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News & Events Ten of the world’s biggest food and beverage companies battle to improve their social sustainability through the Behind the Brands campaign
Ten of the world’s biggest food and beverage companies battle to improve their social sustainability through the Behind the Brands campaign
Ten of the world’s biggest food and beverage companies battle to improve their social sustainability through the Behind the Brands campaign

By Oxfam International

Food and beverage industry giants improve policy commitments but they must turn them into action

Nine of the “Big 10” global food and beverage companies have improved their ratings by at least 10 percent in three years since Oxfam began keeping score through its “Behind the Brands” scorecard. Oxfam highlighted the major strides most of them have made to improve their policies on land rights, agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and gender equality in company supply chains. Kellogg (up 30 percent) and Unilever (up 26 percent) made the most progress across all themes since the campaign began. 

More than 700,000 Behind the Brands actions have pushed the “Big 10” to take significant steps to address specific policy weaknesses identified by Oxfam’s public campaigning  – equality for women, land rights and tackling greenhouse gas emissions produced in agricultural supply chains.  The companies improved most markedly on those issues, by an average of 24 percent, 37 percent and 32 percent respectively.

“These food industry giants all demonstrated that they do listen to consumers by making some bold policy commitments. We hope this will inspire others to follow suit,” said Behind the Brands campaign manager, Monique van Zijl. “Now it’s crucial for the ‘Big 10’ to substantially change their business models to make good on these promises, and challenge their suppliers to ensure that small-scale producers get fair and livable wages.”

The Behind the Brands scorecard compares the sustainability commitments of the “Big 10” against each other, focusing on seven key themes: land, women, farmers, workers, climate, transparency and water. Company scores improved the least on workers followed by water and transparency. 

“The ‘Big 10’ could make a huge impact in helping fight poverty by ensuring the prices they pay for commodities allow for a living wage for the workers in their supply chains,” said van Zijl.

Three years ago, when Oxfam kicked off the Behind the Brands campaign, the bulk of the “Big 10” were lagging in their approach to social responsibility and sustainability in their supply chains. In February 2013, seven of the ten companies had overall scores of 31 percent or below.  In April 2016, no company scores below 36 percent.

Throughout the campaign, Unilever and Nestlé have led the pack scoring high on climate change policies. Unilever achieved the top spot from Nestlé after two years. Coca-Cola, with strong policies on land rights, remains third at 57 percent, followed by Kellogg at 53 percent. ABF, with weak commitments on farmers, gender and water, was in last place in 2013 and remains one of the poorest performers in 2016, with 36 percent, despite improvements by some of its subsidiaries – notably Illovo Sugar on land. Danone is the other poorest performer, despite significant commitments on climate.

“Despite some strong progress over the past three years, the ‘Big 10’ still have a lot of work to do. Given the inequalities and injustices in the food chain that leave millions of people at risk of being food insecure, especially small-scale producers, the ‘Big 10’ must use their power to transform how food is produced, traded and processed,” said  van Zijl.  “Giving more power and economic value to farmers, workers and food producing communities will not only be good for all of us, but also for the companies’ bottom lines in the long run.”

Companies are finally addressing climate change, land rights and the role of women in supply chains and are waking up to the need to build more economically resilient agricultural supply chains. However they cannot tackle these issues alone, according to Behind the Brands campaign’s recent paper, “The Journey to Sustainable Food”. The “Big 10” are Associated British Foods (ABF), Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever.