Behind the Brands: Unilever tops Oxfam’s ‘Big 10’ supply chain rankings

Global consumer goods firm Unilever has overtaken nutrition business Nestlé to claim the top spot in Oxfam's 'Behind the Brands' campaign, which measures and ranks the social sustainability of the 'Big 10' global food and drinks companies.

The Behind the Brands campaign analyses and compares the various sustainability commitments of the Big 10; addressing seven specific policy issues identified by Oxfam’s public campaigning – land, women, farmers, workers, climate, transparency and water.

A strong approach to climate change has seen Unilever overtake Nestlé at the top of the leaderboard, with Coca-Cola currently occupying third spot thanks to its strong efforts on land rights. Kellogg has made the biggest strides across all areas – up 30% on its rating three years ago.

Unilever leads the scorecard on ‘climate’, with the highest score of 9/10. “The company has strong policies on deforestation and palm oil, guidelines for its suppliers, and is engaging governments to take action,” the report reads. “We hope they will continue to show leadership and go even further.”

Nine of the Big 10 industry giants have improved their rating by at least 10% since the Behind the Brand’s campaign’s launch three years ago. Danone – the only company not to surpass the 10% barrier – still increased its score by 7%, thanks to significant commitments on climate.

Strong progress

Behind the Brands campaign manager Monique van Zijl believes the Big 10 cannot afford to relent on promising future policy improvements. She said: “These food industry giants all demonstrated that they do listen to consumers by making some bold policy commitments.

“We hope this will inspire others to follow suit. Now it’s crucial for the Big 10 to substantially change their business models to make good on these promises, and challenge their suppliers to ensure that small-scale producers get fair and liveable wages.

“Despite some strong progress over the past three years, the Big 10 still have a lot of work to do. Given the inequalities and injustices in the food chain that leave millions of people at risk of being food insecure, especially small-scale producers, the Big 10 must use their power to transform how food is produced, traded and processed.

“Giving more power and economic value to farmers, workers and food producing communities will not only be good for all of us, but also for the companies’ bottom lines in the long run.”

Sustainability Leader

Launched as a method of facilitating greater transparency of the world’s largest food and beverage companies, Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign initially highlighted that the majority of the Big 10 were falling behind in the approach to social responsibility and supply chain sustainability.

The charity claims that vast improvements have since been made by all participating companies. In February 2013, seven of the 10 companies had overall scores of 31% or below. In April 2016, no companies achieved a rating below 36%.

The huge achievements made by the Big 10 in these specific areas of supply chain management can be largely credited to the Behind the Brands campaign which has served to encourage advances in key areas of sustainability. The campaign earned Oxfam worthy recognition at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Awards in 2014, with the development charity being ‘highly commended’ in the Stakeholder Engagement category.

For more information about edie’s Sustainable Supply Chain conference in July click here.

George Ogleby


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