british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2010 - Human rights

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Sustainability Report 2010

Human rights is an important part of our sustainability agenda and our Employment Principles, our Statement of Business Principles and our governance processes all include human rights considerations. Together these cover a wide range of workplace-related human rights, including discrimination, freedom of association, forced labour and child labour. We monitor human rights issues and identify related risks primarily through our risk management processes and internal audit controls and committees.

Human rights

By upholding high standards in human rights throughout our supply chain, we have an opportunity to significantly improve many people’s lives. However, the limits of our influence pose a challenge: all parties need to work together but the primary responsibility for changing human rights practices lies with governments, not businesses.

Human rights and our suppliers

Human rights considerations have always been part of our supply chain management approach. They are incorporated into our major supply chain management programmes including our Business Enabler Survey Tool and Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production. In 2010, we formalised our requirements for all suppliers, including criteria such as worker rights and child labour. We are incorporating these into our framework agreements with global suppliers and all our local companies are expected to seek to include such criteria in their supplier terms and conditions. You can read more about this at Opens in new window.

Tackling child labour in tobacco growing

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

We use our Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production (SRTP) programme, which you can read about in the supply chain section, to address child labour and other human rights issues.

The average self-assessment scores for the child labour section of SRTP can be viewed below and demonstrate a steady improvement over recent years, with the exception of 2009 when more stringent assessment criteria were introduced. Any suppliers who show poor performance are required to develop improvement plans, which are then assessed by our independent reviewer, LeafTc. 


We continue to play an active role in the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) Foundation along with representatives of all the major manufacturers and leaf suppliers, tobacco growers, trades unions and the International Labour Organisation.

The ECLT Foundation runs community based projects in six countries: Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kyrgyzstan and Uganda. These projects help to increase awareness of child labour issues, improve access to education and health services for children and build local capacity to address the problem. The ECLT Foundation also undertakes research and develops best practice that others in the industry can replicate in their own operations.

Reports of child labour on tobacco farms in Malawi

In 2010, there were two significant television reports in the UK on child labour and farming conditions in Malawi: ‘Unreported World’ (Channel 4) and ‘Working Lives’ (BBC). We provided detailed responses to the journalists to enable them to produce balanced programmes and also put them in contact with the ECLT Foundation, which has a project in Malawi to address the root causes of child labour.

The main message of the ‘Unreported World’ programme was that while child labour is illegal in Malawi, young children are working on tobacco farms instead of going to school. The programme reported that they worked long hours for little pay, suffered sickness and, in some cases, were abused by their employers. Representatives of the ECLT Foundation’s project in Malawi were interviewed, but their interviews were not featured in the programme. Our response, which can be found on Opens in new window, reiterated our position on child labour, detailed the specifics of our operations in Malawi and explained how the structure of the Malawi tobacco industry does not allow us to work directly with farmers, making it very challenging to address the issue of child labour.

‘Working Lives’ presented a balanced summary of child labour in Malawi. It mentioned that no international tobacco company wants to buy tobacco from farms using child workers, but that in a country like Malawi this is very difficult to control. The ECLT Foundation’s project was featured as a good approach which “seems to be working”. The programme concluded that no one individual party can solve the issue but that all parties must work together.

Human rights: what’s next?

We will incorporate requirements for human rights and other sustainability criteria into all our framework agreements with global suppliers by end 2012 and will continue to encourage our companies to develop a more consistent approach to addressing human rights in their agreements with local suppliers and business partners. We will also continue to work with the ECLT Foundation to tackle child labour issues.

Comment from
Ernst & Young LLP

British American Tobacco has reported on how human rights issues are considered in the management of its supply chain. We have seen evidence of British American Tobacco issuing guidelines and standards on human rights, including child labour and workers’ rights, that suppliers are expected to follow. British American Tobacco needs to ensure that adherence to these new requirements is integrated within existing monitoring and reporting mechanisms.