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Naturland

11th April, 2019, marks the centenary of the foundation of the ILO

Herr Wu 350 233Social responsibility was always an intrinsic element of the Naturland policy on organic agriculture, from the very start. In 2005 Naturland enshrined this philosophy in its social standards so as to make adherence to these standards along the entire value chain subject to scrutiny.

Naturland’s social standards are partially based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as on the Core Labour Standards of the ILO (International Labour Organization). This latter body started operations exactly 100 years ago, its aim being to achieve global peace through social justice, an admirable but also extremely ambitious goal.

The ILO core labour standards provide important impetus
During the course of its hundred years of existence, the ILO has been the source of important incentives, with its core labour standards on the freedom of association and the right to organise, the elimination of forced labour, the abolition of child labour and the prohibition of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation, along with a further 189 conventions and 204 recommendations. However, ratification of the ILO standards is still to this day totally voluntary. Admittedly, all 138 members states affirmed their commitment to the core labour standards in 1998, but little has changed since then with respect to the situation of small-scale farmers and farmhands in many countries. Child labour and forced labour, hazardous working conditions and wages below subsistence level are still not uncommon and continue to exacerbate global poverty. There is also no guarantee that fundamental human rights are actually being respected, particularly along the agricultural supply chain.

The Naturland social standards promote good working conditions worldwide

Naturland was aware of this situation at an early stage and so expanded its organic standards in 2005 to include aspects of social responsibility to enable the social conditions found on all production units and processing facilities throughout the world to be scrutinised in the course of inspection in order to qualify for certification to the Naturland standards. The social standards impose detailed requirements of the working conditions and the welfare schemes provided for all the workers. These include the prohibition of all forms of forced labour and the strengthening of democratic structures by assuring freedom of assembly and access to trade unions. Other key issues comprise measures adopted to protect the workers’ health and safety at the work place and opportunities for further training. The standards also give a clear definition of what is acceptable in cases where children are required to work. Child labour is a reality for millions of children. Naturland cannot eliminate it but it can provide a frame of reference to exclude exploitative forms of child labour and ensure that the children can attend school and that the work does not have a detrimental affect on their physical and mental development.
Every country has its own institutional, economic and cultural characteristics which create vast differences in the working conditions of small-scale farmers and farm hands throughout the world. This means that Naturland, which is an international association, has to tackle these peculiarities on a daily basis and to register the workers’ particular requirements and social conditions by paying visits to members’ farms and factories throughout the world. In addition, Naturland invests a great deal of time in training inspectors to make a correct assessment of social standards on site. Scrutinisation of social standards requires diplomacy and a well-trained eye.

Only binding laws can afford protection to small-scale farmers and farm hands world-wide

It is clear that the labour conditions of workers throughout the world can only be improved if the ILO’s core labour standards are recognised as legally binding and an infrastructure is developed to enable compliance with these standards to be monitored. Furthermore, globally operative enterprises must be held accountable to ensure that they discharge their duty of care. Great Britain, France and Australia have already made great strides in this direction. They make enterprises legally obliged to respect human rights along the entire value chain. Germany is dragging its feet here. It is true that Gerd Müller, the German minister of development, has presented a draft of a value chain law but the government coalition is still thwarting his initiative at the moment. Naturland is already one step ahead and is calling for all those involved, from the producer to the processor, to be included in the monitoring of compliance with organic and social standards. This means that products certified to the Naturland standards simultaneously adhere to social standards along the entire value chain.
It is one hundred years since the ILO’s foundation but there is still much that remains to be done. Climate change will present the ILO with new challenges, such as migration. Another topic to be tackled in the future will be living wages, an issue which will make particular demands of both the ILO and Naturland.

 

Read more about our social standards here: Naturland social responsibility