Helping our farmers stay skilled and healthy
Accusations of poor working conditions and child labour are often made in relation to tobacco growing. Along with urban migration and ageing farming populations, these are common challenges across agriculture worldwide. We are working to address them and to help our farmers remain skilled and healthy.
We have a long-standing commitment to human rights, having first introduced our Child Labour Policy in 2000.
Our Human Rights Policy, as part of our Standards of Business Conduct (SoBC), sets out our commitment to promoting human rights in our sphere of influence. The policy includes our commitments to no child labour, no exploitation of labour and respect for 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, including specific human rights criteria.
Our Sustainable Tobacco Programme (STP) sets out the minimum requirements we expect of our tobacco leaf suppliers. STP promotes risk assessments, best practice sharing and provides a framework for continual improvement through annual self-assessments and on-site reviews of all our first-tier leaf suppliers.
Child labour can also be a particularly challenging human rights issue in agriculture. Visit our Child labour in tobacco growing section for more information on how we address this issue.
Our leaf technicians are an important source of advice, support and training for farmers, helping them to run successful, profitable and high-yielding farms.
We also work with farmers to help them protect their health, such as by using chemicals safely. A major priority for us is raising awareness of green tobacco sickness (GTS), a type of nicotine poisoning that occurs when nicotine is absorbed through the skin from wet tobacco leaves. We are supporting changes in practices, encouraging our farmers to wear protective clothing and not to handle wet leaves, as well as providing them with information on the symptoms and treatment of GTS.
We have a number of projects around the world focused on providing skills and knowledge to farming communities, and developing the next generation of farmers in the face of increased migration of rural youth to urban areas.
For example, we have established over 50 farmers’ clubs in Bangladesh in partnership with the government, which provide knowledge to farming communities through a combination of classroom training and practical field learning.
In recent years, our company in Brazil has implemented initiatives to show that farming can be both a desirable and a profitable way of life. We have helped increase farm productivity, improved farming techniques and introduced incentives such as advance payments and long-term contracts. As a result, in contrast to the national trend, the average age of our contracted farmers has remained steady rather than increasing, while the number of those aged 18–30 continues to grow.