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Human rights in the supply chain

A commitment to working conditions

Given that parts of our agricultural supply chain and operations are located in challenging and diverse environments, human rights is a particularly important issue for our business.

We have a long-standing commitment to addressing human rights issues in our supply chain, having first introduced our Child Labour Policy in 2000. Our Human Rights Policy, as part of our Standards of Business Conduct (SoBC), details our commitments to eliminating child labour and the exploitation of labour, as well as to respect freedom of association.

To help suppliers meet our policy commitments, in 2016 we published our Supplier Code of Conduct which complements our Standards of Business Conduct by setting out the minimum standards we expect our suppliers to adhere to. These include specific human rights criteria for:

  • equal opportunities to, and fair treatment of, all workers including migrant labour
  • eliminating any form of harassment and bullying within the workplace
  • providing a safe working environment
  • ensuring operations are free from child labour and exploitation of labour
  • ensuring the right to freedom of association.

Supplier standards and due diligence

Our Sustainable Tobacco Programme (STP) sets out the minimum requirements we expect of our tobacco leaf suppliers, including criteria covering human rights. STP promotes best practice and provides a framework for continual improvement through annual self-assessments and on-site reviews of our first-tier leaf suppliers.

For our non-leaf suppliers, in 2015, we developed an approach to assess and prioritise these suppliers to more effectively manage human rights in the highest risk areas. This approach has been aligned to the expectations of the UN Guiding Principles and was piloted in 2016.

Child and forced labour

Our Supplier Code of Conduct includes specific requirements for all our suppliers to ensure their operations are free from the exploitation of labour, including forced, bonded, involuntary, trafficked or unlawful migrant labour; and free from the exploitation of child labour. Specifically, this includes not employing anyone under the age of 18 in any work that is considered hazardous, or anyone under the age of 15 (or below the legal age for finishing compulsory schooling – whichever is higher) in any capacity.

In the case of child labour in farming, the reality of rural agricultural life in many parts of the world means certain kinds of work can play a formative, cultural, social and familial role for children.

Where local law permits, we consider it acceptable for children of between 13 and 15 years of age to help on their families’ farms, provided it is light work, does not hinder their education or vocational training and does not involve any activity which could be harmful to their health or development (for example, handling mechanical equipment or agro-chemicals).

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