Big food companies improve policies in developing nations, Oxfam

In response to a global campaign launched by Oxfam last year, nine out of 10 of the world's largest food companies have committed to improving their social and environmental policies.

Oxfam launched the ‘Behind the Brands’ campaign last year which sought to expose the prevalence of sugar land grabs and strengthen policies surrounding climate and women’s rights.

The campaign ranked the world’s 10 largest food companies on the strength of policies they had in place, and according to Oxfam, nine out of the 10 listed have since made ‘major strides’ since February last year, when the campaign was launched. General Mills, however, has been listed as the only company that did not improve, and as such has dropped to last place.

The highest performer was Nestle which came out in first place, followed by Unilever and Coca-Cola, all of which improved their scores by 10, 14 and 13 percent respectively.

Oxfam International’s executive director, Winnie Byanyima, said that while the majority of the companies are moving in a positive direction, it will take time to reverse policies that have largely relied on cheap labour for decades.

“Most of the ‘Big 10’ are moving in the right direction because hundreds of thousands of consumers and investors controlling trillions in assets are demanding an overhaul to business as usual,” said Byanyima. “Some companies showed courageous leadership but it appears others need to be pulled along kicking and screaming. It will take time for them to reverse a 100-year history of relying on cheap land and labour to make mass products at huge profits but at high social and environmental costs. The race to the top is underway and there are clear leaders and laggards.”

Oxfam says that six of the 10 companies instituted new policies that endorse the principle of Free Prior and Informed consent (FPIC) which addresses issues associated the sale of land. Seven signed up to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, and Nestle, Mondelez and Mars committed to releasing a detailed action plan in May this year which will address gender inequalities in their supply chains.

Eight of the companies also improved their environmental policies to promote better disclosure of emissions.

“By improving their policies on land, some of the world’s most powerful companies have already helped communities seeking fair compensation for the land that was taken from them nearly a decade ago in countries like Cambodia and Brazil,” said Byanyima. “Companies can open up space to help communities resolve decades-old conflicts once and for all.”

“The most important lesson from the first year of ‘Behind the Brands’ is that companies do respond, quickly and to great effect, when consumers push them toward more responsible methods of production. Down the supply chains we are already seeing agricultural producers and traders beginning to improve their practices to ensure they retain the business of the ‘Big 10’. We need more consumers to speak out in even greater numbers.”

 

Oxfam's Behind the Brands rankings February 2014

 

Rank

Company

Score

Land

Women

Farmers

Workers

Climate

Transparency

Water

Total

1

Nestlé

64%

5

5

6

7

8

7

7

45/70

2

Unilever

63%

5

5

8

7

7

6

6

44/70

3

Coca Cola

54%

7

6

2

6

6

5

6

38/70

4

Mondelez

33%

3

5

4

3

2

3

3

23/70

4

PepsiCo

33%

2

2

3

3

6

3

4

23/70

6

Danone

31%

1

1

2

3

5

5

5

22/70

6

Mars

31%

1

4

4

3

4

4

2

22/70

8

Kellogg

29%

2

3

1

1

4

4

5

20/70

9

Associated British Foods

27%

3

2

2

3

4

3

2

19/70

10

General Mills

21%

2

1

2

2

2

2

4

15/70

 

KEY: Good 8 – 10  Fair 6 – 7  Some progress  4 – 5 Poor 2 – 3 Very poor 0 – 1

Behind the Brands rankings February 2013

 

Rank

Company

Score

Land

Women

Farmers

Workers

Climate

Transparency

Water

Total

1

Nestlé

54%

3

4

5

6

6

7

7

38/70

2

Unilever

49%

3

2

7

6

5

5

6

34/70

3

Coca Cola

41%

1

5

3

6

5

5

4

29/70

4

PepsiCo

31%

2

2

3

3

3

4

5

22/70

5

Mars

30%

1

1

5

4

3

5

2

21/70

6

Danone

29%

1

1

1

3

3

6

5

20/70

6

Mondelez

29%

1

2

4

4

3

4

2

20/70

8

General Mills

23%

1

2

1

3

2

2

5

16/70

8

Kellogg

23%

1

2

1

2

2

4

4

16/70

10

Associated British Foods

19%

1

1

2

3

1

3

2

13/70

 

KEY: Good 8 – 10  Fair 6 – 7  Some progress  4 – 5 Poor 2 – 3 Very poor 0 – 1