Socially Responsible Public Procurement - Food and beverages

Here you find information about generalised risks of human rights breaches in the global supply chains of food and beverages.

Risks of human rights breaches

The agricultural sector is rife with allegations of human rights abuses and environmental impacts, most notably the use of child labour and forced labour, slavery-like working conditions, the payment of excessively low wages, the unsafe use of pesticides and other health and safety issues and restrictions on people’s rights to join a trade union.

Of the products considered here, tea, coffee, cocoa, cane sugar and bananas are all grown in the tropics where the risks of these abuses is assessed to be very high. The use of child labour and forced labour is widespread and well-documented in all these industries.

The majority of the other products considered here – tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cucumbers, oranges, apples and grapes – are imported from EU countries, particularly from Spain and Italy where there are numerous well-documented cases of migrants working under conditions of modern-day slavery, with illegally low pay and excessively long hours. The sexual abuse of migrant women is said to be rife and in Italy, gangmasters are sometimes linked to the mafia. Norway imports a reasonable proportion of its oranges from Israel, where the crops may be grown on illegally-occupied land.

Read more in the whole report on human rights abuses in global supply chains of food and beverages:

Risk assessments for human rights breaches - food and drinks
pdf 474.71 KB

Specific risk assessments

The table below gives a generalised estimate of the level of risk of human rights abuse in the main tiers of the supply chain of food (fruits and vegetables) and beverages.  Some products purchased by public procurers in Norway have been selected to exemplify the risk levels. 

Product

Raw ingrediens/products 

Coffee Very high risk
Tea Very high risk
Cocoa Very hig hrisk
Sugar Very high risk
Tomatoes, fresh*  High risk
Tomatoes, tinned High risk
Lettuce* Medium high risk
Agurk* Medium high risk
Cucumbers* Medium high risk
Bananas Very high risk
Oranges High risk
Grapes High risk

Guidance for use of SRPP instruments when purchasing food and beverages

The level of risk of human rights abuse for the products exemplified reveals that the the level of generalised risk of human rights abuse in the supply chains is medium high to very high in the production of food (fruit and vegetabels) and selsected beverages . As the risk level is high this suggest use of socially responsible public procurement (SRPP) instruments to promote human rights during the production process in the supply chain of fruit, vegetables and selected beverages.

Disclaimer: Please notice that the level of risk for human rights abuses could vary for other types of products then the examples above. Furthermore, the risk assessments are based on supply chains for high risk products imported to Norway and the supply chain can look different for products imported to other countries/continents. 

1) Planning the purchase of a high risk product 

When using the SRPP instruments, consider the core principles of public procurement: transparency, equal treatment, open competition, and sound procedural management.

Having an open dialoge – communicating expectations on human rights due diligence - with the supplier market is essential to prepare suppliers on the SRPP requirements.

2) Writing the tender documents for the purchase of high risk products

The length of the contract and the financial value of the transaction should guide decision making towards investing main focus in the contracts with highest financial total value and the longest contract periods.

When having decided which tender documents that should be complemented with SRPP instruments. 

SRPP special contract clauses  should be added to the tender documents.

It could also be considered to use selection criteria  if the level of the market maturity is high (i.e several suppliers have human rights due diligence systems in place at the time of the writing of the tender documents).

3) Contract follow-up 

Using SRPP special contract clauses implies that the public entity shall follow up the contract. 

SRPP self-assessment guidance could be used as reference for contract follow-up.

Oppdatert: 3. juni 2022

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