Land rights

a woman farmer on her agricultural land
COMMITMENT ON LAND RIGHTS: Secure rights to land and natural resources are an essential element to achieve rural development.

Land acquisition has become a high-profile issue in recent years due to concerns about acquisitions that are illegal or have an adverse impact on local communities’ livelihoods (land grabs), human rights and local food security.

Nestlé does not directly acquire or lease agricultural land, though we do acquire land for factory sites and some small demonstration farms. We do also buy commodities such as palm oil, soya and sugar, which are some of the common commodities driving land acquisition.

Several reports on the topic over the last 18 months, including one from Oxfam in October 2013, titled “Sugar Rush” into land tenure and supply chains, explored food and beverage companies’ land rights policies relating to sugar, palm oil and soya. Focusing on sugar cane production in particular, the Sugar Rush report calls on companies to acknowledge the problem and take steps to ensure that land rights violations and conflicts are not part of their supply chains.

What we’re doing

  • Nestlé believes that land grabs are being facilitated by weak land rights. We have made land rights one of our major areas of focus in our work on rural development and released our Nestlé Commitment on Land and Land Rights (pdf, 1.43 Mb) in July 2014.

    We have put in place a comprehensive approach to address the problem of land grabs during the last few years. Land acquisition is explicitly included in our annual risk assessment, at both corporate and country levels, and we have identified high-risk countries and commodities that we pay particular attention to.

  • Our Responsible Sourcing Guideline (pdf, 2 Mb), which covers the sourcing of sugar, soya, palm oil and other commodities, makes a reference to land use rights and to the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). The work of our partners such as The Forest Trust includes assessments of our suppliers to determine the status of land ownership and any land conflicts, and ensure that the FPIC principles are applied during the due diligence process leading to any new land acquisition.

Next steps

  • Based on an assessment of existing land databases, the countries with the highest number of land acquisitions during the period from 2005-2012 are:
    Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mozambique, Russia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania and Ukraine. More recently Liberia, Gabon and Cameroon have become important for palm oil expansion.

    The commodities that are listed as most likely to be grown are:
    Palm Oil, Corn/Maize, Rice, Sugar/Sugar Cane and Wheat.

    Based upon this we have identified palm oil (relevant countries in SE Asia and Western Africa) and sugar (relevant countries in Indo-China and Eastern Africa) as being of material concern for Nestlé for land issues.

  • As regards security of land tenure for small-holders, we are assessing the status of land tenure across our key Farmer Connect markets in a systematic manner, as part of the rollout of our Rural Development Framework. The scope of this work covers three specific aspects of land tenure: where farmers have no land; where farmers have land but weak security; and where farmers have land certificates though this is not equitably shared between men and women.

    The countries where Nestlé plans to carry out the Rural Development Framework include:
    Cameroon, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Morocco, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Brazil, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Turkey.

    The Rural Development Framework has already been carried out in Côte d’Ivoire to assess cocoa, coffee and cassava farmers (Côte d’Ivoire is a top 3 sourcing country for cocoa), China, and Vietnam (a top 3 sourcing country for coffee). In Côte d’Ivoire the fieldwork and assessment was carried out by the University of Yamoussoukro. In China the fieldwork and assessment was carried out by Kunming AKW Consulting Company, and in Vietnam by Rainforest Alliance. In all cases farmers and communities were directly involved in the data gathering through community consultation exercises.

    In China all farmers supplying Nestlé with coffee have land use certificates. However in Vietnam the proportion of farmers with land use certificates varies according to the livelihood zone – varying from 35% to 100% (though mostly 80% or higher). In Côte d’Ivoire 58% of land holders have secure tenure.

    A longer description of the Rural Development Framework is provided here (pdf, 232Kb)

    We anticipate making available public summary reports on Rural Development for these countries.

Related content

Find out more in our Creating Shared Value full report