MangoesPhoto: Wilfredo Rodríguez

The global food system is of great importance to global employment, culture, environment, conservation, peace, stability and nutrition. A third of the working population worldwide is involved in agriculture. Work in food and agriculture is often harsh, dangerous, underpaid and precarious.

Through research and advocacy with partners and networks around the world, SOMO pushes for company and government policies that foster equitable and sustainable food production and consumption.

Our interventions span  a wide range of topics including sustainability certification and corporate purchasing policies and their impacts. We also address unfair trading practices, market concentration, speculation and uneven value distribution, the right to food and land conflicts. SOMO looks in particular at diverse food and agricultural supply chains including tea, coffee, sugar cane, fruit and vegetables, and cut flowers. We focus special attention on the role of supermarkets.

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the bigger picture

Sustainable Supply Chains

Many of the problems facing people in middle and low income countries (indirectly) result from the practices and policies of multinational corporations at the end of the supply chain.

This can be seen in the supply chains of the garment industry, electronics sector, food production and pharmaceutical industry.

Bad working conditions and unsustainable practices

Many people in these sectors are working under inhumane and dangerous conditions with little or no respect for labour rights or environmental standards. Excessive hours, low wages and precarious employment conditions are common in supply chains of the garments, electronics and food sectors. It’s no coincidence that those who are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation – migrants, young people and women – are heavily employed in these sectors.

Binding regulations and good practices

Together with trade unions and other civil society organisations, SOMO presses for the promotion and protection of the rights of workers, communities and individuals in all stages of supply chains. SOMO pushes for regulation, policies and practices that ensure decent work and sustainability, including legally enforceable corporate accountability mechanisms and a leading role for workers in monitoring and ensuring improvement of workplace conditions. SOMO promotes sustainable public procurement which, by mobilising the massive purchasing power of the public sector, can bring about structural improvements in supply chains.

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Updates on this topic

Weak restrictions in the EU, undetected abuses in the US

Update on the legislative process on food price speculation and commodity derivatives trading Food speculation In February 2017, the EU Parliament narrowly voted in favour of technical regulations that would not strictly limit food price speculation…

Open letter to the European Commission on agri-business mergers

SOMO, together with a group of 194 civil society organisations, signed an open letter to the European Commission to reject the impending mergers of the world’s biggest agrochemical and seed companies. In an already concentrated…

Obscure retail buying groups mapped

European supermarkets such as Kaufland, Metro, Ahold Delhaize and Edeka are cooperating as part of ‘international buying groups’ (IBGs) to expand their buying power, with potential negative consequences for suppliers and farmers says new research…

Workplace impacts of sustainability certification

On Thursday, 26 May, SOMO is organising a meeting for policymakers from sustainability certification bodies, manufacturers, supermarkets, governments and NGOs. In this private meeting, preliminary research on the impact of sustainability certification for working conditions in…

Reality Check

Conflicts and multinationals both have specific impacts on various kinds of people on the ground. Men, women, boys and girls are all affected in different ways – each with their own distinct vulnerabilities, needs and…

Reality Check

The gender dimensions of the impact of multinational companies’ operations in fragile and conflict-affected areas

Sugar cane in food products often produced unsustainably

Bittersweet, a report by SOMO, finds that rights of workers and communities are often at stake in the production of sugar cane. Large sugar using companies such as supermarkets have mostly been looking the other…

“Everyone in Malawi has a right to development”

Paul Kachusa, programme manager at CARER, visited Amsterdam to present a recent research into land and labour rights across the sugar industry in Malawi. Its findings are collected in CARER and SOMO’s new publication called…