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Company Response

26 Mar 2024

Equitable Food Initiative's response to Corporate Accountability Lab's report


...Since 2014 we have been certifying farms that commit to the formation of worker-manager “leadership teams” to achieve and verify ongoing compliance with our rigorous labor, food safety and integrated pest management standards.

EFI began working with farms in San Quintin in 2014, and we have currently certified six in the region, including Rancho Nuevo and Rancho Agrícola Santa Monica, which are referenced in “Certified Exploitation.” After the March 2015 worker protests, an EFI delegation including employer, union and retailer representation met twice with the founders of SINDJA to explore whether we could work together to improve wages and working conditions. After the second meeting, SINDJA rejected EFI’s collaborative approach and declared that they would not work with us because of our engagement with employers and retailers. Nonetheless, EFI has consistently affirmed our respect for SINDJA’s right to organize, and we welcomed the 2019 Mexican Labor Reform measures that were designed to facilitate the formation of independent unions.


In January 2024, two Arche investigators spent four days at Rancho Nuevo and Rancho Agrícola Santa Monica and conducted a total of 120 worker interviews, both in structured sessions and more casually in the fields. They were given unfettered access to both sites, including all growing and housing areas. They also spoke with local authorities in San Quintin, who have been conducting increased farm inspections of their own in recent years, in the context of the 2019 Labor Reform, and as SINDJA has focused attention on worker rights in the region. Though Arche Advisors provided some useful feedback to farm management and EFI, the investigators were unable to substantiate any of the claims made in “Certified Exploitation.”


....EFI’s purpose in training worker-manager “leadership teams” is to establish an ongoing verification mechanism for conformance with our standards, recognizing that even a rigorous annual audit can fail to capture important information. By combining extensive worker interviews during the audit with regular meetings of the leadership team to surface and address worker concerns or suggestions between audit cycles, we strive to create continuous improvement mechanisms to prevent or address violations of our standards. EFI certification is not a guarantee that problems or even violations will not occur, but it does indicate that the management systems are in place to surface concerns and suggestions, and to remedy problems. Given high rates of turnover in the agricultural workforce, we do acknowledge the need to provide more orientation to new workers regarding their role in understanding and upholding EFI standards, and their relationship to the leadership team.

I want to affirm very clearly that if any worker on any EFI-certified farm experiences the type of violations alleged in “Certified Exploitation,” EFI acknowledges our responsibility to hear and address their grievance. EFI recognizes that workers may wish to remain anonymous in raising concerns, but at the same time we need something more than hearsay to establish whether a farm has failed to meet our standards and should therefore face decertification. Despite our requests, neither SINDJA nor James Daria has ever provided EFI with anything to back up their allegations....


Full response included below