ICA demands acceptable production conditions; ensuring that these are met remains an important task. ICA has a long tradition of demanding compliance with human rights standards in the production of its products and is continuing to pursue the goal of having all its corporate brand suppliers in high-risk countries socially audited.
Work on monitoring working conditions via social audits of suppliers’ sites continued in 2013. There was further focus on efforts to raise knowledge levels, with initiatives such as training and partnership projects aimed at supporting suppliers in their work to improve working conditions for employees.
It is ICA’s firm conviction that all trade should be conducted under humane conditions. ICA sells products from around the world, and needs to be aware of where the products come from and under what conditions they were produced. ICA does not accept discrimination, child labour, forced labour, infringement of the right to organise and collectively bargain or other failures to comply with human rights. This is clarified in the Group’s policies and its agreements with all its suppliers. ICA has representatives around the world to ensure optimal cooperation with suppliers, inspect production and encourage change through training efforts, projects and partnerships with others in the industry. ICA’s requirements are based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) core conventions. The overall goal is that all corporate brand suppliers in high-risk countries will be socially audited
Better conditions for berry pickers
For the third consecutive year ICA has reviewed the conditions for organised berry pickers in Swedish forests. An independent party was enlisted to carry out the actual review work. Among the aspects checked were whether the berry pickers had been given accurate information by their employer before coming to Sweden, whether the contracts were clear and easy to understand, whether the accommodation was acceptable and whether working hours were documented. All of the berry pickers in the review came from Thailand and many of them had worked in Sweden before. The review showed a number of improvements compared with the previous year; for example, there is now a clear handbook for berry pickers containing rules and important information about working in forests and on the land. Some elements could be improved, however. For example, there are still misunderstandings due to language barriers, and improvements in traffic safety are needed.
For a number of years ICA has been pushing the issue of acceptable conditions for berry pickers in Swedish forests. Now, the method developed by ICA has become the industry model in a new agreement between the Swedish Food Federation (Livsmedelsföretagen), the Swedish Grocery Trade Federation (Svensk Dagligvaruhandel) and the Swedish Trade Federation (Svensk Handel). The agreement requires buyers of berries to take responsibility for the performance of independent social audits of organised berry picking and for controls within independent berry picking. Non-profit research organisation Swedwatch also released a report on Swedish berry picking in which ICA was praised for its work in this area, and other companies are being urged to follow ICA’s example.
During the year ICA also hosted and convened a number of dialogues between parties involved in the trade. ICA also wants to collaborate more with others in the industry to improve conditions for organised as well as independent pickers.