WASHINGTON – Fresh produce industry stakeholders have come together to design the Ethical Charter Implementation Program, which recognizes and strengthens engagement around labor practices in the fresh produce industry without the burden of additional audits.
The goals of the program include:
· Creating alignment with the principles of the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices.
· Enabling operations that already align to the Ethical Charter to demonstrate their leadership.
· Providing capacity-building tools for continued engagement and improvement.
Launched with initial funding from the Walmart Foundation, the program is led by Equitable Food Initiative and The Sustainability Consortium and overseen by an advisory group of leading buyers, suppliers and key stakeholders, including representatives from:
· Bonduelle Fresh Americas
· Costco Wholesale
· McDonald’s USA
· Sam’s Club
· Tanimura and Antle
· Taylor Farms
“When the Ethical Charter was launched in 2018, it reinforced the principle that all workers in fresh produce supply chains should be treated with dignity and respect. The Walmart Foundation is pleased to support this next phase of work around development of the Ethical Charter Implementation Program (ECIP) that helps strengthen the industry and protections for all those who work in and are dependent on it,” said Gavin Bailey, senior manager, Walmart.org. “I’m encouraged by the collaboration among industry peers on leading this effort and encourage others to join our efforts.”
ECIP offers an assessment tool, resources and information that growers and suppliers can use to evaluate and strengthen their labor management systems. Beginning this November, participating buyers will invite their suppliers into ECIP, and suppliers will ask their growers to assess labor practices and management systems through an interactive online tool. Use of the online tool, called ECIP LAB, requires an annual subscription fee from buyers, suppliers and growers and provides guidance, resources and best practices as the operation assesses more than 50 different work areas, systems and policies. More information about the program can be found at ethicalcharterprogram.org.
“ECIP is a capacity-building tool rather than a compliance program,” commented Peter O’Driscoll, executive director at EFI. “The interactive system creates a safe space for growers and suppliers to review their current labor management systems, access information on best practices, and understand how they compare to the rest of the industry.”
“The Ethical Charter and this implementation program reflect the power of industry collaboration to advance meaningful changes for people and our planet,” said Denise Osterhues, senior director of sustainability & social impact for Kroger. “We’re pleased to help scale this capacity-building work that prioritizes meeting growers where they are in their journey and offering practical resources and guidance to help enhance labor practices.”
The Ethical Charter provides an industry framework for accountability and transparency related to respect for laws at work, respect for professional conduct and respect for human rights in the production and purchase of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers. It was adopted in 2018 by the Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association after a committee of suppliers and buyers defined the common baseline to ensure everyone in the industry is treated with dignity and respect.
Wyatt Maysey, director of sustainability at Taylor Farms, shares that “the Ethical Charter Implementation Program will give our supply chain the ability to showcase our alignment with the Ethical Charter principles and meet our customers’ expectations without undertaking the burden of audit or certification. Grower level audit requests would bring very difficult logistical challenges to our industry, so we felt this was a winning compromise to help further engage with our customers while alleviating further burden on growers.”
“EFI is grateful to the Walmart Foundation for providing the initial funding to bring this project together, and to the advisory group members for their commitment to the development of a scalable approach to sustaining industry alignment with the Ethical Charter,” O’Driscoll added.
Equitable Food Initiative is a capacity-building and certification nonprofit that works to improve the lives of farmworkers and drive business performance by integrating worker voice and engagement throughout the supply chain. As a multistakeholder organization, EFI brings together growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumers to create assessment, training and organizational development programs that support continuous improvement and address the industry’s most pressing problems. For more information about Equitable Food Initiative, visit equitablefood.org.
About The Sustainability Consortium
The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) is a global non-profit organization transforming the consumer goods industry to deliver more sustainable consumer products. We work to enable a world where people can lead fulfilled lives in a way that decouples their impacts on people and the planet. Our members and partners include manufacturers, retailers, suppliers, service providers, NGOs, civil society organizations, governmental agencies, and academics. TSC convenes our diverse stakeholders to work collaboratively to build science-based decision tools and solutions that address sustainability issues that are materially important throughout a product’s supply chain and lifecycle. TSC also offers a portfolio of services to help drive effective improvement and implementation. Formed in 2009, TSC is jointly administered by Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas and has a European office at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands. For more information visit sustainabilityconsortium.org.
The Ethical Charter Implementation Program (ECIP) is a collaboration among retailers, grower-shippers and implementing organizations to recognize and strengthen engagement around labor practices in the fresh produce industry, highlight existing best-practice efforts, and identify opportunities for continuous improvement. The program is built around self-assessment to avoid the burden of an additional audit. Through an assessment tool and capacity-building resources, it helps measure and strengthen alignment with the principles of the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices. Launched with initial funding from the Walmart Foundation and administered by Equitable Food Initiative and The Sustainability Consortium, the program is overseen by an advisory group composed of leading buyers, suppliers and key stakeholders, including representatives from AgSocio, Bonduelle Fresh Americas, Costco Wholesale, Kroger, McDonald’s USA, Naturipe, Sam’s Club, Target, Tanimura and Antle, Taylor Farms and Walmart. More information about the program can be found at ethicalcharterprogram.org.
About Philanthropy at Walmart
Walmart.org represents the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. By focusing where the business has unique strengths, Walmart.org works to tackle key social and environmental issues and collaborate with others to spark long-lasting systemic change. Walmart has stores in 24 countries, employs more than 2.2 million associates and does business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. Walmart.org is helping people live better by supporting programs to accelerate upward job mobility for frontline workers, advance equity, address hunger, build inclusive economic opportunity for people in supply chains, protect and restore nature, reduce waste and emissions, and build strong communities where Walmart operates. To learn more, visit www.walmart.org.