Tuesday

19th Nov 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join 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.

NGO reveals German firms fail to meet UN human rights rule

A new report reveals that the biggest companies in Germany fail to manage measures to protect their employees and supply-chain from human rights abuses - ahead of the government deadline for introducing tough new regulation.

Feature

Migrants in Malmo - separating fact from fiction

Despite the neighbourhood's beautiful name, the reputation of Rosengård (Rose Garden) does not so much evoke images of roses as headlines of crime and social challenges. This area of Malmö has been struggling with its notorious, mythical, image for years.

News in Brief

  1. France: wide EU backing for enlargement change
  2. EU Council calls for policy action to protect marine life
  3. ECJ: Poland's judicial independence in doubt
  4. Suspected 'middleman' in Caruana Galizia case arrested
  5. European populists more favourable to Russia
  6. Hungary's new commissioner approved by MEPs
  7. Balkan coal power plants fail to meet emissions targets
  8. Belarus vote: zero opposition candidates elected

Stakeholder

FIFA's schools programme aims to reach 700m children

Football clubs today invest huge sums of money in youth development and court talented young players from an early age. Children are the future – not only where football is concerned, but also for society in general.

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us