Leading supermarkets in the UK have reaffirmed their commitment to ethical cost reduction and sound supply relationship management after report by Oxfam condemned the unscrupulous exploitation of workers and small farmers in many of the world’s poorest areas.
The charity asserted that these workers, who supplied produce for Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl, were being paid below the living wage in their home countries. This sort of exploitation heightens the risk of human rights abuses such as forced labour, child labour, violence against women and excessive hours.
The Director of Oxfam GB, Matthew Spencer, accused the UK’s largest supermarkets of squeezing the pay levels to their suppliers so low that the latter were suffering huge, hidden effects that trapped them poverty and food insecurity.
Farmers, the report says, receive just 5.7% of the amount consumers in the UK pay for their produce at the checkout, amounting to a fall of 25% between 1996 and 2015. Meanwhile, over the same period, the proportion of value retained by the supermarket giants soared from 41% to 43%.
The study found that a tea worker in India earned just 38% of the living wage there, while green bean farmers in Kenya earned just 41% of their local living wage. Responding to this, Oxfam said that “Such income levels are especially hard to accept when compared with the returns at the other end of the supply chain.”
A British Retail Consortium (BRC) spokesman said that its member retailers, which include the big brands identified in the report, had made commitments to improving the livelihoods of those working in supply chains. He added that: “…the UK retail industry is one of the most progressive in this area globally. The Oxfam investigation demonstrates how complex these challenges of respecting human rights in supply chains are and we welcome the recommendations set out in this report.”
Lidl and Asda also issued statements affirming their commitment to working with Oxfam and the wider industry to secure improvements throughout the supply chain, including empowering workers.
Nick has over 30 years procurement experience in consulting, outsourcing and line roles within industry with international experience across many sectors and industries and led many procurement programs with blue chip organisations.