Ethical Performance
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Oxfam calls for food companies to ensure responsible sourcing

November 2013

Some of the biggest names in the food and drink industry are not doing enough to stop poor people from being forced from their land to make way to grow crops, according to a new report from Oxfam.

The report, Nothing sweet about it: How sugar fuels land grabs, illustrates how people are at risk of losing their homes and land in a rush to feed consumers’ appetite for sugar.

Oxfam is calling for the companies to tighten their supply chains so the ingredients they use in their products are not grown on land that has been grabbed from communities that depend on it for their survival. ??

Oxfam’s chief executive Mark Goldring said: “We all need reassurance that what we are consuming is not contributing to the world’s most vulnerable being evicted from their land without consent or compensation. Large corporations must take responsibility to ensure that their goods are not tainted by this scandal happening in remote places many miles from the board room.”??

Sugar production is predicted to increase by 25% by 2020. The global sugar trade is worth around £29bn. The world produced 176 million tonnes of sugar last year and the food and drinks industry accounts for more than half of it. While our increasing appetite for sugar has health experts ringing alarm bells, Oxfam says it has largely gone unnoticed that the sugar trade is also helping to fuel the problem of land grabs and disputes.

Oxfam has evidence of land grabs and conflicts in Cambodia and Brazil including a fishing community in Pernambuco State, Brazil fighting for access to their land and fishing grounds, after having been evicted in 1998 to make way for a sugar mill.

The report references several companies including Associated British Foods (ABF) and Coca Cola.

A statement from ABF said: “The company is unclear why it has been included in this publication, given there is no evidence at all of any ‘land grabs’ on its behalf. In South Africa, Illovo (ABF’s African subsidiary) has distributed more company-owned cane land to black farmers than any other sugar company in that country and did so voluntarily, earlier than required by legislation. It has a fine record of working with those farmers to ensure the continued commercial viability of that land and it runs important and innovative programs with government and with famers in KwaZulu-Natal to ensure the long-term sustainability of farms now under black ownership.”

Coca-Cola said in a statement: “We are asking our suppliers to recognise and safeguard the rights of communities to maintain access to land and natural resources. We are working to promote respect for human and workplace rights by the farm and the employer of workers at the farm, whether or not the employer is the farm itself. We have agreed to convene a facilitated stakeholder dialogue to discuss Oxfam’s overall findings.” 

Global | Land Rights


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