“By not committing to suspend purchases from growers who fail to uphold the Fair Food Standards as other corporations have done, Ahold perpetuates the old “no questions asked” market for its tomatoes, the very see-no-evil approach that created the human rights abuses that the Fair Food Program addresses,” states the searing letter sent April 8th by NESRI and leading human rights organizations to James McCann, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Ahold-USA — less than a week before the supermarket giant’s annual general meeting in Amsterdam.
Amnesty International USA, the U.S. Human Rights Network, the Poverty Initiative, and the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice joined NESRI in calling on Ahold to turn rhetoric about human rights into reality and join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program just two months after retail giant Walmart brought its considerable buying power into this corporate accountability campaign designed and implemented by farmworkers.
Royal Dutch Ahold owns the US supermarkets Stop ‘n Shop, Giant, Martin’s and Peapod, and has repeatedly refused to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and NESRI began engaging the corporation back in 2007, but executives have insisted that the company’s own “standards of engagement” for its suppliers are sufficient. Yet these standards set a low-bar of simply “obeying applicable laws,” are devoid of clear measures for monitoring and enforcement, lack both transparency and independent oversight, and ultimately, are about public relations—not accountability.
Even as Ahold has remained intransigent and stubbornly refused to join the Fair Food Program, it expresses support for the United Nation’s core principles on the protection of human rights in corporate supply chains, leading the human rights organizations to write,
"Since October of 2010, Ahold has been a participant in the United Nation’s Global Compact. That would be an admirable engagement on Ahold’s part, if during that same period Ahold hadn't repeatedly refused to join the Fair Food Program, the very program singled out by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights for its exemplary adherence to the UN principles."
The letter continues, “Simultaneously claiming to support those principles in theory while refusing to adhere to them in practice is the very definition of hypocrisy. “
Will Ahold embrace a 21st century approach to human rights and match its words with actions by joining the Fair Food Program? NESRI, CIW and Dutch human rights activists will attend Ahold’s annual general meeting on April 16th, challenging Ahold to account for its morally untenable position. Prior to the meeting, just outside the doors where executives and shareholders are gathering, CIW & NESRI will host a press conference with concerned Dutch allies to highlight the emptiness of Ahold’s posture and demand the corporation embrace real workplace accountability to human rights standards.
Throughout the week beginning April 14th, Lucas Benitez, co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Joe Parker of the Student Farmworker Alliance and Peter Sabonis, Director of NESRI's Work with Dignity Program, will be in the Netherlands, speaking with concerned Ahold shareholders, interviewing with the media, and joining with Dutch allies for an educational forum at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at the Hague. Watch for NESRI tweets and blog updates throughout the week.