New rankings show food and drink companies slowly improving policies

Campaigns and Advocacy, GROW, Media Releases, News article written on the 17 Sep 2013

Nestle, Unilever and Coca-Cola are slowly improving their social and environmental policies since the launch of Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign seven months ago, while Kellogg’s remains towards the bottom of the pile.

The Behind the Brands scorecard ranks the world’s ten biggest food and drink companies on their social and environmental policies and how they conduct business in poor countries, urging them to do better to strengthen their efforts to prevent hunger, fight poverty and protect the environment.

Oxfam Australia’s acting public policy and advocacy manager Kelly Dent said the update to the rankings showed that companies including Nestle (Milo, Violet Crumble), Unilever (Liptons, Flora, Bushells), Coca Cola (Coke, Fanta), Danone (Evian, Activa) and General Mills (Latina Pasta, Old El Paso) had seen slight increases in their scores, though no company performed better overall than the ‘fair’ category.

“The top ten food and drink companies have enormous power to improve the lives of thousands of people, whose work contributes to the products they sell for a huge profit,” Ms Dent said.  “While it’s heartening to see some companies improve policies, no company emerges with an overall good score – all could do better given their influence.”

Among the changes that led to score increases:

  • Nestle now more comprehensively recognises land rights and is the first company of the Big 10 to fully support Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) for local communities in its supplier guidelines, used for the sourcing of sugar, soy, palm oil and other commodities.
  • Coca Cola’s Sustainable Agricultural Guiding Principles now include policies that require suppliers to better manage water pollution, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions, leading to small improvements in the company’s scores on water, land and climate change.
  • Unilever’s gender score has improved from a three to four based on its endorsement of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles and its commitment to conduct impact assessments on commodities it sources where women play a key role.
  • Associated British Foods, General Mills and Kellogg’s remain at the bottom of the scorecard, with few signs of progress.

The updated scorecard comes two weeks before Oxfam will release a major new investigation revealing land grabs in the sugar supply chains of major food and drink giants.

Oxfam’s first Behind the Brands focus on women’s rights earlier this year resulted in new policy commitments from Mars (Mars Bars, Snickers), Mondelez (Vegemite, Toblerone, Cadbury) and Nestle to address inequality for the women farmers and workers producing their cocoa. 

Meanwhile, 31 major investment funds, representing nearly 1.5 trillion dollars of assets under management, will today call on food industry giants to improve their environmental and social policies and transparency.

In a statement shared with the ten biggest food and beverage companies in the world, the investors expressed support for Oxfam’s Behind the Brands initiative and urged companies to do more to reduce social and environmental risks in their supply chains.

Ms Dent said investors were increasingly rewarding companies that addressed sustainability challenges across their global operations.

For more information please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801