The world’s ten biggest food and beverage giants no longer fit the bill when it comes to environmental policies and worker’s rights according to "Behind the Brands," the latest report from international agency Oxfam.
The “Big 10”—Associated British Foods (ABF), Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever collectively make $1 billion a day while exploiting millions of people who supply land, labor, water and commodities to make their products and live primarily in developing countries, Oxfam states.
The report notes that Coca-Cola products are consumed 1.7 billion times per day and 4,000 cups of Nescafé are consumed every second. The Big 10 represent roughly 10% of the world economy.
Oxfam’s report ranks the brands on seven metrics: Land (supply chains free of ‘land grabs’), Women (promotion of women’s welfare), Farmers (treatment and sustainability policies), Workers (fair treatment of agricultural workers), Climate (mitigating greenhouse gas emissions), Transparency (disclosure of information about products and ingredients point of origin) and Water (basic respect of human right to potable water).
“None of the ten biggest food and beverage companies are moving fast enough to turn around a 100-year legacy of relying on cheap land and labor to make mass products at huge profits, with unacceptably high social and environmental costs,” said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director Oxfam International. “No company emerges with a good overall score. Across the board all ten companies need to do much more.”
The Oxfam report comes at a time when one of it's metrics, transparency, is at the center of the global stage as a horsemeat scandal rocks Europe. The U.S., however, hasn't fared much better as it's suffering from it's own labeling issues.
The company is launching a world-wide shame campaign that will target the discretions of the companies. Oxfam will first publically target Nestle, Mondelez and Mars for the inequalities faced by female cocoa-growers.
“Over the past decade, only PepsiCo has taken the crucial first step of publicly recognizing that water is a human right and committing to consult local communities on plans to develop water resources,” says the report, authored by Beth Hoffman.
Perhaps most daunting, Pepsi and Coke signed on for Women’s Empowerment Principles, but none of the Big 10 “knows or is attempting to find out how many women farmers are involved in their supply chains or in which type of farming activities they are engaged." “Without such knowledge, they cannot determine whether women are at risk of exclusion of exploitation, and whether women have equal access to the safer, better-paid and more stable jobs often reserved for men at farm level,” added Hoffman.
"PepsiCo strongly believes in the need to respect, support and invest in the communities where we operate through sustainable agriculture practices," PepsiCo replied. "Guided by our Sustainable Agriculture Policy and Supplier Code of Conduct, we’ve developed a Sustainable Farming Initiative that builds on that foundation and addresses the three key pillars of sustainable agriculture: environmental, social and economic.”
In turn, Oxfam is asking consumers to “change the way the food companies that make your favorite brands do business.”
Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director for Oxfam International explains, “By contacting companies on Twitter and Facebook, or by signing a petition to their CEO, consumers can do their part to help bring lasting change in our ‘broken’ food system by showing companies that we expect them to operate responsibly. No brand is too big to listen to its customers.”
It wasn't long, however, until the brands listed in the report came out to their own defense. Unilever, in a statement made to FoodNavigator.com, said that Oxfam missed an opportunity to expand the food ethics debate to all involved and needed to look beyond the role of branded food companies. Nestle also contributed a statement, saying that society, government and businesses all need to be engaged in order to come to a solution. Additionally, ABF, which was listed as the worst Big 10 brand in the report, told the trade publication that Oxfam's claims are "simply ridiculous."