Unpacking Labour Risk in Global Meat Supply Chains
The FAIRR Initiative is leading a collaborative investor engagement to address labour risks in global protein value chains. The impact of COVID-19 on production line workers around the world has exposed the materiality of working conditions, including supply chain disruptions, reputational risks, fines, prosecutor investigations, and lawsuits from employees.
This engagement addresses the fundamental and structural human capital risks in the animal farming industry, which have contributed to the disastrous response to the pandemic. We encourage seven of the largest global protein producers to implement long-term changes while empowering workers to support risk mitigation in three key areas: Health and Safety, Fair Working Conditions and Worker Representation.
For more information, please contact Siân Jones.
The latest progress report examines the longstanding labour risk management issues in the meat industry and addresses key areas such as health and safety, fair working conditions and worker representation. It also provides insights on how the shortage of labour and poor working conditions in meatpacking are leading to meat shortage and inflation. Join Siân Jones, ESG Analyst, as she highlights the key takeaways from Phase 2 of the engagement. Download the report to access the full findings, company assessments, case studies, and additional data sets.
The meat industry is an important contributor to the GDP of leading world economies, including Brazil (8.5% of GDP), the US (5.8% of GDP) and the European Union (0.7% of GDP), whose combined production along with China’s represents ~68% of total meat products globally (i.e., beef, pork and chicken for the year 2020). The sector relies on labour-intensive value chains that directly and indirectly employ over 6.1 million people in the US, about 9.5 million in Brazil, and one million in Europe. Collectively, the companies in this engagement employ over half a million workers.
Workers in the industry, however, face hazardous conditions and exposure to risks from factors such as dangerous machinery, fast line speeds, repetitive tasks and biological agents. Companies do not effectively empower employees to report such risks, largely lack proper oversight of workers in their value chain, and fail to disclose important labour metrics publicly.
This engagement focuses on seven of the world’s largest animal protein producers, six of which are also covered by the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index. Investor Members can log into FAIRR’s investor portal to access individual company-level analyses.
The Phase 2 progress report, Unpacking Labour Risk in Global Meat Supply Chains, shows how the livestock industry’s heavy reliance on human capital amplifies the material impact that labour issues have on the business. The report also highlights how failing to protect meat workers drives labour shortages that cause immediate material damages to producers, including unexpected costs, contracted production capacity, disruption of operations and food supply chains globally. To avoid these outcomes, greater recognition is needed from companies in their policies, disclosures and practices as to the importance and significance of Worker Voice in identifying risk within operations.
Hence, there is a clear need to strengthen labour standards and corporate practices among animal protein producers beyond the pandemic to mitigate labour risk in the industry. This is particularly pressing in the face of broader industry trends that pose serious human capital challenges, such as the transition to a green economy and automation. Strong labour management strategies will be instrumental in defining the social impact of future food production.
Explore our key research and resources on Working Conditions to learn more about the material impact of labour risk on animal protein producers.
The pandemic has exposed the fragility of our global food system and the weakness of corporate policies which fail to protect the backbone of…
The fishing industry is one of the most at-risk sectors for the use of forced labour. Thai Union, the world’s largest canned-tuna processor and…
Meat plants have proven to be a major cause of many COVID-19 clusters. What few realise is the extent to which they are facilitating…
The global COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a number of weak links within the intensive animal farming industry – namely how conditions for workers…
“A meat shortage does not equal a food shortage” – Jeremy Coller, Founder, FAIRR Initiative COVID-19 has thrust ESG issues front and…