Can a company or group of companies create systemic change in the supply chain? Yes – but only with enough collaboration and commitment
When Human Rights Watch published a damning report into labour abuses in the Kazakhstan tobacco fields supplying Philip Morris International (PMI), the company’s chief executive “took it personally”. This, says Robin Jaffin of US based NGO Verité, was the key to a radical and ongoing reform of the Swiss company’s supply chain that has gone far beyond public relations.
Back in 2010, the publicity was certainly all negative. Human Rights Watch, which had interviewed migrant Kyrgyz workers, said children as young as 10 were working on the harvest and some families were forced to toil for eight or nine months before getting paid. In many cases those who wanted to leave could not, because their employer withheld their passports. Additional criticisms were also made over lack of safety.
However, by November 2013 the US Department of Labor had removed Kazakhstan origin tobacco from the “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor”.
So, what happened in the interim? In short, a strategic, consultative partnership with Verité that generated PMI’s Agriculture Labor Practices (ALP) programme in 2011. PMI had already worked with Verité on outreach programmes for tackling green tobacco sickness – a form of nicotine...
November 2014, London
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