NGOs call on companies to improve poor working conditions causing diseases among workers in the Central American sugar industry supply chain - Bacardi and Diageo responded

A research by Fairfood International, CNV Internationaal and the Central American Institute for Social Studies has shown that workers in the sugarcane industry of Nicaragua and Guatemala are suffering from a lack of decent working conditions and many of them are consequently contracting the devastating Chronic Kidney Disease of non-Traditional causes (CKDnT). Among the main causes of this disease are long working days in warm conditions with lack of access to drinking water, breaks, and shade. The report explored the supply chain of rum and found that Diageo and Bacardi are sourcing from local producers (ingenios) with these "dangerous" working conditions.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Bacardi and Diageo to respond to these allegations; the responses are provided below.

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NGO rejoinder
18 August 2015

Fairfood, CNV and ICAES rejoinder

Author: Fairfood International, CNV Internationaal and the Central American Institute for Social Studies

“Response to Bacardi and Diageo: the long road to ending labour abuses in the sugarcane sector”, 13 Aug 2015

Fairfood, CNV and ICAES…welcome the response form Bacardi and Diageo…In their responses, both companies chose to focus on a specific sugar product…[C]ompanies should be transparent about all sugarcane products…Research has also revealed incidents of CKDnT [Chronic Kidney Disease of non-Traditional causes] in Sri Lanka and India…Neither Bacardi nor Diageo address our finding that many sugarcane mills are failing to comply ILO conventions…The authors recognise that Bacardi has played a role in establishing Bonsucro certification…However…do not believe the standard is currently strict enough to property address all labour conditions linked to CKDnT…Diageo is responsible for their entire supply chain, and this the assertion that they source indirectly via traders does not absolve them form responsibility…

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Bacardi & Diageo to respond to the rejoinder. Bacardi & Diageo did not respond.  

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Company response
4 August 2015

Bacardi response

Author: Bacardi Limited

Bacardi recognizes there are many systemic issues related to sugarcane production…Bacardi has chosen to support the call from these experts to back the industry-wide approach which created Bonsucro – a global non-profit organization to improve the sustainability of the entire sugarcane industry – as a comprehensive standard in order to tackle all the diverse issues within the sugarcane industry…Following best practice, Bacardi has also insisted that our suppliers commit to improvements…Bacardi takes the unsubstantiated Fairfood International allegations made about its supply chain and human rights initiatives seriously as the Company operates in full compliance with all trade regulations and laws…Specifically, we do not source any product from Nicaragua and we have only continued to work with the two organizations we source from in Guatemala because they have committed to improving their practices and getting and maintaining certified…

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Company response
29 July 2015

Diageo response

Author: Diageo

We expect our suppliers to maintain a safe working environment and meet all relevant legislation. We also encourage suppliers to conduct routine risk assessments and to improve health and safety standards continually….[W]e do not source our molasses, which is a by-product of sugar, directly from farmers, but via international brokers. We responded to Fairfood’s inquiries, providing clear information on our global health and safety standards and requested further dialogue relating to any specific areas of concern, which they were not able to provide. We are very committed to safe working conditions in our supply chain, including working with NGOs and other stakeholders to promote improved supply chain transparency…

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Article
15 July 2015

Press release: Bacardi shows reluctance to combat deadly kidney disease

Author: Fairfood International, CNV Internationaal and the Central American Institute for Social Studies

Bacardi can significantly improve working conditions in the Central American sugarcane industry, thus preventing new cases of the deadly kidney disease Chronic Kidney Disease of non-Traditional causes (CKDnT)….In the past decade, thousands of workers in the Central American sugarcane industry have died from CKDnT, a disease that progressively damages the kidneys. The research…also demonstrates that the majority of the cane cutters work seven days a week and more than 10 hours a day in the burning sun. They get little or no (shade) breaks and lack sufficient drinking water during their shift.  “Some communities are so heavily affected by the disease that they are now primarily populated by widows”, says…Advocacy Manager…

Former_sugar_cane_worker_Basilio_Gregorio_suffering_CKDnT_Credit_Paolo_Prosperpio_Report_Give_them_a_break

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Article
1 July 2015

Give them a break. The bitter consequences of poor working conditions in the Central American sugarcane industry

Author: Fairfood International, CNV Internationaal and the Central American Institute for Social Studies

Workers in the Central American sugarcane industry are suffering from a lack of decent working conditions and many of them are consequently contracting the devastating Chronic Kidney Disease of non-Traditional causes (CKDnT)…In order to ensure that decent work is assured and the risk factors for CKDnT are eradicated from the labour practices in the sugarcane industry, companies have to ensure better working conditions, as well as allowing collective bargaining…Fairfood International, CNV Internationaal and ICAES looked into the supply chain for sugarcane from Guatemala and Nicaragua and found that companies further along the sugarcane supply chain, like Bacardi and Diageo, have also been unwilling to accept responsibility for the rise of CKDnT among workers in their supply chains…However, they can make a major difference by ensuring safe and healthy working conditions through their sourcing policies and practices…

Sugar_cane_protest_Credit_Paolo_Proserpio_Credit_Give_them_a_Break

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