Top agribusiness companies have room to improve to meet industry sustainability standards on sourcing

By Oxfam

Some of the world’s biggest agribusiness companies, including Archer Daniels Midland, Barry Callebaut, Bunge, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus Company, Olam International, and Wilmar International, have significant gaps in their sustainability policies, as compared to standards set by leading food and beverage companies and for best practice, according to a new Oxfam report released today.

Oxfam assessed the sourcing policies and commitments of these top global agribusinesses on the themes of transparency and accountability, climate, land rights, and treatment of small-scale farmers and women producers in major agricultural supply chains. Oxfam found that all companies have room to improve across all themes: More than 90% of the agribusinesses’ scores are below 50%, with the lowest scores on the themes of transparency and accountability. The scorecard analyzes how agribusinesses manage human rights risks and impacts, and small-scale producers, looking at whether the sector is helping to improve the ability of small-scale producers across their agricultural supply chains to earn a living income focusing around cocoa, sugar and palm oil commodities. Olam was the top scoring company on four out of the five themes.

The assessment is part of Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Implementation Initiative, which works to ensure that leading food and beverage companies are implementing key sustainability commitments across their own supply chains.

Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign asked the 10 biggest food and beverage companies (the ‘Big 10’), including The Coca-Cola Company, General Mills, Kellogg, Nestlé, Mars, Mondelez, PepsiCo, and Unilever, to strengthen their social and environmental sustainability policies. Many stepped up to do so and now Oxfam is focused on monitoring and advising Big 10 companies on implementing these policies.

“The Big 10 hold power and responsibility as they sit at the end of massive supply chains,” says Irit Tamir, Oxfam America’s Director of Private Sector Engagement. “This means they must work together with their suppliers, agribusinesses included, to ensure implementation of their commitments is at scale together.”

However, Oxfam found gaps when it comes to the strength of supplier’s policies. On the theme of land rights, The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Unilever integrated the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) into their supplier codes, requirements, or guidance. Only four of the seven agribusiness - Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Olam, and Wilmar - score for having FPIC indicators in place. On the climate theme, Kellogg, General Mills, and other Big 10 companies have adopted science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across their value chains, but only Olam and Barry Callebaut have done the same.

“From respecting land rights to setting science based greenhouse gas targets to strengthening the rights of women cocoa farmers, Behind the Brands companies have spoken through their commitments,” continues Tamir. “The disconnect between what the Big 10 have committed to and what their suppliers, like the agribusinesses, have committed to should be of concern to the companies. They and their suppliers need to do more to ensure implementation of these commitments.”

Large agribusinesses have a responsibility and an opportunity to improve. The Big 10 must work with them to implement their own human rights and sustainability commitments. This includes putting women’s economic empowerment at the heart of business operations, respecting all land rights, improving transparency, and supporting a living income for small-scale farmers across their supply chains.

“Oxfam continues to advise and monitor the implementation of the Behind the Brands campaign commitments,” continued Tamir. “We hope to do the same when it comes to agribusinesses.”

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