Media release

ACCR files worker exploitation resolution with Coles

ACCR has filed a shareholder resolution with Coles Group Limited regarding the risks stemming from serious human and labour rights abuses in their value chains.

ACCR has been engaging with Coles (including when it was a division of Wesfarmers) on this issue for more than two years, and is urging the company 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. Read the full text of the resolution here.

The resolution was co-filed with: industry super fund LUCRF Super, US-based asset manager Mercy Investment Services Inc., and faith based organisation St Columban’s Mission. The resolution will be heard at Coles’ first AGM since de-merging from Wesfarmers in November 2018, on 13 November 2019 (see ASX announcement from Coles).

Dr Katie Hepworth, Director of Workers Rights, ACCR, said:

“Coles is falling behind its global peers in failing to work towards a formal, worker-driven approach to social responsibility. While Woolworths has responded to the 2018 ACCR-filed resolution on supply chain due diligence, by engaging in constructive dialogue with workers’ representatives, Coles continues to advocate for policies that have repeatedly been shown to be not fit-for-purpose and unable to identify, let alone resolve, the types of labour rights risks and illegality evidenced in Australian fresh food supply chains.

“Serious violations of human rights in Coles' supply chains can lead to negative impacts on its reputation, and negatively impact shareholder value. With the passing of the Modern Slavery Act in 2018, there is growing awareness among consumers and shareholders of the responsibility of lead buyers to manage labour rights violations throughout their horticultural supply chains.

“Modern slavery exists at the extreme end of a spectrum of labour rights violations and illegality. Since 2015, there have been constant reports of wage theft, excessive overtime, retention of identity documents, and physical and sexual violence, on Australian farms. Structural issues in Australian horticulture have led to the persistence of these issues, and raise red flags for the occurance of modern slavery in Coles’ supply chain. As one of the two major lead buyers in this sector, Coles must identify the extent to which these labour rights and modern slavery risks are present in their supply chains and take active steps to mitigate them.”