Shareholders Commend ADM for Adopting Human Rights Statement

Date: 
May 1st 2014

Commitment regarding ethical recruitment practices models best practices to safeguard workers.

NEW YORK, NY – Thursday, May 1, 2014–Shareholders in Archer Daniels Midlandand members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility welcomed the company’s announcement at its general meetingtoday that ithad formally adopted a human rights statement.

The decision was reached after successful engagementwith ADM management led by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell New Jersey and other ICCR members.In a shareholder resolution, the shareholders requested a comprehensive sustainable agriculture policy that in addition to environmental requests around best management practices for water, GHG emission reductions, and nutrient management, included provisions that would protect the human rights of workers throughout ADM’s supply chain. The company responded by adopting a Respect for Human Rights statementwith policies for fair wages, safe working conditions, freedom of association, and ethical recruitment standards that expressly prohibit workers paying recruitment fees.As a result of this development, the shareholders withdrew their resolution.

The practice of paying recruitment fees is widespread in the agricultural sector where migrant labor is prevalent and the risks of human rights abuses, including modern day slavery, are more pronounced. “Millions of migrant laborers looking to feed their families become vulnerable to slavery through unscrupulous labor brokers who charge exorbitant recruitment fees, impose unreasonable deductions from promised wages, confiscate travel documents and prevent workers from leaving,” said Valentina Gurney, Associate Program Director of ICCR.“ADM’s commitment to uphold ethical recruitment practices throughout its extensive supply chain is a critical first step in helping toeradicateslavery from agricultural supply chains, and they are to be commended for showing leadership on this issue.”

With funding from Humanity United, ICCR works to create corporate awareness of the issue and developing systems to protect workers in both immediate and extended supply chains from exploitative recruiters.Investors contend that these human rights risks are material as they may have serious reputational, legal and, hence, financial implications for shareholder value.

“ADM has a great opportunity to provide food to a growing population, but also a moral imperative to produce that food ethically and sustainably, and to mitigate as best they can the potential social and environmental impacts of modern agribusiness,” said Sr.Patricia Daly, OP, Executive Director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, who led the investor engagement on behalf of the Dominican Sisters.“ADM rightfully recognizes its ability to positively impact the lives of workers and reduce the risk of slavery in global agricultural supply chains and we applaud this important step. We will, of course, continue to work with management to ensure that the policy is properly implemented, monitored and enforced and hope that ADM’s leadership will serve as a model for its peers in the agri-business sector.”

ADM’s Human Rights Statement includes the following commitments covering its nearly 400,000 growers:

  • Uphold ethical recruitment practices internationally;
  • Prohibit charging fees to workers seeking employment;
  • Respect for land-tenure rights and the rights of indigenous and local communities, and worker safety;
  • Work collaboratively with stakeholders to improve working, environmental and safety conditions in agricultural supply chains. 

In announcing the company’s adoption of a Respect for Human Rights statement, Patricia Woertz, CEO of ADM said, “While ADM’s code of conduct has long included commitments to the rights of our employees and the expectation that our business partners follow local employment laws and treat their employees with dignity and respect, we understand that our scale, reach and vast supplier network give us the opportunity to help improve the lives of growers, workers and communities throughout the supply chain.”

Co Filers of the shareholder proposal were: American Baptist Home Mission Society; Christian Brothers Investment Services; Congregation of Benedictine Sisters; Congregation of Divine Providence; Dignity Health; Friends Fiduciary Corporation; Maryknoll Sisters; Mercy Investment Services; Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate; Northwest Women Religious Investment Trust; School Sisters of Notre Dame Cooperative Investment Fund; Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary; Socially Responsible Investment Coalition; Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment.

About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)

Currently celebrating its 43rd year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of active shareholders who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for change. Its 300 member organizations with over $100 billion in AUM have an enduring record of corporate engagement that has demonstrated influence on policies promoting justice and sustainability in the world.