The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

Behind the Brands: Food companies do care what their consumers think

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Oxfam volunteer Khaled Hamadh (left) stands with staff members Jon Scanlon (center) and Rebecca Rewald (right) in front of Coca-Cola world headquarters during a World Food Day media event in Atlanta, Georgia last year. Photo: Keith Lane / Oxfam America

When customers speak, businesses listen. It’s an old adage in business that Oxfam and its supporters tested to see if this would be true on issues of sustainability and human rights.

When customers speak, businesses listen. It’s an old adage in business that Oxfam and its supporters tested to see if this would be true on issues of sustainability and human rights.

Oxfam launched the Behind the Brands Scorecard one year ago to highlight issues in the supply chains of the Big 10 food and beverage companies: Associated British Foods, Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Mondelez, Nestle, PepsiCo, and Unilever.

Women and cocoa – What happened?

First we asked the 3 biggest chocolate companies, Mars, Mondelez and Nestle, to address the inequality and injustices that women cocoa farmers and workers faced in their cocoa supply chains. We, along with 100,000 supporters, called on the three chocolate companies to conduct human rights impact assessments to understand what was happening to women in their supply chains and then develop plans of actions to address the inequalities.

All three companies committed to conducting the first of these assessments in Cote d’Ivoire, where the companies source the most cocoa and then moving on to other sourcing countries in the years to follow.  The first of these have already begun and Mars has already published the findings from their gender assessment regarding women cocoa farmers. Supporters can track the commitments and progress of the companies on our Women and Chocolate Roadmap.

Women and cocoa – What’s next?

We look forward to seeing the results of the human rights impact assessments being conducted for Mondelez and Nestle and then seeing strong plans of actions by all three companies. We hope to see more opportunities for women in their cocoa supply chains by increasing recruitment in cooperatives, providing training designed for women by women, access to more inputs like fertilizers and credit, and ensuring equal pay as a start.

Land – What happened?

Following our push for women cocoa farmers and workers, we turned our attention to the issue of land grabs. Investors have been purchasing land at an alarming rate and Oxfam highlighted 3 cases of land grabs or controversies in Brazil and Cambodia where communities were forced off their land to make way for sugar plantations.

Oxfam and 250,000 supporters demanded that Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Associated British Foods, among the biggest buyers or producers of sugar in the world, do more to stop land grabs from happening in their supply chains. Coca-Cola released the names of its top three sugarcane suppliers and issued a zero tolerance for land grabs commitment—a policy that has thus far been matched by no other company in terms of its breadth in ensuring land rights for affected communities. But as we highlighted the issue of land grabs, 5 other companies, (Associated British Foods, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, General Mills and, Unilever) stepped up and endorsed the principle of FPIC—free, prior and informed consent—of affected communities to ensure that they have a say over their land.

Land – What’s next?

Oxfam continues to be in dialogue with PepsiCo about its commitments on land rights and we will look forward to seeing a strong policy from them in very near future. In the meantime, Coca-Cola is in the process of conducting human rights impact assessments that include the evaluation of land rights in Colombia and Guatemala. We’ll encourage and work with Coca-Cola on its implementation of its zero tolerance for land grabs policy. Supporters can track the commitments and progress of the companies on our Sugar and Land Roadmap.

Behind the Brands – What’s next?

Oxfam will now to turn to the issue of climate change, which could be the single largest threat to the food and beverage sector. With inadequate response by governments and companies alike, it is imperative that the food and beverage companies step up and become leaders to change the paradigm. Stay tuned to Behind the Brands!

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