KnowTheChain: Outreach to food & beverage companies on forced labour risks in sugar sourcing
Sugar cane is the largest agricultural commodity in the world. Sugar cane from Bolivia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Myanmar and Pakistan has been identified as being a commodity that may be produced using forced labour by the US Department of Labor. Verite has collected information on debt bondage of sugar workers in India. Coca-Cola identified forced labour incidents at sugar farms and mills in Guatemala.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Brazil and India are the two largest producers of sugar cane. Other counties where sugar cane may be produced using forced labour, including Bolivia, Guatemala, Myanmar and Pakistan are among the 20 largest producing countries globally. The US and the EU are among the five largest importers of sugar cane.
(Source: OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook, accessed 12 April 2017)
KnowTheChain's food & beverage sector benchmark found that a number of companies are tracing their sugar supply chain. Yet information on how companies assess and address forced labour risks in commodities such as sugar cane, where forced labour risks are high, is limited. In order to understand how companies’ headquarter level policies and processes are implemented in lower tiers of the supply chain, and how companies are addressing forced labour risks related to specific commodities, KnowTheChain reached out to ten of the companies it benchmarked in 2016 in three sub-sectors sectors where sugar cane is a key commodity: beverage companies, chocolate and confectionary manufacturers, and sugar producers.
The companies included in this outreach are:
- Coca-Cola [response]
- FEMSA (Fomento Economico Mexicano) [response]
- Monster Beverage
- PepsiCo [response]
Chocolate and confectionary manufacturers:
- Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) [provided information regarding its sugar cane sourcing]
- Associated British Foods (ABF) [response]
- Wilmar [response and list of sugar suppliers]
KnowTheChain sent 10 questions to the above companies, requesting disclosure on how the companies address forced labour risks in their sugar supply chain. The questions have been developed in consultation with local stakeholders, and are based on some of KnowTheChain's benchmark themes.
The findings of the case study can be found here. The findings also fed into the revision of KnowTheChain benchmark methodology.
- Verite - Responsible Sourcing Tool (understanding forced labour risks in sugar cane supply chains)
- Oxfam (Apr 2016) - Behind the Brands (Data includes transparency questions on sugar cane)
- Verite (2017) - Risk Analysis of Labor Violations Among Farmworkers in the Guatemalan Sugar Sector
- SOMO (Dec 15) - Bittersweet. Sustainability issues in the sugar cane supply chain
- Just Food (Jun 2015) - Briefing: Sustainable sourcing - Why focus on cane sugar supply chains set to increase
- Oxfam (Oct 2013) - SUGAR RUSH. Land rights and the supply chains of the biggest food and beverage companies