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Human rights: Poor performance of German food retailers

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In a recent report, Oxfam revealed human rights violations by big German food retailers.

The human rights organisation Oxfam has compiled numerous examples of human and labour rights violations in the supply chains of the major supermarket operators in Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain and the USA. Compared with their colleagues in other countries, the four major German retail groups Aldi, Lidl, Edeka and Rewe performed particularly poorly.

In the report “Die Zeit ist reif” (Engl. “The time is now”), Oxfam describes the growing inequality in the value chains of retail groups. Small farmers and workers who produce a product are getting less and less of the consumer's money for it. Their incomes are below the subsistence level, while the retail chains make billions in profits. “With their strong market position, they could enforce social and environmental standards in food production and prevent human rights violations”, Oxfam writes about the trading companies: “But instead they abuse their power by exerting enormous price pressure on suppliers.”

Oxfam compared the activities of the companies with regard to transparency, dealing with workers and small farmers as well as the commitment specifically to women in the producing countries. None of the four major German chains is living up to its responsibility “to identify, publicise and respond to the risk of human rights violations in its supply chains”, Oxfam writes. In none of the four categories did one of the companies achieve more than eight percent of the possible points. The leaders in comparison were the English chains Tesco and Sainsbury. The US chain Walmart also performed far better than Aldi &Co.

Oxfam called on retail chains to fundamentally change their business policies: Economic exploitation, poverty and human suffering should not be the ingredients of food on supermarket shelves. With the campaign “Fairness eintüten” (Engl. “bagging fairness”) the human rights activists want to increase the pressure on the trading groups.


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