Tesco, M&S and Morrisons are among tea buyers “failing to take sufficient action” in addressing human rights challenges in the supply chain.
According to a new report by the Business & Human Rights Rescource Centre (BHRRC), workers at tea plantations in areas such as India and Sri Lanka are being paid unfair wages, suffering from inhumane living standards, poor health, and unsafe working conditions.
The international NGO identified that Tesco, Morrisons, M&S, Starbucks, Unilever, Tetley, Twinings, Typhoo, Bettys & Taylors and James Finlay, are among 16 brands and retailers buying from the factories where 47 of the 70 alleged human rights abuses in its report have occurred.
BHRRC labour rights researcher, Kate Jelly told The Grocer: “Although tea companies recognise the entrenched human rights challenges within the tea supply chain, they are failing to take sufficient action to address them.
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“They appear to have overall policy commitments to human rights, but there is limited evidence on how these commitments are implemented in practice and a general failure to mitigate adverse human rights impacts which are compounded by their purchasing practices.”
Many of the cases tracked over the past year took place in India, with others also recorded in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Kenya and Uganda, with the majority of allegations related to wages, compensation and benefits.
A Tesco spokesperson told BHRRC: “We are working with our supplier to investigate the allegations and will move to suspend the tea estates if we don’t get satisfactory engagement.”
A spokesperson for Morrisons added: “We are committed to ensuring that everyone who helps to make our products is treated with dignity and respect, in safe and fair workplaces.
“Where issues are present in the lower tiers of our supply chain we aim to work in close collaboration with our primary suppliers to ensure they have robust systems in place to identify, assess and mitigate risk.”
Many of the companies included within the report said they had quickly investigated the cases.