To use the collective leverage of working group members to improve the human rights impact of their Italian supply chains, through:
- Supporting project members to strengthen their due diligence
- Engaging local suppliers to strengthen theirs
- Establishing new worker voice mechanisms
- Supporting local growers to adopt more robust labour practices
Membership & funding
The group is composed of ETI member supermarkets and brands, along with a number of progressive non-ETI members including suppliers sourcing tomatoes and other fresh produce from Italy, plus additional input from Oxfam and CBL. The group is funded by its members and is currently open to non-ETI members.
Funding ETI members
Funding additional members
- Ethical Food Company
- Natures Way Foods
- Princes Industrie Alimentari (PIA)
- La Doria
Human rights issues in Italian agriculture have been well documented in studies and investigative journalism over the last ten years. This working group was established in 2019 in light of ongoing concerns among ETI members about key salient risks. These include the use of illegal forms of contracting (black and grey work), often associated with the use of illegal recruitment practices (e.g caporalato, cooperative senza terra) and linked to poor working conditions and forced labour, often among migrant workers and other vulnerable groups. Conditions identified by impact assessment, media and research reports have included:
- Low wages
- Excessive working hours
- Poor unsafe and unsanitary housing
- Health and safety risks on farms and during transport to and from farms
- Lack of access to freedom of association
- Sexual harassment and gender discrimination
- Lack of access to justice
While irregular hiring and contracting practices are spread across regions and sectors, they are particularly prevalent in the Southern regions. In addition, some crops are more vulnerable to illegal forms of recruitment and contracting due to the short season, the high use of manual labour as opposed to mechanisation, and unpredictable labour needs.
As for many countries, poor working conditions in Italian agriculture are driven by a complex and interconnected set of root causes that no stakeholder group can address on its own. Consultations with local stakeholders and recent human rights impact assessment have highlighted the prominent role retailers and local institutions can play to address root causes. Local and international NGOs and trade unions continue to play a key role in supporting the work done by these organisations.
Building on progress made in 2020-21, we are now pursuing further due diligence, capacity-building and advocacy initiatives, in support of our long-term programme objectives:
- Enable efficient collaboration across the supply chain: Creating a safe space for members with Italian supply chains and their Italy-based suppliers, to take appropriate action on issues in alignment with emerging local and international approaches
- Establish grievance mechanisms: Providing workers with access to remedy by supporting members to establish grievance and other worker voice systems
- Conduct effective due diligence, remediation & capacity development: Building capacity of importers and their Italian supply base capability to promote legality in contracting and recruitment practises through shared resources, training and 1-2-1 support
- Use collective leverage & local stakeholder collaboration to advocate for change: Supporting members to collaborate with local NGOs, trade unions and governments in order to promote change and support formalisation of recruitment practices
- Promote good business practices: Developing and implementing industry best practices with regards to responsible sourcing.
Ella Frankel - Senior Advisor: Food, Farming & Fisheries