From tea pickers on isolated tea estates to laborers on remote cocoa farms and rice mills, workers in the agricultural sector are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Driven by a growing demand for fuel, food, and raw materials the sector increasingly pushes agricultural work into more rural areas to accommodate its land-intensive activities, exacerbating the remote nature of the work and putting workers at greater risk. To better understand what companies are doing to address the risk of forced labor in their food and beverage supply chains, KnowTheChain evaluated 38 of the largest global companies on their forced labor policies and practices.
Launched today, the 2018 Food and Beverage Benchmark Findings Report finds that while many of the companies evaluated have policies and commitments in place, the majority do not provide evidence of those policies in practice. Ranked across seven benchmark themes, companies scored the lowest on worker voice and recruitment, indicating that little or no action is taken to listen to, engage with, or empower workers across company supply chains.
This year, Kellogg surpassed both Coca-Cola and Nestlé, securing the second highest score behind Unilever who remains the top scoring company since KnowTheChain’s first food and beverage sector benchmark in 2016. Notably, though Coca-Cola has improved its practices and remains a top scoring company, both FEMSA and Monster, two companies in Coca-Cola’s supply chains, are among the lowest scoring companies with scores below 10 out of 100.
While the majority of companies have improved their disclosure and practices since 2016, the average score across the benchmark remains low at 30 out of 100, indicating that companies need to take further action to address forced labor risks across all tiers of their supply chains.
“Forced labor remains a major problem in the production of popular food and beverage products,” said Kilian Moote, project director for KnowTheChain. “While it’s encouraging to see some companies making additional commitments since the 2016 benchmark, progress for workers is not moving fast enough. Companies across the board must do better to make demonstrable improvements for workers.”
In addition to ranking companies, this report provides good practice examples and recommendations for companies. It also evaluates corporate commitments and compliance with relevant regulations and provides considerations for investor action.
 Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and International Service for Human Rights (2018), “Shared space under pressure: business support for civic freedoms and human rights defenders”, p. 68. See also Global Witness (2017), “At what cost? Irresponsible business and the murder of land and environmental defenders in 2017”, p. 43.
 This is because the company discloses that it is co-chairing the work stream on responsible recruitment of the industry initiative AIM-PROGRESS, which involved awareness raising on this topic among suppliers and industry peers. It further discloses that it trained suppliers in different countries on forced labor and responsible recruitment.