british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2009 - Tackling child labour in tobacco growing


Child labour continues to be a key human rights issue for any industry that incorporates an agricultural supply chain and tobacco growing is no exception.

In our tobacco leaf supply chain, we address the issue through our Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production (SRTP) programme. This is applied to all our suppliers of tobacco leaf. It has also been adopted by almost all the major tobacco manufacturers. The child labour section of the review criteria was revised in 2009, following a 2008 consultation with other manufacturers that use SRTP and the board of the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation.

Since 2006, the average self-assessment scores for the child labour section of SRTP have steadily improved (see chart below) although we have seen a decrease in 2009. This was largely due to more stringent assessment criteria introduced in 2009. Scores over 3.00 indicate international best practice and/or minimised risk of child labour.

Leaf suppliers' average self-assessment scores in the child labour section of SRTP 2006-2009 (out of a maximum score of 4.00) are:

SRTP scores - 2006: 3.48, 2007: 3.65, 2008: 3.72, 2009: 3.41

While our suppliers’ average scores are high, we recognise that there are still pockets of poor performance in some countries. Suppliers are required to develop action plans, which are then assessed by our independent reviewer, LeafTc.

The Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation

British American Tobacco helped to establish the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) Foundation in 2001. Since then the Foundation has undertaken research and developed community-based initiatives that tobacco companies can join or replicate elsewhere. Projects may, for example, raise awareness of child labour issues, improve children’s access to education or provide a microfinance scheme so that tobacco farmers can purchase machinery to reduce their  reliance on child labour. Projects have been established in seven countries: Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and Uganda. The Foundation uses a multi-stakeholder approach at both local and board levels. Members of the board include representatives of all the major manufacturers and leaf suppliers, tobacco growers, trades unions, and the International Labour Organisation.

In 2009, the Foundation reviewed how best to build on its achievements and set course for the future. It decided to:

  • Build an information base (for example, data on the extent of child labour) to help decide on where best the Foundation can intervene with the greatest impact and to help set realistic targets;
  • Adopt a consistent and robust method for measuring project impacts;
  • Establish a standard model for community projects, building on lessons learned to date and setting out key elements for each project, including objectives and evaluation tools; and
  • Improve its engagement and advocacy to help promote best practice, raise the profile of child labour issues, and support local partners in tackling the issue.

To improve its ability to deliver this new strategy, the Foundation also revised its governance and ways of working in 2009.

Plan International’s report on child labour on tobacco farms in Malawi

In August 2009, Plan International, a well-known development organisation that works to address child poverty in the developing world, published a report on child labour in tobacco growing in Malawi, one of the world’s major exporters of tobacco leaf.

Although British American Tobacco was not mentioned in it, the report has generated concerns among our stakeholders. We buy only around 5 per cent of Malawi’s annual tobacco crop, but our stakeholders’ concerns naturally extend to the welfare of children in tobacco growing areas of other developing countries.

The report, titled ‘Hard work, long hours and little pay – research with children working on tobacco farms in Malawi’, included the findings from a series of workshops with children who worked full-time on tobacco farms in the 2007–2008 season. The aim was to see how the children themselves experienced the work they did and to develop recommendations to address some of the problems they identified. Issues identified included long hours, health and safety issues, lack of education opportunity and abuse by supervisors.

Neither the ECLT Foundation nor its local partners, including the Ministry of Labour, trades unions and leaf growers, were contacted during Plan International’s research. When the report was published, the Foundation’s Director offered to share with Plan International the Foundation’s experience of community-based projects in Malawi, which are designed to tackle many of the issues identified in the report. As yet, Plan International has not responded to the offer.

The ECLT’s projects in Malawi cover over 200 villages and have improved educational and health services, school attendance, food security, sanitation and the awareness of child labour issues among local farmers and other stakeholders. More information on the Foundation’s projects, as well as its response to the Plan International report, can be found at Opens in new window.