Oxfam launched its "Behind the Brands" campaign a year ago to try to
assess the real impact of food and drink companies on the countries
where they source raw materials, especially given a proliferation of
public commitments to sustainability.
Oxfam said the companies it ranked as most responsible — Nestle <NESN.VX>,
Unilever <ULVR.L> and Coca-Cola <KO.N> — had extended their lead
over the others, while General Mills <GIS.N> had replaced Associated
British Foods <ABF.L> in last place.
Big food and beverage companies have come under increasing scrutiny
in recent years over their sourcing of raw materials, courting
criticism on issues ranging from child labor on cocoa farms to the
impact of palm oil plantations on rain forests.
Oxfam said its campaign had been helped by thousands of consumers
bombarding brands with messages calling for action as well as a
joint statement from 31 investment funds representing nearly $1.5
trillion of assets reiterating the Oxfam demands.
"Those that are not moving fast enough will pay a price with the
public, investors and communities in the field," Chris Jochnick,
director of Oxfam's private sector work, told Reuters.
"Those companies that move first should see benefits in long-term
access to sustainable supply chains which should be reflected in
their share price."
Oxfam said the biggest 10 food and beverage companies it studied had
huge impact given that their annual revenues of more than $450
billion are equivalent to the national income of all the world's
low-income countries combined.
[to top of second column]
Oxfam ranked the firms on their policies in areas it sees as
critical to sustainable agriculture: women, small-scale farmers,
farm workers, water, land, climate change and transparency.
Nestle came first, Unilever second, Coca-Cola third, Mondelez
International <MDLZ.O> and PepsiCo <PEP.N> joint fourth, Mars and
Danone <DANO.PA> joint sixth, Kellogg Co <K.N> eighth, AB Foods
ninth and General Mills in 10th place. (www.oxfam.org/behindthebrands)
Jochnick said General Mills had lost ground due to a lower score for
transparency as it was not publishing as much information as before
on its water policies. General Mills was not immediately available
Oxfam said the biggest improvements in company policies had come on
policies over land, gender equality and climate change.
"What initially sparks companies' attention is reputational concern
but as they dig into these issues they have started to find
financial reasons to do the right thing," Jochnick said.
(Editing by Alison Williams)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.