In January 2020, members and staff of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and the Investor Alliance for Human Rights visited Immokalee, Florida to meet with and learn from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) about their Fair Food Program (FFP), established in 2011. Fourteen companies – including Burger King, McDonald’s, Whole Foods, and Walmart – have now signed onto the FFP and its legally binding commitments.
ICCR and the Investor Alliance work closely with civil society groups to ensure that investors’ corporate engagement strategies are accountable to impacted people and communities. This visit helped bring this commitment into action by modeling a meaningful approach for investors to take in engaging with rights-holders. The delegation met with CIW and FFP staff, growers, and farmworkers to hear about their experiences with the program, the benefits it provides, and how it has transformed the lives of farmworkers, their families, and their communities.
Investors have a long history of engaging with companies on respect for human rights and responsible supply chains. Throughout this history, it has been clear that a ‘top-down’ corporate auditing approach has not sufficiently improved working conditions in fields and factories producing for large brands and retailers. The FFP is transformational because workers are at the center. They are the principal architects of the program, with their experiences as the frontline monitors of their own rights—backed up by the possibility of binding and enforceable market consequences at the end of the supply chain if those rights are violated—driving change in basic working conditions and the establishment of an environment where they are treated with dignity and respect.
The site visit to Immokalee provided an opportunity for investors to learn firsthand from communities who are developing and implementing solutions that work. Various components of the program include a worker-developed Code of Conduct, worker-to-worker education, complaint resolution, auditing, and market-based enforcement. As a result, the FFP has virtually eliminated forced labor, discrimination, sexual harassment, wage theft, and other abuses on the farm. It is successful and accountable because it is driven by worker-led solutions, and it provides certainty that workers are protected from abuse, legal violations, and human rights violations. When issues are found, the vast majority have been investigated and resolved within two weeks.
Motivated and inspired by the impact and effectiveness of the FFP, the delegation last week sent a letter to leadership at Wendy’s, encouraging it to join the other brands participating in the FFP. The letter was sent to Wendy’s Chair of the Board, Nelson Peltz, and CEO, Todd Penegor. Active ICCR and Investor Alliance investor engagement with Wendy’s and other companies that have yet to join the program will continue to accelerate to help scale the impact of this transformative program.
For more information, please contact David Schilling, Senior Program Director at ICCR, at [email protected].