corporate responsibility food

The ethics of the 10 largest food companies

This week Oxfam published the results of a survey into the ethical practices of the world’s ten largest food companies. Over the course of 18 months they drew together publicly available information all into one place. They then gave the companies a score out of ten on seven key issues, such as climate, land and water. Here are the results:

behind-the-brands

(Bigger version here)

We all know stories of corporate misbehaviour, from companies depleting groundwater for bottling and leaving local communities with empty wells, or cases of child labour on plantations. But this isn’t really about specific cases, but about policy. Some companies have stated policies protecting people and the environment. Most don’t. An even more select group have policies and report on them, so that everyone can see if they are delivering on their ambitions or not. Behind the Brands aims to encourage more companies to develop and monitor policies, so that one day, it’ll be normal for corporations to pay a living wage or to set themselves carbon emissions targets.

What’s nice about this campaign is the positive spin that it’s taken, a characteristic of Oxfam’s broader ‘Grow’ initiative. It doesn’t encourage supporters to boycott the companies, but to engage positively. It recognises that many companies want to be seen to be doing the right thing, but so far nobody has been checking to see if the facts on the ground match the rhetoric. If the ethical scorecard catches on, it may even foster some positive competition – brands challenging each other on ethics rather than a race to the bottom on price and returns to shareholders.

None of that happens without the general public however, and the campaign’s website makes it easy to look up well known brands and send a message to the companies that own them.

You can find out more here.

1 comment

  1. Reblogged this on KnowledgEvolution and commented:
    [Ethical Practices (Food Industry)]: The ethics of the 10 largest food companies! #ecoViVaCity

    We all know stories of corporate misbehaviour, from companies depleting groundwater for bottling and leaving local communities with empty wells, or cases of child labour on plantations. But this isn’t really about specific cases, but about policy. Some companies have stated policies protecting people and the environment. Most don’t. An even more select group have policies and report on them, so that everyone can see if they are delivering on their ambitions or not. Behind the Brands aims to encourage more companies to develop and monitor policies, so that one day, it’ll be normal for corporations to pay a living wage or to set themselves carbon emissions targets.

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