Sucafina has a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of forced labor, including child labor. The fragmented nature of our coffee supply chain means that our policy commitments are frequently challenged, and we are always working to improve the tools at our disposal to combat malpractice.
Whilst we would never knowingly engage with parties who disregard our Labor and Human Rights policies or our Code of Conduct, we will always work with farmers who have a genuine desire to improve. We are proud of the work we do in sustainability and will continue to use our position as a supply chain partner to advocate for responsible sourcing.
In Brazil we screen all our suppliers and partners using the public database administered by the Brazilian authorities to make sure we never work with sanctioned entities and persons (c.f. Cadastro de empregadores que tenham submetido trabalhadores a condições análogas à de escravo, better known as “Lista Suja Trabalho Escravo”, issued by the Ministry of Labour).
Beyond that we have implemented policies and solutions to further screen our suppliers (even if they are not declared in the “Lista”):
- A Group Code of Conduct that is based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights;
- We regularly visit our suppliers in the field to assure ourselves of their ethical operating conditions;
- All our contracts contain a specific clause (among others) concerning forced labor that all suppliers must agree to abide by if they want to work with us.
In the last twelve months we undertook the following actions to further strengthen our control on human rights issues:
- We commissioned a full external review of our existing policies;
- We improved our Labor and Human Rights policy;
- We updated our existing Supplier Code of Conduct;
– We held online training sessions on human rights to sensitize employees to human rights challenges (including one session hosted by the Group CEO);
– We engaged with the Swiss Coffee and Trading Association (SCTA) and State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) to divert IDH (The Sustainable Trade Initiative (Foundation)) grant funding towards human rights due diligence project financing in Colombia;
– We fully overhauled our Global grievance & whistleblowing mechanism in 100% of locations worldwide to make it available anonymously to all of our stakeholders (including those outside of our Group).
We are conscious that we must collectively do more to address this systemic issue, and we can’t do it alone. The coffee industry, governments, NGOs, and civil society must work together to tackle the issues.
Our website, www.sucafina.com, has additional information about our sustainability programs, including more detail about our approach to sustainability. We also refer you to our news blog and social media for further information.
The latest lot of coffee purchased by Lavazza Group from the cooperative Cocatrel (Cooperativa dos Cafeicultores da Zona de Três Pontas) has been done in February 2021 – before the publishing of your reporting -, with shipment in October 2021.
The Group is doing all the appropriate investigations and evaluations on Cocatrel, that is a very marginal supplier for the Lavazza Group, representing the 1% of the total amount of coffee purchased in Brasil.
At Lavazza Group we commit to respect, protect and promote Human Rights: it is something not negotiable to us. We have zero tolerance toward human rights violations, and we strive to achieve the highest standard of people care, with the upmost commitment and the best resources available.
Furthermore, in view of the company’s support for the UN 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Lavazza has also identified Goals 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and Goal 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production) as two of its four priority SGDs, with a commitment to pursue them while developing its business strategy and in all sustainability programmes.
Globally, Lavazza’s business is based on a responsible supply and procurement chain: in 2017, we updated the Supplier Code of Conduct by introducing the Children’s Rights and Business Principles developed by Save The Children, UNICEF and UN Global Compact; the same year, we reviewed the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) criteria for supplier qualification, which provide a further tool to ensure compatibility with the standards established by our Group.
Basing on these principles and those expressed in the Lavazza Supplier Code of Conduct, since 2016 all our green coffee suppliers are invited to acknowledge and confirm that no coffee for Lavazza comes from plantations included in the “Transparency List on Contemporary Slavery in Brazil” issued by Danwatch, nor by plantations or suppliers who may not fully comply with the law. We can confirm that also Cocatrel acknowledged, accepted and signed the conditions of the mentioned documents.
This commitment is renewed on an ongoing basis, involving employees, associates and supply chains, but also partnerships: with local institutions in producer countries; with outstanding organizations like Save The Children – Lavazza’s partner for 20 years -, Rainforest Alliance and Oxfam; at pre-competitive level, eg. with International Coffee Partners and Global Coffee Platform.
In Brazil, in particular, in the Minas Gerais area, in 2018, we started a project with Global Coffee Platform, a multi-stakeholder membership association of coffee producers, trade, roasters, retailers, sustainability standards and civil society, governments and donors, united under a common vision to work collectively towards a thriving, sustainable coffee sector for generations to come.
The name of this project is “Social Well-Being Collective Action Initiative”: it is a ground-breaking, multi-year project to improve the living and working conditions of coffee farmers and workers in the Coffee-Producing areas of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo, in Brazil. The initiative aims to: identify and change social practices that cause degrading labor conditions; increase education, awareness and collaboration to improve working conditions; monitor progress and impact using field tools and information management systems; create long-term benefits at field level for coffee farmers and workers.
This initiative is shaped by Global Coffee Platform Brazil with coordination from Cecafé (Brazilian Coffee Exporters Council) and InPACTO (National Pact for the Eradication of Slave Work Institute).
Furthermore, in 2020 Lavazza decided to use an external system for monitoring the sustainability performance of suppliers: the EcoVadis platform. This allows companies to monitor the sustainability performance of their suppliers, manage supply chain risks and propose improvement plans to the suppliers themselves. EcoVadis sends customized questionnaires to suppliers based on specific indicators, such as the number of workers, country of origin and commodity sector. Based on the responses and documentation and on 360° watch feature, suppliers are assigned both a general score on the company’s performance, as well as a specific score on sustainability issues.
Finally, should one of our suppliers become involved in conduct contrary to our policies and codes of conduct, following timely and appropriate checks, we will implement support and corrective activities and, in case of negative feedback, we will immediately exclude this supplier from our supply chain.
We as Neumann Kaffee Gruppe (NKG) are well aware of our responsibilities in the countries we operate in. We always act with respect for and in compliance with fundamental rights and national legislation.
NKG does not tolerate any form of human rights violations like forced labor, including human trafficking and slavery-like practices. NKG is committed to eliminating forced labor and any other form of labor rights violations within our sphere of influence. No company of NKG, including Rothfos Corporation, would knowingly purchase coffee produced by farms that violate human rights or local law.
Our local trading partners Nutrade and Cocatrel have assured that they do not trade coffee from producers who are on the ‘Lista Suja’. Business relationships with suppliers on the list are automatically terminated. Furthermore, no relationships will be established with such suppliers after the publication of the list.
Since 2017, we as NKG have written down our values and beliefs as the basis of our business in our NKG Code of Conduct; this is an integral part of our value-oriented corporate culture. In order to continue to fulfill our responsibility for a growing, sustainable coffee industry in the future, we have, among other things, launched the NKG Responsible Business Program. The program sets specific goals that define responsible and sustainable business practices at NKG.
One of our key objectives is “Growing impact in our supply chains”. NKG is committed to creating transparency and sustainability in our coffee supply chains. Our program NKG Verified, for example, includes traceability and compliance with critical criteria, such as worst forms of child labor, forced labor and deforestation.
Furthermore, to foster responsibility for our conventional supply chains, we are introducing our Supply Chain Integrity Program (SCIP). The program follows a systematic approach to work with our key suppliers on fair labor conditions in origins and entails the commitment to shared values, assessments of human rights risks, agreements on improvement measures and access to a grievance mechanism for groups and persons that face human rights violations linked to or caused by NKG activities.
Responded by Konrad Brits, chief executive officer
My name is Konrad. I am the founder and CEO of Falcon Coffees. While your email was a shock for us to receive, I did want to thank you for providing us the opportunity to respond and “state our case”. This is a damning report of the abuse of vulnerable people in coffee. Much of our work and purpose as a business is about addressing the vulnerabilities and trying to improve the quality of the lives of people who work in coffee supply chains.
While I am not offering this fact as any kind of defence, you should know that prior to receiving your email, we were entirely unaware of this report and more importantly, its findings with regard to a farm in one of the supply chains Falcon sources coffee from.
Since receiving your email, we have taken the following action:
Generated a report from our traceability database to identify any coffees we have purchased from this farm and cooperative.
Immediately written to the leadership of the cooperative with a series of questions regarding their reactions, actions, internal communication, external communication and policies within the coop regarding matters of such a serious nature.
The Managing Director of our US office met with a senior representative of COCATREL last Saturday 9th April, to discuss this matter in person. (I have been travelling since Saturday as I am visiting my parents in South Africa, so I will catch up with Kevin, our US manager, later today).
With regard to your questions:
Repórter Brasil: Why Falcon would continue to buy from a coop named in such a terrible report?
Whether Falcon will continue to purchase coffee from a cooperative in an instance such as this will depend on the circumstances, the cooperatives policies and crucially, their response to such findings (or even allegations). As stated, Falcon did not know of this report (and one of my questions to the cooperative is to ask why, as a buyer, we were not immediately informed).
Grower organisations such as cooperatives, can have massive numbers of members. According the COCATREL website, they have 7000 members. We work with a Union of coops in Ethiopia that at one time claimed to have over 300,000 farmer members. As you know, the size of the geography such organisations cover is not only huge, but often mountainous with poor road infrastructure. Ensuring every member farm of a cooperative is compliant can be logistically challenging. With this in mind, if a single farm or small group of farms breaks local or international laws, or even the rules of their own organisations, as Falcon, we would not seek to punish all the other farmers in the supply chain by cutting all commercial relationships with that umbrella organisation. (Our purchase contracts are often used to trigger crucial pre-harvest finance for these communities).
Our response is as it is now. We expect the grower organisation in such circumstances to communicate clearly and honestly, to take action against those that have broken the rules/laws and to be seen to be taking effective steps to avoid the reoccurrence of these breaches/crimes. If we detect a lack of taking of responsibility (on their part) or a wilful denial or avoidance of responsibility, we will seek to terminate that relationship. This really is a final step as ultimately, we feel that our relationships are with the farmers and it is their well-being that our trade is intended to benefit.
In the instance, our records reflect that we have never purchased coffee from the named farm. This has also been confirmed to us in writing by the cooperative, COCATREL.
RB: Does Falcon Coffees have full capacity to trace the origins of coffee purchased from Brazil? Is all coffee imported by Falcon Coffees from Brazil certified?
Falcon currently sources coffee from 26 coffee growing countries around the world. We track our certified/verified and traceable volumes each year. We are currently at 87%. While our goal is to get to 100%, I’m not sure we will. For instance, over the last six years we have worked with 6000 vulnerable smallholder farming families in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in partnership with the East Congo Initiative (NGO). Eastern Congo is a war zone much of the time. Getting auditors in to collect credible data is a challenge. Most third part audit companies wouldn’t send staff in there for security reasons. So, while we initially could not count this coffee as certified or traceable, through this partnership we have tripled the household income of these families. As you can imagine, we feel deeply proud of this outcome.
Regarding Brazil and specifically COCATREL, the majority of what we purchased is either Fairtrade certified or Rainforest Alliance certified. The balance of our purchases from COCATREL are specialty grade coffees that come from single estate farms. (The attached contract is a good example of such purchases). While certifications are valuable in a number of ways, they are no guarantee against malpractices, even though farms are audited.
Falcon has developed a traceable database we call the Blueprint Database. We are using this to gather baseline and transactional data across our supply chains. It is for this reason we could run a report from our database to see whether we have sourced coffee from this farm.
So the answer is yes, through both the certification systems and our own traceability database, we constantly work to upgrade our traceability capabilities. We believe the advent of new, cheaper and more easily deployable digital technologies can only improve visibility into supply chains over time.
RB: What has Falcon Coffees done to prevent the use of forced labour in its supply chains?
Falcon has drafted a document that all suppliers must sign. This lists all the compliance standards Falcon requires from its suppliers. We call this our Supplier Guidelines. Please see a copy attached.
We attempt to personally visit each of our suppliers at least once every other year, if not every year. Due to the pandemic, this has not been possible since March of 2020.
Responded by Kevin Sullivan, managing director – North America
As Konrad mentioned below, I had a meeting with Cocatrel in person on Saturday. They confirmed our findings via our traceability system that no coffee from the farmer mentioned in the article was sold to Falcon. We also reviewed their internal processes and protocols (including the functionality of their Warehouse Management System to block and segment specific farmers). I know you are in touch with the leadership team at Cocatrel so I would urge you to connect with them so they can give you more information on their processes and systems.
List + Beisler
Responded by Philip von der Goltz, managing partner
We do not know you personally nor the Reporter Brasil organization. We never heard of the story published by your reporting team until now.
With all respect, there are endless articles – true or false, well or badly written, correctly or poorly researched – published almost every second. Are you seriously wondering why we did not read your report when it was published? Why would anybody in another part of the world read exactly yours when it was written in a foreign language (Brazilian) and also published in a different country (Brazil)?
List + Beisler has a clear code of conduct shared with suppliers and followed by all business partners. The code of conduct forbids any form of labor conditions that infringe on national (in this case, Brazilian) law and which are non-compliant with the conventions formulated by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Furthermore, we adhere to the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, the UN’s Convention on the Right of the Child, and the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Additionally, the code of conduct covers further social and ecological aspects. Sustainability is a core component of List + Beisler’s DNA.
List + Beisler never bought any coffee from the farms mentioned in your report. We will contact Coopecitrus and confront them with your allegations.
COCATREL informs all its business partners that Mr Job Carvalho de Brito Filho, enrolled in the CPF: XXX.XXX.XXX-XX [removed by Repórter Brasil], Laranjeiras Farm, is part of its membership and that he is temporarily suspended from the Cocatrel/CDT (Cocatrel Direct Trade) Partners Map and from its Certifications, in view of his involvement in a labour inspection that took place between July 23 and 30, 2021 at his coffee farm in the municipality of Ilicínea, now under investigation. This is a temporary suspension until the process is concluded by the inspection.
Cocatrel emphasizes through all its printed and digital media, as well as personally through the members of its Technical Department and its Sustainability Department that it frequently advises its members about the importance and need for all environmental and social norms and all legal obligations in effect regarding the subject to be respected and best practices to be adopted.”
Cocatrel’s export sector also informed the reporter that the exclusion of coffee grower Job Carvalho de Brito Filho from the cooperative’s certified coffee and export system took place on 7 August, but that he is still authorised to store his production at the cooperative.
The full notes and statements of producers and companies mentioned in the article “Certified producers and members of large cooperatives are among those involved in slave labour in the coffee sector” can be read here.