Our approach to human rights

Creating Shared Value
 

How we manage our human rights issues

Our business is built on strong principles and sound governance. Within Nestlé, we have set out clear roles and responsibilities to ensure respect for human rights is reflected at every level of our business. Our system of boards and committees is key to this, continually assessing our progress and leading the strategic implementation of human rights work.

At the Board of Directors level, the Nomination and Sustainability Committee ensures the company carries out Human Rights Due Diligence and reports on its most severe risks to human rights, including how the company is addressing those risks.

The responsibility for Human Rights Due Diligence at the Executive Board level lies with our General Counsel, who is also in charge of Corporate Governance and Compliance.

Our human rights work has been driven by our Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) program. Through the HRDD program, we regularly review our salient issues, identify where and how we can make a positive impact, and select the appropriate actions and interventions to make.

The HRDD program currently comprises the following eight components.

Respect for human rights is woven into the fabric of our daily operations through some of our 36 commitments. These commitments are based on our Corporate Business Principles and are continually reviewed as goals are achieved or as the challenges we face change.

Since 2011, we have revised 18 different corporate policies, standards and commitments to incorporate the relevant human rights elements and language where they matter most for us, e.g. Nestlé’s Corporate Business Principles, Responsible Sourcing Standard, Employee Relations Policy, Consumers’ Communication Policy, Privacy Policy and, most recently, our Global Parental Support Policy.

Nestlé policy commitments (pdf, 100Kb)

Collaboration is at the heart of our approach to human rights, as we believe only by working with a wide range of stakeholders can we gain access to the expertise and insights we need to make the biggest impact. Through initiatives and sessions, we work with NGOs, rights holders and others to further develop our policies and procedures and improve our performance on the ground.

We are committed to engaging with stakeholders, including local communities, who are, or could be, affected by our business activities.

Since 2011, we have engaged with thousands of stakeholders through our stakeholder convenings, active participation in different forums and conferences, and one-on-one interactions with global and local community support officers.

We have partnered with some of the most expert organizations, starting with the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) back in 2010 and then with the Fair Labor Association (cocoa and hazelnuts) and Verité (seafood, palm oil and coffee).

Employee training is fundamental to promoting human rights, and we aim to train all of our employees on this topic. Our training programs raise awareness of human rights issues among employees and develop their skills in dealing with them.

Since 2011, we have trained 282 532 employees on human rights globally (vs. 273 085 total number of employees at the end of 2020), starting with those in high-risk countries in terms of human rights. In 2019, we launched a new online training tool, extended the training to all countries where we have operations and made it a mandatory training element as part of the induction program for all new employees. As our commitment came to an end, we analyzed data at country level, and have identified a handful of countries with gaps in terms of percentage of employees trained. These are mainly low-risk countries with a substantial number of factory workers with no access to computer and where face-to-face training was made difficult in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions. We will ensure that we close the gap in these countries by the end of 2021.

The risks of human rights abuses arising in our business activities are continually assessed, monitored and reviewed. This gives us a clear understanding of the landscape and allows us to proactively manage risk and address impacts.

We have integrated human rights risks within our Enterprise Risk Management Framework and within our Market Compliance Committees.

In addition, we have previously conducted 13 human rights impact assessments in high-risk countries together with the DIHR (these were completed before 2018 and are not new activity).

Salient human rights issues are those human rights issues that stand out because they are at risk of the most severe negative impact through the company’s activities or business relationships. This concept of salience uses the lens of risk to people, not the business, as the starting point, while recognizing that where risks to people’s human rights are greatest, there is strong convergence with risk to the business.

Since 2011, based on the many risk and impact assessments we have carried out at the corporate level and on the ground, we have identified 11 human rights issues that are the most salient and developed dedicated action plans to address them.

Nestlé policy commitments (pdf, 0.1Mb)

Our business is built on strong principles and sound governance. Within Nestlé, we have set out clear roles and responsibilities to ensure respect for human rights is reflected at every level of our business. Our system of boards and committees is key to this, continually assessing our progress and leading the strategic implementation of human rights work.

At the Board of Directors level, the Nomination and Sustainability Committee ensures the company carries out Human Rights Due Diligence and reports on its most severe risks to human rights, including how the company is addressing those risks.

The responsibility for Human Rights Due Diligence at the Executive Board level lies with our General Counsel, who is also in charge of Corporate Governance and Compliance.

A key part of addressing human rights issues is ensuring grievance mechanisms are available to rights holders. Our HRDD program helps us to identify and enable effective remediation. How this works varies across countries and industries, and we seek to do what we can to ensure remediation is always available.

We’re transparent about our commitments, as well as achievements and the challenges we still face on the ground, and we continually report on our progress and performance. This holds us publicly accountable for our promises and enables us to regularly review our priorities.

 

Human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

People are at the heart of our work to support the UN SDGs. In an effort to gain a better understanding of the links between our 11 salient human rights issues and specific SDGs and targets, our partner, the DIHR, has carried out initial research using their Human Rights Guide to the SDGs database and qualitative assessment, ranking the linkage from strong to medium. The DIHR also provided high-level recommendations on how we can ensure coherence and synergies between our HRDD program and our sustainable development strategy.

This graphic shows the link between Nestlé’s 11 salient issues and the UN SDGs, reflecting our commitment to respect and promote human rights in our business activities.

Infographic on SDGs mapped to salient issues

 

Sustainable Development Goals

The color blocks show the corresponding goal as indicated below:

The 17 sustainable development goals

 

Collaborating for transformation

Addressing the complex human rights challenges in our agricultural supply chains cannot be addressed by one company alone. Transformation requires collaboration with industry partners and other stakeholders, including civil society and governments. This is why we actively participate in different industry and multi-stakeholder platforms, including the Consumer Goods Forum’s Human Rights Coalition of Action, the Responsible Business Alliance’s Responsible Labor Initiative and the Institute for Human Rights and Business’s Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment.

Our salient human rights issues

We are determined to address our salient human rights issues wherever they arise.

Defined in 2014 and 2015, our 11 salient human rights issues are those issues that stand out because of their significant potential negative impact (or ‘salience’) through our activities or business relationships.

This concept of salience begins from the perspective of risk to people, not the business, while recognizing that where risks to people’s human rights are greatest, there is strong convergence with risk to the business.

Our 11 salient human rights issues infographic

We have robust systems in place to ensure we can address compliance breaches and give people who work for us, as well as external stakeholders, the ability to report grievances. The challenge remains in setting up effective grievance mechanisms in remote areas, where access to technology is limited and the culture of reporting noncompliances absent.

Clean water for food, sanitation and hygiene is a basic human right, and we’re dedicated to ensuring people have access to it. Three in 10 people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and 6 in 10 lack access to safely managed sanitation facilities.

Leveraging our supply chain partners and collaborating with other key stakeholders, we’re dedicated to addressing child labor in our supply chains. Approximately 152 million children are victims of child labor worldwide, and half of those are engaged in hazardous work.

Upholding ethical principles in our business and throughout our value chain is fundamental to how we operate and underpins consumer trust and our license to operate. The right to privacy is embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and this applies to personal data too.

Labor rights are at the core of many of our salient issues, and we’re implementing wide-ranging programs to ensure good conditions for workers in our supply chain. In 2016, 24.9 million people were trapped in forced labor around the world (ILO). Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labor.

The freedom to join trade unions and bargain collectively is at the core of worker' rights. We aim to support all our employees in being members of unions, while promoting freedom of association in our supply chain.

Because we work with farming communities around the world, land rights is an ever-present issue. We’re dedicated to remaining vigilant against any invasion of rights and upholding people’s rights to land and resources. Read about an example of our work in this area within our palm oil supply chain.

Everyone is entitled to fair work, and a living wage is an essential component of this. A living wage is what an individual needs to earn to live a decent life and to participate fully in society.

Our approach toward employees’ health is holistic, including physical and mental health dimensions and addressing both work- and non-work-related aspects of health. There are 2.78 million work-related deaths per year, and poor health and safety costs about 3.94% of global GDP (ILO).

We are dedicated to securing good conditions for workers throughout our supply chain. Many of those around the world who are in work are forced to deal with poor accommodation and a lack of basic services. Read about an example of our work within our sugar supply chain.

We’re dedicated to guaranteeing labor rights for all people who work with or for us, directly or indirectly. Working time is a key element of this. Excessive working hours can be detrimental to the health of individuals and families.

Our approach

We have developed an action plan for each of these issues – except for Land Acquisition, in which we work on individual cases, such as in palm oil – which allows us to systematically identify, resolve and eliminate human rights abuses where we find them. Reflecting the unique challenges of each issue, these action plans allow us to focus our work and achieve results in steady, measurable ways.

Within Nestlé, our salient issues are always monitored and under regular discussion. We also work with our partners – organizations like the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the Fair Labor Association and Earthworm – to continually review the situation in our supply chains. This enables us to review our action plans and ensure that they are as effective as they can be.

We are also vigilant to new or emerging issues, and these are captured through the boards and committees that are dedicated to monitoring our human rights work.

We are committed to remedying adverse impacts on individuals, workers and communities that we cause or to which we contribute. In addition to our own internal and external grievance mechanisms (Integrity Reporting System and Tell us), we collaborate with business partners as well as local NGOs and authorities to improve access to remedy in our upstream supply chain, including the development of third-party non-judicial mechanisms such as worker helplines.

Human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) and CARE audits allow us to gain a deeper knowledge of the issues, and how we can address them. We are also aware of the limitations of audits and are determined to strengthen the action plans that we have in place.

Human rights in our supply chains

Most of our salient issues occur in our agricultural supply chains. We have developed a range of tools to address these issues, with traceability, transparency and action plans going hand in hand. In May 2017, we published our Labor Rights Roadmap (pdf, 606Kb), based on the HRIAs and CARE audits that we conducted. This showed that each of our raw material supply chains faces its own challenges, with some human rights issues being prominent in particular countries.

Below we have mapped which salient issues are most relevant to each of our raw materials. This enables us to be transparent about the challenges we face, and to prioritize how and where we act.

Salient issues in our coffee supply chain include land acquisition, making sure workers receive a living wage, and ensuring they have adequate accommodation and access to basic services. We’re committed to continuously improving our green coffee supply chain, and to helping coffee growers deal with the challenges they face sustainably through programs like the Nescafé Plan and the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program.

Read more about our commitment to continuously improve our green coffee supply chain.

Salient issues in our dairy supply chain include ensuring the safety and health of workers, and making sure they have access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

Read more about our dairy supply chain.

Salient issues in our soya supply chain include protecting workers’ safety and health in the workplace, making sure they have adequate accommodation and access to basic services, and ensuring workers across our value chain receive a living wage.

Read more about our soya supply chain.

Salient issues in our sugar supply chain include combating the challenge of forced labor, helping to ensure fair and reasonable working time for workers in our value chain, and protecting workers’ safety and health in the workplace.

Read more about our sugar supply chain.

Salient issues within our cereals and grains supply chain include helping ensure workers have adequate accommodation and access to basic services, and making sure workers have a living wage.

Read more about our cereals and grains supply chain.

Salient issues in our meat, poultry and eggs supply chain include protecting workers’ safety and health in the workplace, and ensuring workers across our value chain receive a living wage.

Read more about our meat, poultry and eggs supply chain.

Salient issues in our fish and seafood supply chain include combating the challenge of forced labor, helping to ensure fair and reasonable working time for workers in our value chain, and protecting workers’ safety and health in the workplace.

Read more about our fish and seafood supply chain.

Salient issues in our vegetables supply chain include protecting the safety and health of workers, making sure workers receive a living wage, and ensuring they have adequate accommodation and access to basic services.

Read more about our vegetable supply chain.

We are still in an early stage of responsible sourcing for coconut. We have identified several key challenges, including vulnerable livelihoods of smallholder landowners due to low yields, low income, lack of market information and extreme weather events. There is also a lack of access to basic services such as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and schooling, and a risk of unsafe working conditions.

Read more about our coconut supply chain.

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