Our commitment to protect and respect people and communities
The complex journey of an agricultural commodity passes through farmland, villages, ports and factories, sometimes in the world’s most remote corners. Inevitably this work impacts tens of thousands of people.
Whether directly or indirectly involved, COFCO International wants these impacts to be as positive as possible. This philosophy has defined the company’s approach to human rights and labour when buying, storing, processing, transporting and trading agricultural goods around the world.
“We believe that our business interests can go hand in hand with interests of the environment, the people and the communities we work with,” says Wei Peng, COFCO International’s Head of Sustainability.
“That’s why, ever since our company was set up, we embedded the respect for labour and human rights into policies that govern both our own operations and our relationships with business partners and suppliers.”
To ensure these commitments are met, COFCO International continuously monitors and reassesses the key human and labour rights issues that are relevant to its operations, supply chains, and rightsholders.
“Establishing whether we might cause, contribute to, or be linked to any adverse impacts either through our own operations or through our business relationships is a top priority,” Peng says.
From fair labour practices, health and safety through to indigenous rights and gender issues, COFCO International is working to establish a systematic approach to human rights in its value chain. In early 2020, the company partnered with BSR, an independent sustainable business non-profit organisation, to conduct a corporate human rights impact assessment of COFCO International’s global operations and key supply chains.
The exercise identified key potential risks and gaps, and recommended ways to prioritise and address them (see case study below: Human Rights Impact Assessment).
Traceability key to human rights
Traceability, the ability to track a product back to its point of origin, is critical to building supplier profiles, including their track record on human rights.
The company has been investing heavily into the traceability of its key commodity supply chains. For example, it has committed to achieve full traceability of its direct soy sourcing across Brazil by 2023.
“We have mobilised a lot of resources to engage with suppliers, establishing links between individual contracts and specific farm plots,” says Peng.
“The more information we have about the origins of our products, the better positioned we are to take meaningful action and to leverage our influence for human rights and other sustainability issues.”
Upstream, COFCO International will focus on solutions either through direct intervention with its suppliers or by leveraging the collective power of buyers, customers, and multi-stakeholder initiatives. It will also look to improve oversight and visibility of its freight, ground transport, and logistics operations.
“Responsible supply chains can only be achieved if all players work together,” Peng says.
“That’s why we need to mobilise and engage the right platforms that will help the industry take collective action towards responsible supply chains.”