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22 Jun 2021

Art Prapha

“Business as usual” won't fix inequality in supermarket supply chains

A man carries fresh Tuna from the deck of a fishing vessel.

[...] Early in the pandemic, world leaders repeatedly declared, “we’re all in this together”–but over a year into the pandemic, are we really all in this together?

The answer is, essentially, No. In fact, the pandemic has created a contrasting tale of winners and losers, as a new report from Oxfam lays out: Not in this together: how global supermarkets became the pandemic winners while women workers are losing out.

Supermarkets are the standout winners. Business was booming with record sales, and shareholders have enjoyed significant payouts. At the other end, frontline staff, supply chain workers, and farmers continue to suffer from worsening inequality and escalating rights violations.

Women have been hit the hardest; they have fallen into the “precariat trap,” which exposes them to significant economic, social and health risks brought by the pandemic. The report reveals how gender pay gaps and discriminations have worsened for women food workers.

[...W]e need a bold commitment from major US supermarkets, and we need significant investment. The critical first steps are:

  • Make a commitment to fundamentally shift the business model. Integrate sustainability and human rights into purchasing practices, revise sourcing policies and structures based on the UN Guiding Principles’ human rights due diligence obligations, and invest financial resources to fuel the transition.
  • Identify those supply chains where women are at highest risk. Consult local stakeholders, including women’s rights organizations, and immediately take action.
  • Prioritize gender equality throughout the supply chain. Track and publish information on the gender pay gap, adopt a comprehensive gender policy, and publish a timebound action plan to monitor progress.
  • Demonstrate leadership by calling on the sector and governments to tackle these issues systemically. Positively influence public policy reforms on mandatory human rights due diligence and social protections for workers[...]