NEW YORK, NY - FRIDAY, JUNE 18TH, 2021 – Today, over 70 investors representing over $121 billion in assets under management announced they had sent a letter to Hannaford Supermarkets requesting that the company address worker rights’ risks in its dairy supply chain by joining the Milk with Dignity Program, a worker-driven social responsibility (WSR) program with a demonstrated ability to prevent, mitigate, and remedy human rights abuses.
The investors are members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Investor Alliance for Human Rights who are engaging U.S. companies around their social and environmental impacts, including any risks to worker health and safety.
U.S. agricultural workers have always faced serious human rights abuses. The risks are especially prevalent in this industry because so many agricultural workers are migrant laborers who rely on employers for basic human needs like housing. A survey of dairy workers in Vermont found that 20% lived in or near the dairy barn, 7% reported a lack of heat in their housing, and 23% reported running out of food at some point. Nearly a quarter of workers lacked enough time off for eight hours of sleep and nearly a third have no days off. Despite very dangerous working conditions there tends to be limited training around safety procedures and only 16% of surveyed workers had medical insurance.
These allegations of human rights abuses by dairy farms that may supply Hannaford’s Supermarkets led investors to join a growing community of civil society organizations calling on the company to join the Milk with Dignity Program.
“As evidenced by last year’s headlines regarding frontline workers in the meat supply chain, COVID-19 has only exacerbated what were already unsafe workplaces and housing for food sector workers. Investors see these risks to workers as risks to their portfolios,” said Nadira Narine of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. “Ahold Delhaize has based its human rights policies on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which clearly set out the company’s responsibility to respect the rights of workers in its supply chain. By joining the Milk with Dignity program Hannaford can put concrete action behind its policy.”
A 2020 report on the Milk with Dignity Program showed that participating farms dramatically improved their human rights performance across a diverse range of metrics. “Milk with Dignity stands apart from any other compliance program, supplier code of conduct, or company run audit by directly engaging workers in the business of protecting their own rights and wellbeing,” the investor letter says.
By joining the Milk with Dignity Program, the investors say Hannaford has an opportunity, as a leading supermarket chain in the Northeast and major regional purchaser, to serve as a role model for the industry.
About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Celebrating its 50th year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300-member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $4 trillion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability. Visit our website www.iccr.org and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.