoa supply chain as an example.

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