The Behind The Brand campaign, when reputation beats food

11 May May 2016 1200 11 May 2016

Oxfam’s Behind the Brand’s campaign ranks 10 global brands according to their social and environmental policies, in a report which showed a significant improvement across the industry.

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Oxfam’s Behind the Brand’s campaign ranks 10 global brands according to their social and environmental policies, in a report which showed a significant improvement across the industry.

Food industry collectively generates revenues of more than $1.1bn per day and employ millions of people directly and indirectly. Oxfam’s Behind the Brand’s campaign, compares the supply chains of the ‘Big 10’ producers, including Unilever, Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Mars, to highlight progress on seven key themes: land, women, farmers, workers, climate, transparency and water.

“The ‘Big 10’ could make a huge impact in helping fight poverty, by ensuring the prices they pay for commodities allow for a living wage for the workers in their supply chains”, said Behind the Brands campaign manager, Monique van Zijl.

Three years ago, when Oxfam launched the campaign, the bulk of the “Big 10” were lagging in their approach to social responsibility and sustainability in their supply chains. In February 2013, seven of the ten companies had overall scores of 31 percent or below. Pushed by over 700,000 actions by concerned consumers, from targeted online social media to offline mobilizations and email petitions, progress has been most evident in the areas of protecting land rights, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling gender inequality. In April 2016, no company scores below 36 percent. ”But there is much work still to do, if we want to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goal of ‘zero hunger’ by 2030”, van Zijl added.

Climate change is the single biggest threat to winning the fight against hunger. The number of people at risk of hunger is predicted to increase by up to 20 percent by 2050 – a direct result of climate change. Behind the Brands revealed that the emissions of the Big 10 alone are equivalent to the annual emissions of every country in Scandinavia combined. The major part of these emissions stems from agricultural production in supply chains.

In the new report, Unilever ranked first in the scorecard on the issues of climate change. The company has strong policies on deforestation and palm oil, guidelines for its suppliers, and is engaging governments to take action. Unilever leads the way also in the categories of ‘farmers’ and “workers”, but it needs to do more to protect people’s land rights, as well as to better understand where women are most vulnerable in its supply.

Nestlé sits second in the scorecard, just below Unilever, leading the way with policies on water. It also remains the most transparent company, but it provides very limited information on taxation. Since February 2014, Nestlé has also made some improvements in land and farmers and has updated its action plans to support women in cocoa supply chains. “However, there is still room for improvement on implementation of renewable energy technologies”, says the report.

While Coca-Cola scores well for running projects with women in rural areas and for being the first to adopt “zero tolerance” for land grabs throughout its supply chain, it has yet to make credible commitments to support small-scale farmers. “Increasing the productivity, self-reliance and economic opportunity of small-scale farmers is the key to building global food security in a resource constrained world. Because millions of these farmers are struggling just to feed themselves, the company is called on to undertake new initiatives to assess the situation of farmers in its supply chains”.

Kellogg’s, up 30% on its rating three years ago, has made the most progress across all areas. In particular, the leading cereal company has made significant commitments to deforestation-free commodity sourcing, and is now at the top of the pack with Unilever and Nestle.

Danone and Associated British Foods (ABF) share the last spot. Danone has made some progress in the past year on how it treats women and farmers and on water. The company was also praised for adopting a new policy aimed at eliminating the impact of deforestation from its supply chain by 2020. Overall Danone is still lagging behind most of the other companies and together with General Mills, is the only company with a disappointing 2 on land rights.

Oxfam said that ABF, with weak commitments on farmers, gender and water, was in last place in 2013 and remains one of the poorest performers in 2016. This despite improvements by some of its subsidiaries on land issues. Notably Illovo Sugar, Africa’s largest sugar producer operating in six countries in southern Africa, has shown great commitment to using its influence to protect the land rights of the communities in which it operates.

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