Behind the Brands

Food justice and the ‘Big 10’ food and beverage companies

Published: 26 February 2013
Author: 
Beth Hoffman, consultant and writer on food and agriculture

Over the past century, powerful food and beverage companies have enjoyed unprecedented commercial success. But these companies have grown prosperous while the millions who supply the land, labor and water needed for their products face increased hardship.

Now, a rapidly changing environment, affected communities and an increasingly savvy consumer base are pushing the industry to rethink ‘business as usual’.

In this report, Oxfam assesses the social and environmental policies of the world’s ten largest food and beverage companies and calls on them to take the critical next steps to create a just food system.

Recommendations

Food and beverage companies

The seven areas used to assess company policies in the Behind the Brands scorecard need urgent attention.

  • As a first step, the Big 10 need to be transparent about how they do business and from where and whom they buy their commodities.
  • They also need to improve their understanding of their supply chains by ‘knowing and showing’ their impacts and disclosing the commodities and regions where injustices are most prevalent.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, companies must commit to eliminating the injustices in their supply chains and explicitly require their suppliers to raise their standards to ensure actual practices on farms are drastically improved.

Governments

Governments bear the responsibility for protecting their citizens’ rights, including the rights of male and female small-scale farmers and farm workers and ensuring that businesses do not violate these rights. Governments must ensure that citizens have access to effective judicial mechanisms to protect their basic rights.

Governments must also build a new global governance to avert food crises, and craft global agreements for a more equitable distribution of scarce resources.

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