Monday, October 20, 2014
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Environmental Impacts of World's Largest Food Companies

Behind The Brands' Oxfam Report Evaluates Social, Environmental Impacts Of World's Largest Food Companies – Huffington Post 2/26/13


After 18 months of research, Oxfam America, an organization that aims to reduce poverty and injustice worldwide, has released a new report and launched a website that measures how the 10 largest food companies worldwide perform on food justice issues. The "Behind The Brands" report evaluates the companies according to seven criteria: women, small-scale farmers, farm workers, water, land, climate change and transparency.

"The bottom line is simple: They could do better. A lot better," reads the website homepage. The 10 companies Oxfam scores are: Associated British Foods, Coca Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, Pepsico and Unilever. These companies combined together make $1 billion per day, according to Oxfam.

The report doesn't paint a very encouraging portrait of the global food system. The companies were scored from 1 to 10 in the seven aforementioned categories, for a possible total of 70 points. No company received higher than a score of 7 in any category, and three companies -- Associated British Food, Kellogg and Mondelez -- never scored higher than a 4. The highest overall score went to Nestle, with 38 points (54 percent). The lowest overall score went to Associated British Food with 13 points (19 percent). Here's the company scorecard


Source: Oxfam

"While some companies are doing better than others, no company has passed the test," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, in a press release. "Some companies have made important commitments that deserve praise. But none are moving fast enough to help tackle hunger, inequality and poverty in their supply chains. No company emerges with passing grades. Across the board all ten companies are failing," he said.

"The key issues highlighted are ones with which we are all concerned ... The report recognizes the progress Unilever has made in its policies and practices, ... although information on the more recent progress we have made was not available for inclusion in this report," Unilever responded in a statement. "[W]e believe that meaningful progress will only be made when all relevant stakeholders -- including primary producers, first processors, traders, retailers, civil society and governments -- work together."

Oxfam doesn't want "Behind The Brands" to be seen merely as a damning report on the state of the food system, though. Instead, the organization hopes to "produce a race to the top," said Offenheiser in a phone call with reporters. Offenheiser explained that Oxfam has spoken with all of the food companies involved in the report and hopes to continue a dialogue with them. If companies update their policies, Oxfam plans to update the scorecard as well.

In order to calculate the scores, Oxfam relied on publicly available information and documents. While the organization acknowledges that the scorecard doesn't account for everything -- the group concedes that any positive on-the-ground change happening would be impossible to measure accurately -- Oxfam believes its report and scorecard to be a solid mechanism for accountability.

(Read the full report here.)

As the Behind The Brands project continues, Oxfam plans to highlight specific issues throughout the year. The first focus is on women involved in the cocoa supply chain. Oxfam found that no company has publicly committed to eliminating discrimination against women throughout their supply chains. Oxfam plans to target Nestle, Mondelez and Mars for their failure to address these issues.

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