Pilgrim’s UK, a provider of high welfare pork globally, alongside its retail partners Waitrose and Co-op, has conducted a first-of-its-kind human rights impact assessment (HRIA) of its integrated pork and lamb supply chains.
The assessment is the first-of-its-kind for a livestock supply chain due to its scale and wide-ranging criteria. It spanned Pilgrim’s UK’s outdoor-bred pig farms and lamb farms, as well as the business’ processing and abattoir sites, from which Co-op and Waitrose source the majority of their pork and all of Waitrose’s lamb products.
To date, major HRIAs have only focused on high-risk commodity supply chains such as coffee, sugar and cocoa. This work aims help Pilgrim’s UK, Co-op and Waitrose’s gain a deeper understanding of how its practices are affecting farmers, workers and other stakeholders operating in UK pig and lamb supply chains, and the actions they can take to mitigate, prevent or remediate any identified impacts.
The assessment covered the period between October 2021 to February 2022, during which the UK pork industry faced the most severe challenges in its history, with labour shortages and the end of the Covid-19 pandemic being among factors that led to a significant backlog of pigs on farms.
In response to the findings, the businesses have published a joint Human Rights Action Plan, which is designed to raise awareness among stakeholders along the supply chain of health and safety training, mental health and wellbeing, gender discrimination and access to grievance systems.
Ongoing worker welfare visits will also continue to take place throughout the year to ensure high human rights standards are maintained. The Action Plan will be updated with progress reported on publicly.
Rachel Baldwin, HR VP at Pilgrim’s UK, said: “This is a major step towards a fully transparent and ethical supply chain, going beyond compliance. As one of Britain’s largest pork providers, we know it’s our responsibility to set a precedent so that others across the industry might develop similar practices.
“We’re committed to raising awareness of workers’ rights and, while the meat industry has historically come up against perception challenges in this area, we want to do all we can to overturn those challenges by going further in understanding our supply chains and supporting workers.”
People are a priority
Aisha Aswani, senior human rights and ethical trading manager Co-op said: “Looking after the people in our supply chain is a priority and we are proud to support this Human Rights Impact Assessment, building on our commitments to transparency and protecting vulnerable workers. True to our co-operative values, listening to workers and understanding the challenges they face is key to driving innovation in due diligence, creating genuine sustainable change, and ensuring that everyone producing our food gets a fair deal. We look forward to working with Pilgrim’s UK and key stakeholders to take action on the findings and together make a difference within the pork supply chain.”
John Gregson, ethics and sustainability advisor, Waitrose said: “We welcome the HRIA report which reflects the challenges faced by workers in two modern agricultural supply chains. The report’s findings clearly demonstrate the importance of care, vigilance and a culture of continuous improvement in training and monitoring as reflected in the Action Plan.
“Even though we have strong and close relationships with our farmers and suppliers and are proud of our standards, we believe that the food and farming industries should be prepared to regularly submit themselves to scrutiny to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all stakeholders.”