From 2013 to 2016, Oxfam's Behind the Brands campaign called on the 10 biggest food and beverage companies to adopt stronger land rights commitments. Now, as the coronavirus pandemic worsens inequality and food insecurity around the world, we asked the question: Are companies taking meaningful steps to implement their commitments?
Dr. Mtafu Manda from Mzuzu University in Malawi, Susanne Gauster from Oxfam in Guatemala, and Andrew Slight from PepsiCo discussed innovative efforts by companies and multi-stakeholder groups to address land tenure issues. But how do you take these efforts to scale?
- Examples from Malawi, Guatemala, and PepsiCo are promising case examples of companies working to get land rights ‘right’.
- National companies – some of them suppliers of agricultural commodities to PepsiCo and other food and beverage companies – are powerful actors in their contexts. Encouragement from buyers/end user companies can help ensure these companies engage meaningfully in multi-stakeholder processes and work to address land tenure issues.
- In addition to seeing promising examples in the cases presented today, we tend to see more action and engagement by companies on commodities like palm oil, where NGOs and civil society has been long highlighting issues through campaigns and other tactics. How can we ensure progress in other commodities, too?
- The need to address land rights and related human rights and environmental sustainability issues holistically, but at the same time, the challenge of decoupling land rights so that it gets the attention it requires to address the issues.
Dr. Mtafu Manda, Lecturer at Mzuzu University, presented a case study on the Malawi Large Scale Land Based Investment (LSLBI) Platform, a multi-stakeholder effort to ensure responsible, inclusive land-based investments in Malawi. The platform was originally modelled after the Interlaken Group, and brings together communities, local leaders, NGOs, and companies together to identify challenges and solutions. One recent outcome related to the platform’s work: 5,000 landless farmers are poised to receive land from a tea estate.
Susanne Gauster, Head of Research and Advocacy at Oxfam in Guatemala, presented a case study on a multi-stakeholder dialogue on territorial planning and land tax for social investments in the municipality of Sayaxché in Guatemala. Palm oil company REPSA, which supplies palm oil to some global food and beverage companies, is involved in the process. One key takeaway of her presentation is that companies are powerful actors in the landscape. End user companies like PepsiCo and other food and beverage companies can help by raising the profile of land rights through engagement with suppliers, so that suppliers take part in these types of dialogues.
Andrew Slight, Director Global Public Policy and Government Affairs, PepsiCo, shared a case study on PepsiCo’s efforts to embed respect for land rights into how the company does business and sources its agricultural commodities. Among the ingredients for implementation: ‘know and show’ risks and impacts (gain visibility into where problematic land issues are occurring); collaborate and engage with suppliers, including by raising the profile of land rights and ensuring consequences for noncompliance; thoughtful engagement with government and “talking the walk” and advocating for higher standards. One example of how PepsiCo is working to implement its land commitment is through its ACRE Framework, which it developed in partnership with Landesa. A key lesson learned for Andrew has been recognizing the importance of askingfor help from experts.