Monday

26th Feb 2024

NGOs expose rights abuses in EU supermarket supply chains

  • There is an 'inherent responsibility' on supermarkets to work with their suppliers to avoid human rights abuses, said Oxfam (Photo: Jan Willem van Wessel)

More than 80 NGOs and trade organisations called on the EU institutions to deliver new legislation that establishes a mandatory human rights and environmental framework for businesses and companies operating and offering products or services in the EU.

A new report released on Thursday (10 October) by Oxfam revealed that many of the people producing the food on sale in European supermarkets are victims of poverty pay, harsh working conditions, gender discrimination, and human rights abuses.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

According to the report, the German supermarkets ALDI, Edeka, Lidl and Rewe and the Dutch company PLUS lack effective policies, or fail to show how they prevent human rights abuses such as child labour, harassment or fair and equal treatment of their supply chain's workers.

A spokesperson for Aldi told the Independent that the company works hard "to ensure every person working in our supply chain is treated fairly and has their human rights respected. We share the values behind Oxfam's campaign and are in regular dialogue with them."

Supermarkets are not directly accountable for abuses that occur in their supply chains since they do not directly employ the workers.

However, their business models can indirectly enable these abuses to happen, making them "complicit" according to the UN guiding principles on business and human rights

There is an "inherent responsibility" on supermarkets to work with their suppliers to avoid human rights abuses that take place in supply chains, states Oxfam, adding that more and more customers and investors want to shop and make money "guilt-free".

Aldi, Rewe, Lidl , Edeka in spotlight

Oxfam's expert on EU economic justice policy, Marc-Olivier Herman, believes that the new mandate of the commission starting next month has the opportunity to show leadership in favour of an inclusive and sustainable "economy that works for people".

"The EU must prove it is a champion of human rights and make it a priority to table EU legislation that requires companies and investors to uphold human rights throughout their global supply chains," said Herman.

A total of 88 NGOs complain that the current EU legislation falls short of adequately addressing human and labour rights abuses in supply chains.

"There are still no cross-sectoral laws in the EU requiring companies and financial institutions to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for human rights abuses and environmental damage of their operations, subsidiaries or value chains," the NGOs said in a statement.

The future commissioner of justice, Belgium's Didier Reynders, said during his hearing last week that he is committed to demanding new requirements into company laws.

Reynders said that there are many voluntary commitments of many companies concerning human rights compliance, "but it is not enough".

"I am sure that we need to go through a real change in company law to ask more obligations about the social interest of the companies, and I'm also sure that it is quite important to discuss the supply chain," he added.

According to Oxfam, the lack of this legislation makes it impossible for companies to be held accountable when they deny their responsibility to respect human rights and the environment.

Investigation

MEPs shun commission-led group on future of EU

The European Parliament have decided, on principle, to refuse to take part in any high-level working group organised by the Commission, because it would undermine its ability to scrutinise the executive body.

EU watchdogs to protect farmers

The European Commission is due to unveil a legislative proposal that will should help farmers get paid on time for their products.

Opinion

Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?

There can be no more excuses for business. They will be held for responsible for their failure to take action to prevent the risk of human and labour rights through their supply chains.

MEPs seek to hold firms liable for supply-chain abuses

MEPs on the legal affairs committee are calling on the European Commission to urgently propose a new law that holds companies accountable for human rights or environmental abuses that happen across their supply chains.

Opinion

EU corporate due diligence: new rules, or businesses rule?

The Brussels rumour mill has it that the EU Commission is being pressured to put forward a weaker proposal than what civil society organisations, trade unions, and the European Economic and Social Committee say is needed.

Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Germany is expanding agreements to return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin as part of a wider shift in Europe to curtail migration. Berlin has reached deals with Georgia and Morocco since December.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us