Bangladesh: Swedwatch alleges human rights & sustainability concerns in supply chain of British American Tobacco, company refutes allegations
In the report titled ‘Smokescreens in the Supply Chain’, Swedwatch highlights the tobacco sector’s pressing human rights and sustainability challenges and documents findings from investigations into the tobacco industry in Bangladesh...Swedwatch has identified widespread child labour, adverse health impacts, and over-indebtedness in the Bangladesh supply chain of British American Tobacco (BAT)...When presented with the findings, BAT emphasised the benefits from tobacco farming and stated that the vast majority of Swedwatch findings are not representative of reality. According to BAT’s management systems in Bangladesh, there are zero reported incidences of child labour and bonded labour.
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This report offers an in-depth study into the global tobacco industry’s impacts on human rights and the environment, and presents a case study from cultivation areas across Bangladesh. Findings include adverse impacts on farmers, their families, on valuable natural forest resources, and on communities living adjacent to tobacco leaf operations run by one of the United Kingdom’s largest companies, British AmericanTobacco plc. (BAT).
Press Release: Swedwatch report highlights serious human rights risks in the global tobacco industry
Although the sector in theory provides much-needed income opportunities for smallholder farmers, the reality is different: investment costs are high and when contract practices1 are substandard the returns at the end of the season are uncertain. In areas with few income alternatives, farmers risk becoming dependent on a company’s often unpredictable purchasing decisions...Farmers run the risk of their goods being down-graded or simply not purchased. This means that, together with health and child-labour risks, farmers risk being trapped in a cycle of over-indebtedness. According to Swedwatch’s analysis that in turn increases the risk for bonded labour as defined by the International Labour Organization, says Frida Arounsavath.
Report:Human rights in the tobacco fields – a brief on Swedish Match’s and investors’ risk management
The human rights challenges within the tobacco industry are widely recognised and well documented. Nevertheless, tobacco companies have not yet succeeded in addressing them...Swedish Match has credible policies in place but should, in alignment with the UNGP, increase the transparency surrounding its supply chain. Swedwatch furthermore encourages Swedish Match to extend its stakeholder dialogue to also include the most vulnerable groups of the tobacco supply chain; the people working in the tobacco fields...The existing lack of transparency surrounding tobacco supply chains limits investors and owners to use their leverage. The opaqueness also lessens investors’ possibility to contribute to increased respect for human rights with the tobacco industry.
The findings from Swedwatch’s report - especially those based on interviews with community leaders, government officers and experts who have deep knowledge of the conditions in the areas and the impacts from tobacco cultivation – illustrate that issues are not isolated incidences, but rather occur across the three surveyed areas in Bangladesh...In recognition of the heightened risk associated with criticism of large corporations and their practices, Swedwatch protects the anonymity of local interview respondents and therefore cannot share details of specific farms with BAT.
Author: British American Tobacco
I would like to reitareate that BAT takes its responsbility to its supply chain extremely seriously...we have checked allegations in the final report with our local subisidiary in Bangladesh and we remain of the view that the report as a whole is not representative of the reality on the ground.