What’s “Behind the Brands” of the World’s 10 Biggest Food and Beverage Companies?

After years of receiving evaluations from school or work, it’s time for you to give a report card. That’s right- Oxfam, one of the leading international non-profits battling poverty and social injustice, created a Company Score Card for the world’s ten largest food and beverage companies. Let me emphasize: Oxfam is grading THE WORLD’S ten largest food and beverage companies, and it needs your help. Read more to learn who these ten companies are and what you can do to improve their score…

Have you ever heard about Mondelez, International? Maybe not, but I bet you’ve chewed some of their Trident gum, or perhaps munched on one of their Cadbury Creme Eggs around Easter. You’ll be surprised to learn how many of your favorite brands are actually subsections within larger corporations. Lay’s Chips, for example, is owned by Pepsico; Uncle Ben’s is owned by Mars; Ben & Jerry’s is owned by Unilever.

This is certainly not to say that any of these companies are “bad”- let’s get rid of the notion that all big corporations are intrinsically evil. I would argue that Oxfam’s Behind the Brands movement supports the notion that the world’s biggest enterprises are fully capable of making positive social and environmental change- they could even be key.

Behind the Brands is a part of the Oxfam GROW Campaign, a campaign whose vision is to end world hunger. After looking into information made public by the “Big Ten”, Oxfam created a Scorecard that synthesizes their findings and evaluates how well each business is responding to paramount issues in food security and fair trade.

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As you click and navigate through the Scorecard, you can learn more about why the brands scored the way they did in each area and compare them against one another.

The Scorecard assesses seven “themes” on a ten point scale based on a company’s awareness, knowledge, commitments to, and supply chain management of the following issues:

“1. Transparency at a corporate level
2. Women farm workers and small-scale producers in the supply chain
3. Workers on farms in the supply chain
4. Farmers (small-scale) growing the commodities
5. Land, both rights and access to land and  sustainable use of it
6. Water, both rights and access to water resources and sustainable use of it
7. Climate, both relating to reducing green house gas emissions and helping farmers adapt to climate  change”.

Unfortunately, when you take a look at the scorecard, you come to realize that each of these companies have a long way to go.

Nestle, having received the highest overall score of the ten brands (64%) as of February 2014, only received 5 of 10 points regarding Land and Women. Furthermore, it was only one of two brands to score an 8 of 10 in any of the seven categories. Sadly, General Mills came in last, scoring 2’s across the board with the exception of Women, in which it scored a low of 1 (for some context, General Mills supplies Green Giant vegetables, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Cheerios and Betty Crocker among other sub-labels).

Oxfam has done all the research. Now it’s your turn. I encourage you to go to http://www.behindthebrands.org/ and make an online signature to support a change in at least one of these companies’ business ethics, or visit http://www.behindthebrands.org/en/about to learn more about Behind the Brands or access briefing papers, open datasheets, and a methodology summary of the investigation.

If you’re interested in labels and where your food comes from, check out What the “USDA Organic” Label really means, or learn more about the different certification labels found on coffee and wine. You could also watch go green cuisine’s first video, “Lobby Shop Investigation”,  to take a tour with me in the convenience store on Holy Cross’ campus!

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