Posted on May 28, 2020 by Sustainable Food News

Nonprofit claims evidence of human rights abuses in Whole Foods’ supply chain

Oxfam America says it wants WFM's parent co. to conduct human rights impact assessment

Nonprofit Oxfam America  said Wednesday that human rights abuses and labor rights violations persist in the supply chains of and its Whole Foods Market subsidiary.

In a resolution at a virtual Amazon shareholders meeting, Oxfam specifically called on the ecommerce giant to conduct at least one human rights impact assessment (HRIA) in a high-risk sector where the potential for human rights abuses have been identified.

“Oxfam has uncovered evidence of human rights abuses in the Amazon-owned Whole Foods supply chain around the world, from Thailand to North Carolina,” said Sarah Zoen, a senior advisor with Oxfam’s private sector department, who presented the proposal at the shareholders meeting. “We’ve heard stories of terrible working conditions, poor wages, gender discrimination, and intimidation.”

Zoen said Oxfam wants Amazon “to step up and conduct a human rights impact assessment in a high-risk sector in collaboration with affected workers and communities.”

Oxfam’s charges come after a report released by the nonprofit last year said that despite new commitments, human rights abuses continue to endure in Whole Foods’ global supply chain.

Amazon had rolled out new supplier standards in September, which included some significant commitments to eliminate all forms of forced labor, promote freedom of association, and tackle migrant worker exploitation.

But Oxfam said that while the new standards were “important first steps,” they did “not go far enough to address the severity of the problems.”

Supermarkets are under increasing pressure from shoppers and investors to act, said Oxfam, which also published a statement from 50 global investors with assets worth more than $3 trillion calling on supermarkets to publish information on where they source their products and to tackle human rights abuse in their supply chains.

“Amazon and the public are acutely aware of the negative human rights impacts that exist in its supply chain – workers’ concerns are a daily news headline,” said Zoen. “Amazon is making record profits and yet workers continue to raise concerns about their health, safety, and wellbeing. In the face of a global pandemic where workers are on the frontline, our proposal is more relevant than ever.”

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