Bad CSR report for UK supermarkets

UK NGO ActionAid accuses big supermarkets of exploiting female workers in developing countries. The EU should establish EU-wide legislation to curb the damaging effects of supermarket buying power, the report recommends.

Large UK supermarkets are doing well because they pay low wages and deny basic human rights to female workers in the world’s poorest countries, says the report produced by UK development charity ActionAid.

The report calls for binding legislation because voluntary initiatives are not working. It recommends that the UK government set up an independent supermarket regulator and would like the EU to establish EU-wide legislation to curb the “damaging effects of supermarket buying-power”.

“The big four supermarkets are increasingly eager to prove their ethical credentials to their customers. In reality, the supermarkets’ ever-growing profits are boosted by the scandalously low wages and appalling conditions suffered by the women who produce the food and clothes we buy every day,” said Claire Melamed, head of trade and corporates at ActionAid.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) trade association dismisses allegations that retailers are making large profits at the expense of low paid, badly treated labour in the developing world. They argue that standards in factories located in developing countries will often “surpass those in Europe and America to a significant degree”, and that “Only the best will do in terms of price or quality and this must be built on total trust in ethical and environmental standards.” 

Finally, the BRC warns that “If our suppliers are not able to meet these standards, which are rigorously audited, contracts are ended and business is taken elsewhere.”

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