Coles and Woolworths

Coles and Woolworths

Coles and Woolworths are the principal buyers of fresh fruit and vegetables in Australia. Between them, the two major supermarkets have a market share of over 70%.

ACCR has been engaging with both Woolworths and Coles (including when it was a division of Wesfarmers) regarding the risks stemming from modern slavery and labour rights abuses in their value chain for more than two years. ACCR is urging both companies to align their ethical sourcing policies and supplier requirements in their domestic horticulture supply chains to industry best-practice for supply chain due diligence and compliance.

ACCR filed a shareholder resolution with Coles on this issue, to be heard at their AGM on the 13th November 2019.

The resolution states:

In order to effectively protect workers in our company’s domestic fresh food supply chains from modern slavery and labour abuses, and to protect our company’s interests and reputation, shareholders of Coles Limited (“our company”) urge the Board of Directors to align our company’s ethical sourcing policies and supplier requirements in its domestic fresh food supply chains to industry best-practice for supply chain due diligence and compliance. At a minimum, these should include core principles of worker-driven social responsibility, including but not limited to:

  1. Supplier accreditation and compliance to be determined through multi-stakeholder approach, involving workers and the representative organisation(s) of their own choosing.
  2. Workers to receive peer-led labour rights education with the involvement of representative organisation(s) of their own choosing.
  3. Worker-led grievance procedures that involve the representative organisation(s) of workers’ own choosing in the resolution of complaints.

Background documents:

Previous engagement on fresh food supply chains

The team at ACCR lodged a resolution with Woolworths (WOW) that was heard at the company’s Annual General Meeting in Sydney on Wednesday 21 November 2018. This resolution, co-filed with LUCRF Super, called for:

  • the implementation of a labour hire pre-qualification program;
  • mandated trade union involvement in grievance procedures and worker education; and
  • regular disclosure of progress against these items to shareholders.

The resolution aimed to ensure Woolworths fulfils the commitments it made in 2017 to work with the NUW to implement a series of changes to Woolworths’ supply chain management strategies designed to address the severe labour rights violations documented at Woolworths’ supplier farms across Australia, thereby mitigating a multitude of associated business and operational risks.

ACCR did not file a shareholder resolution on this issue with Woolworths in 2019. After ACCR-filed resolutions on this issue were heard at Woolworths’ AGMs in 2017 and 2018, Woolworths has engaged in ongoing dialogue with worker’s chosen representatives. ACCR will reconsider resolutions in 2020 if those dialogues have not substantially progressed.