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Fair Labor Association measured interventions in the Turkish hazelnut sector and identified those that are most effective at upholding workers’ rights

In a new report, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) outlines the findings of research to test interventions designed to protect workers in the supply chains of three members. The evaluation, called a social impact assessment, included interventions executed by Nestlé and its two suppliers, Balsu and Olam, in the hazelnut supply chain in Turkey and identified the most effective at upholding workers’ rights.

“Companies must go beyond monitoring workers’ rights and labor conditions in their supply chains to meet their human rights obligations,” said Sharon Waxman, president and CEO of the Fair Labor Association. “Leading companies make a difference in workers’ lives when they play an active role in finding the interventions and strategies that are effective at upholding fair labor standards and improving living conditions. FLA is pointing the way forward and laying the groundwork for more companies to do so in the future.”

The report, Are Companies’ Programs Impacting Change in the Lives of Hazelnut Workers? Fair Labor Association’s Social Impact Assessment of Nestle’s, Olam’s, and Balsu’s Programs in Turkey, found:

  • Decreasing child labor – Summer schools and daycare proved to be an effective means of preventing child labor. The assessment recorded a five-year low of six percent of children working in the hazelnut gardens, in comparison to 22 percent in a control group. Summer schools fill an essential gap by providing a safe environment in which children are supervised and their basic needs are covered while their parents work.
  • Recruitment and service fees – Training workers and labor recruiters resulted in increased understanding of workers’ rights. After the training, 66 percent of participating workers reported that labor recruiters did not require them to pay a recruitment fee, a common practice in the sector. The training did not result in a similar improvement for worker-paid transportation and food costs.
  • Labor contracts – Training workers and labor recruiters resulted in labor recruiters registering themselves and workers with government authorities and the execution of employment contracts that protect workers. Such practices were uncommon in the traditionally informal sector.
  • Worker shelter renovations – Twenty-seven housing facilities for workers were built or renovated in nine villages by companies participating in the project. The improved living conditions were found to bridge an emotional and psychological gap between the growers and the workers. For example, families perceived the renovated houses as safe to leave their children when they go to work, which had not been the case previously. Growers perceived that workers were more loyal and productive when housed in better living conditions.
  • Public-private partnership – The report concluded that cooperation between companies and governments is essential for interventions to be successful. Increasingly, governments rely on companies’ social compliance teams as their “eyes and ears” in the field. While public-private partnerships have a role, active government involvement is key to accelerating progress to protect workers.

Social impact assessments go beyond collecting compliance data. The FLA adopted the approach based on the growing recognition that compliance audits, while effective at noting labor violations, do not sufficiently reflect the complexity of issues or capture the results of remediation efforts. The social impact assessment reporting, benchmarked against the FLA’s Workplace Code of Conduct, is more likely to verify the effectiveness of companies’ remediation programs on the well-being of growers, workers, and their families, and assess the changing perception of community members and local government toward participating companies.

“We’ve been working with the FLA, our suppliers, the Turkish government and civil society organizations for many years to understand and improve the working and living conditions of hazelnut workers and their families. This is part of our commitment to source our raw materials responsibly. We welcome the improvements made. We will continue to work collectively to address the complex issues in the supply chain and report transparently on progress,” said Benjamin Ware, Nestlé’s Global Head of Responsible Sourcing.

“Improving working conditions and eliminating unacceptable labour practices is essential to our goal of developing responsible and sustainable agricultural supply chains. Olam is working towards achieving a fully traceable supply chain for hazelnuts by 2020 and these learnings will enable us to work closely with our partners to more effectively target our ongoing activities to improve the working conditions and livelihoods for hazelnut workers and their families,” said Burcu Turkay, Sustainability Manager for Olam Edible Nuts.

“At Balsu, we believe training in the field is vital. We have worked actively with the FLA since 2013 to prevent child labor in the hazelnut supply chain. People can change when given a chance, and education is our strongest tool to reach our targets as part of our journey to eliminate child labor,” said Murat Gokdemir, Commodity Manager at Balsu.

The report includes input from 235 workers, 20 children, four intermediaries, 14 supervisors and 49 local stakeholders involved in various interventions in 2018. The FLA analyzed child labor trends over the past five years based on historic data collected from more than 350 farms as part of the FLA’s independent external assessment process, since 2013. In addition, the results of interventions by the FLA and its partners under a 31-month project funded by the U.S. Department of Labor provided qualitative data for the social impact assessment.

The social impact assessment results will be used to improve interventions, address shortcomings, and test new activities. The FLA’s work in Turkey’s hazelnut sector since 2013, despite challenges, has resulted in documented progress and measurable impact on the lives of hazelnuts growers, workers, and their families.

To ensure the report’s findings and recommendations have the greatest chance of being implemented elsewhere, the FLA has established a new project titled Harvesting the Future – Responsible Recruitment of Seasonal Migrant Workers in Turkey,” which will undertake similar work across commodities, with several companies and the Turkish government participating as key partners.

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