Last month I had a big rant at Tesco in “We’ve Got Beef” because they were complaining about only making 4 billion pounds in profit in the last year. So reading this report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation it seemed all the more distasteful that the Tesco fat cats were whining about a 1% drop in profits whilst allowing people in their supply chains to be subject to inhumane treatment and conditions.
It’s not just Tesco this time though, it’s about all the big businesses involved in our food industry who don’t do enough to address supply chain issues or ensure that employment agencies aren’t exploiting workers.
At worse the conditions and experiences uncovered in this report amount to forced labour and exploitation, at best it’s more evidence of casually putting profit before people.
The report explains that “In food production, conditions are shaped by the competitive pressures that large suppliers and their customers (retailers) place on employers.”
That might be how it is, but we certainly think it’s a long way from how it Should be. It’s not defensible with that lazy excuse of “that’s just business” – nobody should have to suffer, be exploited or abused just so we can buy cheap supermarket ready meals and the like.
hiSbe thinks that the need for a Supermarket watchdog is long overdue. We strongly support the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill and hope an adjudicator will have the power to force retailers to be transparent about how they do business, and will hold them accountable for all their dodgy practices, not least the exploitation of supply chain workers.
In the meantime we are grateful for the work of Ethical Consumer, and recommend their free Ethical Buyer’s Guide to Supermarkets as a great source of information to help you make the choices that feel right for you.