National Business and Human Rights Action Plan: implementation of human rights due diligence
GRI 102-16; GRI 102-17; GRI 408-1; GRI 409-1
As a values-oriented family-owned company, Tchibo integrated due diligence regarding human rights into its business practices many years ago. We firmly believe that our business activities must not be at the expense of people and the environment.
On 21 December 2016, the German government adopted the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP). The aim of the Action Plan is to implement the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights unanimously adopted by the United Nations in 2011. The UN Guiding Principles do not create any new human rights standards or contain any additional obligations in international law but are based on existing binding and non-binding human rights instruments, such as the United Nations International Human Rights Charter and the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The UN Guiding Principles formulate requirements for governments and business on national and international level. For the first time, they provide a frame of reference that makes companies, as well as governments, responsible for respecting human rights in global supply and value chains, and for preventing human rights violations. The UN Guiding Principles were developed under the aegis of former UN Special Representative Prof. John Ruggie and with the participation of state and private protagonists.
In the NAP, for the first time the German government, too, enshrines the responsibility of German companies for respecting human rights within a defined framework. It formulates clear expectations based on the three pillars of the UN Guiding Principles: Protect, Respect, Remedy. Following these three pillars, it is the state’s task to protect human rights. Companies have a responsibility to respect human rights and to establish the necessary management structures. Grievance mechanisms should be established to redress human rights violations.
The process by which companies are to orient themselves in the implementation comprises the following five core elements:
- Draw up a human rights policy statement
- Develop procedures to identify actual or potential adverse impacts on human rights in their value chains
- Implement measures to avert potentially adverse impacts and review of the effectiveness of these measures
- Establish grievance mechanisms
- Ensure regular reporting
Declaration of Principles regarding Respect for Human Rights
As a values-oriented family-owned company, Tchibo integrated due diligence regarding human rights into its business practices many years ago. Our business conduct is guided by globally recognised standards and guidelines, in particular the International Charter of Human Rights, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The main international conventions and principles are laid down in the Tchibo Code of Conduct (CoC) and serve as a guideline for all Tchibo employees. The minimum requirements for working conditions and environmental standards defined in the Tchibo Social and Environmental Code of Conduct (SCoC) apply to the producers of our consumer goods.
In May 2018, we reaffirmed our position on corporate responsibility for respect for human rights in a policy statement in which we commit ourselves to respect human rights based on the UN Guiding Principles: companies have a responsibility to respect human rights in their global value and supply chains and to prevent human rights violations, while it is the duty of the state to protect human rights.
We implement our human rights due diligence in the consumer goods and coffee value chains on two levels: on the one hand, we are directly involved at the level of the factories and coffee farms, and on the other, we engage in initiatives and alliances throughout the industry to initiate systemic changes and improvements.
Procedures to identify actual or potential adverse impacts on human rights
Our goal is to avert potentially adverse effects of our business activities on human rights. To achieve this, we must first identify which risks exist at what points in the value chains.
This is why we regularly carry out comprehensive analyses in our consumer goods value chain, based on which we develop strategies and measures to respect human rights and prevent human rights violations. The focus is on our cooperation with existing producers and the awarding of contracts to new producers. We prioritise factories with regard to their respect for human rights and culture of dialogue between managers and employees. One important instrument for identifying and counteracting human rights risks at suppliers with whom we have been working for a long time is our WE (Worldwide Enhancement of Social Quality) qualification and dialogue programme for suppliers. Through dialogue with management and employees, we gain a deeper insight into the everyday life of the factories. If we identify risks there, we can work with the people on site to take targeted measures to mitigate risk and introduce improvements, such as higher occupational safety standards.
At industry level, we work together with other stakeholders in multi-stakeholder initiatives that jointly establish prevention programmes and achieve significant changes for the entire industry.
It is more difficult to systematically identify human rights risks in the Coffee sector. To this day, there has only been limited transparency in the supply chain worldwide. It is often difficult to trace which individual coffee farmers have grown and harvested our green coffees. Depending on the country of origin, the beans for a single container may have been supplied by several thousand farmers. Tchibo also sources its green coffees from various countries in Central and Latin America, Africa and Asia. In these areas around the equator, coffee is grown under widely differing working conditions. That is why we consider it our essential task, together with all stakeholders in the coffee supply chain, to create greater transparency right to the origin, and thereby identify the main abuses of human rights. In this way, for example, we were able to obtain specific indications of illegal child labour on coffee fields in Guatemala. So that is precisely where we start: Together with the Coffee Care Association and Save the Children, the world's largest children's rights organisation, we are promoting education and care for the children of migrant workers and harvesters in various regions of Guatemala.
Measures to avert potentially adverse impacts and review of the effectiveness of these measures
Consumer Goods value chain
To avoid and prevent potentially negative effects of our business, we take measures at two levels: on the one hand at the factory level, and on the other at industry level.
Cooperation with our producers is based on the Tchibo Social and Environmental Code of Conduct (SCoC), which forms part of all purchasing contracts and obligates suppliers to comply with the minimum working conditions and environmental standards we define. Before awarding a contract, we audit producers to check whether they meet our requirements. The contract is only awarded if the audit proves that all requirements have been met.
Our aim is to improve and ensure respect for human rights and working conditions at our factories long term. Together with the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ)and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), we therefore developed the WE dialogue programme in 2007. It helps local producers to be aware of and respect human rights, identify problems in their operations and gradually improve working conditions.
The WE programme has already enabled us to achieve a great deal with our producers: for example, getting them to take the initiative to implement occupational health and safety measures, or develop more performance-related remuneration. But we also see where we come up against our limits in the factories. Urgent human rights requirements such as living wages, freedom of assembly, and the ban on forced labour cannot be resolved at the level of individual producers – which is why we are engaged in industry-wide initiatives and alliances for systemic change.
One important step on this path was the signing of our global framework agreement with the IndustriALL Global Union in 2016. The agreement gives the employees of our consumer goods suppliers a robust instrument empowering them to form or join democratic trade unions. The idea is to make it easier for them to negotiate wages, social benefits, and working hours with their employer or across the industry. Pilot projects were successfully initiated in Myanmar and Turkey in 2017.
To address systemic challenges, we are engaged in sector-wide alliances, such as the Alliance for Sustainable Textiles, the ACT on Living Wages initiative, and the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Significant progress has been made within the framework of the Accord, for example: five years after it was concluded, around half of the 1,600 factories in which members of the Accord have their products produced are considered safe. Read more about our commitment to the Consumer Goods value chain here.
Coffee value chain
In the coffee value chain, too, we believe it is essential to develop solutions at farm and sector level. Since 2008, we have been purchasing certified and validated coffee qualities from internationally recognised standard organisations such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ and the 4C baseline standards in the growing regions relevant to us. The certifications are based on human rights reference instruments, including the ILO core labour standards. In addition, our Tchibo Joint Forces!® training programme supports coffee farms in their gradual conversion from conventional to environmentally and socially compatible coffee farming. To counteract illegal child labour in Guatemala, we have been supporting educational projects and childcare facilities in various coffee-growing regions of Guatemala since 2011. In 2017, we also launched the multi-stakeholder initiative Mainstreaming Sustainable Coffee Production, in which we intend to tackle complex systemic challenges together with governments, industry players and civil society. Read more about our commitment to the coffee value chain here.
Our employees are responsible for respecting human rights in their working environment. This is based on the Tchibo Code of Conduct (CoC) introduced in 2007, which we updated in 2017. In our CoC, we have established guidelines for ethical business practices, fair conduct and full compliance with the law. These are binding for all employees of Tchibo GmbH and the international business units. They governs our dealings with business partners and customers and provide guidance in day-to-day business. We have defined important values of our company in the form of 13 basic rules. The CoC is based on the ILO's core labour standards. It prohibits all forms of corruption, and granting or accepting of an undue advantage. If an employee violates any of the principles, they face sanctions under labour law.
All managers regularly confirm that they have understood and complied with the rules of the CoC, explained them to their staff and have reported any breaches they have become aware of. They also sign that they verify compliance with the CoC. Each new employee receives a copy of the CoC. We inform our employees about new developments via the intranet as well as directly, through their supervisors. Compliance with the requirements of the CoC is verified in internal audits by the Group auditors of maxingvest ag. A whistleblowing hotline operated by an independent body serves as an anonymous point of contact so that employees, suppliers and customers can report possible cases of misconduct.
Respect for human rights has a high priority in our corporate culture and thus in our everyday dealings with one another. We offer all employees equal opportunities and reject all forms of discrimination based on age, gender, background, sexual orientation, religious belief, physical constitution and other personal characteristics. We maintain an open, appreciative dialogue, and create opportunities for participation. Read more about our employee commitment here.
We also incorporate human rights due diligence in our customers’ data protection, the details of our advertising, and in our product labelling. For example, in advertising we ensure that we do not discriminate against anyone, and in advertising communications we adhere to the principles of competition law. More on this in the Compliance and Customers & Products section.
Establishment of grievance mechanisms
It is important for us to know when, how and where violations of human rights principles have occurred, because only then can we take appropriate countermeasures. We have therefore established various grievance procedures so that employees and external parties can alert us to possible or actual violations of human rights, and we can identify and reduce potentially negative effects of our business activities at an early stage.
Our SCoC obligates producers of our consumer goods to set up grievance procedures for employees and/or their representatives. In addition, our WE dialogue programme creates the space and opportunity for employees to address shortcomings openly and critically, and to work together with management on improvements. We inform employees about their rights, encourage them to exercise them, and support them in demanding these rights. So the local human rights experts who organise the WE programme at the factories act not only as trainers but also as moderators and facilitators of dialogue and processes. Being at the local factories regularly and over a longer period of time, they build up the necessary trust among the employees so that they are the first point of contact to flag possible human rights violations. A solution can then be worked out together with the factory managers.
In our collaborations with stakeholders, we are working on establishing grievance mechanisms in the supply chain. Under our international framework agreement with the IndustriALL Global Union, we make particular efforts to assert the right of employees to form trade unions. This gives them a structure in which human rights violations can be prevented and grievances resolved directly on-site. As part of the Accord on Building and Fire Safety in Bangladesh, we worked with trade union representatives, members of NGOs and trading companies to establish a cross-factory grievance system.
We also accept complaints directly. Complaints can be addressed anonymously to Tchibo directly via NGOs and IndustriALL as well as via the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. The email address is noted in our global framework agreement and in the SCoC. Our producers are required to disclose this information to all employees, along with the Code of Conduct.
We believe that transparency is an important prerequisite for advancing the implementation of human rights due diligence on a broad scale. That is why we have, for many years, reported openly on progress as well as on obstacles on the path to becoming a 100 % sustainable business in our Sustainability Reports. In the Sustainability Report 2017, for the first time we are devoting a separate section to our implementation of human rights due diligence, to demonstrate how we meet our responsibility to protect human rights in the context of the NAP. We will continue to keep you informed about our commitment to respect and uphold human rights in our annual Sustainability Report.