Starbucks, Unilever, HP engage with suppliers

July 20, 2006

Starbucks, Unilever and HP are engaging with their suppliers to raise sustainability standards on farms and in factories. And as sportswear brands face flack from Oxfam over labour issues, budget clothing retailer Primark joins the Ethical Trading Initiative.

CAFÉ lifestyle

Starbucks has begun to roll out a set of coffee-buying guidelines in Kenya and Tanzania, it announced in June. The CAFÉ (Coffee and Farmer Equity) guidelines are designed to encourage producers to grow high quality coffee, to promote equitable relationships with farmers, workers and communities and to protect the environment in coffee-growing regions. The company is providing funding of $600,000 over a three-year period to partner African Wildlife Foundation, which is to implement the programme.

The announcement was made at an African Coffee Celebration, held at the company’s Seattle headquarters in June. The events provided an opportunity for coffee farmers and exporters from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania to meet with public policymakers, strategic business partners and Starbucks employees. Contact Starbucks 00 1 206 447 1575

HP improves supplier practice

Hewlett Packard has announced a year-long training programme for the management of its key suppliers in China, aimed at helping them to improve social and environmental practices at their factories.

The Focused Improvement Supplier Initiative aims to produce clear and measurable benefits for the factories taking part, including increased productivity and quality and reduced worker turnover, injuries and illness. It will focus on enabling suppliers to minimise risks, learn from best practices and gain access to corporate responsibility experts in China. Contact HP 0118 986 8711

Watch the Birds Eye

The Unilever-owned frozen foods brand Birds Eye has received financial support from Defra via the Forum for Sustainable Farming to help train the company’s suppliers to comply with its sustainable farming requirements. All of Birds Eye’s growers are expected to work within a sustainable farming framework, which aims to ensure they meet 10 sustainability indicators. Birds Eye is providing a fifth of the £220,850 costs of training, Defra contributed £171,500 and beneficiary farmers the remaining 5%. Contact Defra 08459 335 577

Sweating the details

FILA’s alleged failure to address serious labour abuses in its supply chain has placed it at the bottom of a ranking of 12 sportswear brands, compiled by Oxfam. The ranking forms part of Offside! Labour Rights and Sportswear Production in Asia, a report published on May 24 ahead of the football World Cup.

According to the report, which is also critical of Adidas, Nike and Puma, many sportswear workers in Asia face intimidation or dismissal if they attempt to unionise. It alleges that workers have been sacked or threatened with violence when they have organised unions to lobby for better pay and conditions. Oxfam charges that none of the brands is doing enough to solve the problem.

It cites as an example of bad practice the sudden closure of a factory run by a FILA shoe supplier in Indonesia with a record of worker abuse, with no provision to provide its 3,500 workers with back-pay or severance pay. Oxfam criticised FILA for refusing to reveal its role in the closure or take responsibility for the workers. Contact Harriet Bent, Oxfam 01865 472 313

No more cutting corners

Budget-clothing retailer Primark joined the Ethical Trading Initiative in May 26, along with promotional goods and giftware business, Supremia.

As members of the ETI, the companies will be expected to apply the ETI base code across their supply chains. The base code is a set of commitments covering wages, overtime, health and safety, discrimination and other international labour standards.

Primark has also committed to communicating its endorsement of ethical trade and ETI to its staff and suppliers, to participating in ETI’s experimental projects to identify best practice in ethical trade, and to reporting annually to the ETI board.

The company plans to provide notices to interested customers that set out the company’s commitment to continually improving working conditions in its supplier factories. Contact Julia Hawkins, ETI 020 7404 1463