Oxfam, an international aid organization, has made an official complaint to the German Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (BAFA), alleging German supermarkets Rewe and Edeka disregard evidence of human rights abuses from their suppliers, according to BNN.
The accusation asserts that Edeka and Rewe are indifferent to evidence of deplorable working conditions, low wages, and suppression of trade unions on South American banana and pineapple plantations.
A group effort for justice
The complaint is echoed by numerous organizations that all speak out against forced labor and human rights violations in South America. These entities include the Ecuadorian plantation workers union Astac, the Catholic relief organization Misereor, and the European Center for Constitutional Human Rights. The human rights and labor abuses are described as:
“Workers grappling with starvation wages and forced labor amidst the toxic fumes of pesticide sprays. Union members daring to voice these atrocities allegedly face termination or ill-treatment.”
As a defense, the supermarkets assert their commitment to preserving human rights in their supply chains by providing certifications and seals of approval. However, the validity of those certifications and seals is being questioned as part of the official complaint.
A test of Germany’s Supply Chain Act
In 2023, the German parliament approved the Federal Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains. The Act imposes extensive new obligations on companies about human rights in international supply chains. It applies to companies in Germany with more than 3000 employees. The companies that fall within the requirements of this Act must conduct a risk analysis, establish a risk management system, implement a grievance mechanism, and publicly report on these efforts. If a company fails to meet the requirements, it may face severe fines and exclude companies from public tenders.
This case will be looked at as a litmus test of the success of this legislation. The case demonstrates the seriousness and persistence of human rights abuses within global supply chains that permeate corporations and governments worldwide. Hopefully, the outcome of this case will set a precedent for companies that deal with global supply chains and push the needle on corporate responsibility and fair trade everywhere.
Freedom United has been fighting for businesses to be held accountable for human rights abuses. Join us by taking action in calling for all governments to pass human rights due diligence laws.