Supermarkets not doing enough to protect human rights in their supply chain: study
Not a single Dutch supermarket is taking concrete measures to prevent human rights abuses in their supply chains, despite knowing of the risks, according to the Superlijs Sociaal study into the seven largest supermarkets in the Netherlands by think tank Questionmark, supported by Oxfam Novib and Solidaridad.
The Dutch supermarkets have policies and keep an eye on risks of child labor, discrimination, and exploitation. “But concrete actions by supermarkets to respect the rights of workers, farmers, and women remain largely absent,” Questionmark said.
Of the seven largest supermarket chains in the Netherlands, Lidl is doing the most to protect human rights in its supply chains. The chain is more transparent about where its products come from and how it tackles abuses than its peers. Albert Heijn, Aldi, Ekoplaza, and Jumbo are taking some measures, while Plus and Dirk show the least commitment to human rights, according to the researchers.
“But no supermarket provides sufficient evidence for guaranteeing human rights. This despite commitments from all seven supermarkets to follow international guidelines from the United Nations and OECD,” the researchers said in a press release.
Most supermarkets recognize that small-scale farmers often don’t earn enough to meet their basic needs, as is shown by efforts by Albert Heijn, Aldi, Plus, and Tony Chocolonely to ensure a sustainable income for cocoa farmers. Lidl is also working on projects to support small-scale cocoa, coffee, and cashew farmers. While the human rights organizations praised these concrete steps for protecting farmers’ right to a liveable income, they also pointed out that supermarkets have thousands of other products for which they aren’t taking any action.
“Supermarkets still take too little responsibility and seem to be waiting for legislation before they really take human rights seriously,” Questionmark director Charlotte Linnebank said.
Twelve years after the ratification of the OECD guidelines, it is “high time that supermarkets began to identify and investigate the breadth of their range or risky products,” Heske Verburg of Solidaridad added.
The European Union is working on a new directive for international corporate social responsibility, which would require companies to ensure human rights and take care of the environment.