SE026 Transparency in Agrifood Supply Chains and an Ethical and Sustainable Business Approach to Workforce: Applying transparent business practices and norms respecting human rights in the agrifood business can lead to safer and more quality products.

Organizers

  • United Kingdom Embassy, Rome
  • International Organisation for Migration (IOM)
  • Milan Centre for Food Law and Policy

Promoting sustainability in the agricultural sector through transparent supply chains and an ethical approach to the agricultural workforce is a priority for the UK government. Thanks to world-leading measures like the requirement for businesses with over £36m turnover to comply with Transparency in Supply Chains legislation and a strong partnership with IOM, the UK government is enhancing corporate responsibility and significantly contributing to protecting human and labour rights and ensuring a higher quality of products.

In this context, we will explore, together with our partners IOM and the Milan Centre for Food Law and Policy, the benefits of transparent supply chains and of tackling serious risks like "food fraud" and the practice of "double downward auctions" fuelling labour exploitation and unsafe food products. Also, thanks to our ongoing work with the Italian government and key stakeholders in this field, we will showcase a recent example of effective collaboration between Princes UK, a company processing tomatoes in Italy, and Coldiretti, the Italian National Confederation of Farmers, through an agreement signed in February 2019 providing financial stability for growers and long-term sustainability of the industry. This agreement, which offers a model to replicate, also introduced a blockchain platform to trace products through the supply chain and track workers' safety rights. Our work with Italy is also aimed at supporting third country migrant workers' legal and safe access to agricultural labour by making companies more responsible for this aspect.

Key speakers/presenters

  • HE Terri Sarch, UK Ambassador, Permanent Representative, FAO (presenter/moderator)
  • Alessandro Apolito, Supply Chains Department, Italian Ministry of Agriculture
  • David Granieri, Vice President Coldiretti 
  • Gianmarco Laviola, Italy Manager, Princes UK
  • Giovanni Venegoni, Senior Researcher, Milan Center for Food Law and Policy
  • Philip Hunter, Head of Labour Migration Unit, IOM
  • Mark Heath, Deputy Director of Business Change, Gangmasters Labour and Abuse Authority 
  • Suzelle Dickson, Senior Policy Adviser, Modern Slavery Unit, Pursue Lead, Home Office 

Main themes/issues discussed  

Our side event focused on the importance of engaging with businesses to disrupt illegal practices in agricultural markets and to combat labour exploitation. We exchanged  international, Italian and UK best practice in these fields. 

Both Italy and the UK are committed to combatting labour exploitation. The UK is improving its legislation and Prevent action plan to render businesses directly responsible for labour exploitation, while Italy is looking at eliminating illegal ghettos providing legal access to work, accommodation and transport in the agricultural sector and at widening the mechanisation process of crop harvesting to reduce illegal labour recruitment.

The agreement signed in February 2019 between the UK company Princes (processing tomatoes in Puglia), and Italy’s national agricultural trade association Coldiretti was presented as a good example of partnership aimed at prioritising the quality of products and an ethical approach to labour. 

From a global perspective, businesses seem now more eager to engage in fighting labour exploitation and ensuring the quality of their products, while consumers seem to care more about legal requirements, the brand and the origins of the food products they buy. 

Summary of key points 

Promoting sustainability in the agricultural sector through transparent supply chains and an ethical approach to the agricultural workforce is key to reduce labour exploitation and ensure the quality of agrifood products. 

Italy and the UK’s efforts in fighting labour exploitation demonstrate that the benefits of transparent supply chains help tackling serious risks like “food fraud” and the practice of “double downward auctions” as well as labour exploitation and unsafe food products.  Thanks to world-leading measures like the requirement for over £36m turnover businesses to comply with Transparency in Supply Chains legislation, the UK government is enhancing corporate responsibility and significantly contributing to protecting human and labour rights and ensuring a higher quality of products. 

Italy has also been stepping efforts in this direction both at institutional and non- government level.

A recent example of effective collaboration on this front is the agreement signed by Princes UK and Coldiretti in February 2019 providing financial stability for growers and the industry long-term sustainability. 

Globally businesses are more focused on their corporate and social responsibility including fighting illegal recruitment and exploitation. Although consumers are more aware of the risks linked to unsafe products and labour exploitation, more should be done to raise awareness.

Key take away messages

  • Transparent supply chains and an ethical approach to the agricultural workforce are key to reduce labour exploitation and ensure the quality of agrifood products.
  • Governments and businesses should monitor more closely the opportunities for labour exploitation in their supply chains.  
  • Businesses should be made more responsible for tackling labour exploitation and producing safe food products.
  • Private or public-private partnerships should be enhanced to help ensure fair market prices and supply chains’ sustainability.
  • Government departments should engage directly with private businesses to tackle illegal market competition, unfair prices and the practice of double downward auctions.
  • Experiences and lessons learnt should be shared between countries to help develop an ever more standardised approach to labour and food production.
  • There should be more focus on consumers with a view to raise consumer awareness on the links between products’ low prices, labour exploitation and low food quality. 
CFS 46 Side Event: SE026 Transparency in Agrifood Supply Chains and an Ethical and Sustainable Business Approach to Workforce

 

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