US: Kellogg, ABF, General Mills rapped in Oxfam ethical report

By Michelle Russell | 27 February 2013

Kellogg, Associated British Foods and General Mills have been slammed by charity Oxfam International for failing to meet ethical standards.

The global charity has produced a league table on the ethical performance of the world's ten largest food and drinks companies, scoring the firms on seven social and environmental factors. These ranged from transparency of their supply chains and operations to how they protect women's rights.

The 'Behind the Brands' report, concludes that the social and environmental policies of the branded food behemoths, which combined, make US$1bn per day, are "not fit for modern purpose and need a major shake-up".

"Some companies recognise the business case for sustainability and have made important commitments that deserve praise" said Jeremy Hobbs, executive director for Oxfam International. "But 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 labour to make mass products at huge profits, with unacceptably high social and environmental costs. No company emerges with a good overall score."

Giving marks out of 70, ABF was the lowest with 13 points, followed by Kellogg and General Mills, both with a score of 16.

The report said neither ABF nor Kellogg had addressed land rights concerns or the poverty and lack of opportunity for women working in the supply chain.

General Mills, it said, showed a "lack of transparency" in the sourcing of its ingredients, only providing information on where it gets its palm oil.

The company that achieved the highest score was Nestle, with 38 marks.

A spokesperson for ABF said the idea that it would use a “veil of secrecy” in order to hide the “human cost” of its supply chain was "simply ridiculous".

"We treat local producers, communities and the environment with the utmost respect. The company has worked hard for many years, over a wide geography, at all levels of the supply chain to ensure its suppliers meet the highest ethical standards. People the world over, suppliers and otherwise, have all benefited from this over many years. Where issues are found, they are appropriately resolved."

A spokesperson for General Mills said these were topics the company "cares about", adding: "We too want to ensure the future of the world’s food supply. We will continue efforts to advance our work in these areas as part of our commitment to global sustainability."

Kellogg did not return a request for comment at the time of press.

Sectors: Sustainability & the environment

Companies: General Mills, Kellogg, Associated British Foods, Nestle

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