Jul 23, 2019Walmart supports responsible labor at Mexican produce farms
The Walmart Foundation recently gave the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) a $1.2 million grant to advance responsible labor practices through workforce development programs on fresh produce farms in Mexico, according to a press release.
EFI is a nonprofit organization certifies fresh produce growers who meet rigorous standards for labor, food safety and pest management. The certification process includes an audit and a 40-hour hands-on, interactive training activity for farm management teams including those in Mexico. The goal is to increase transparency in the food supply chain and improve the lives of farmworkers through teamwork and continuous improvement.
Since 2012, EFI has built its social assurance program in the United States and Mexico. The nonprofit group sets standards for labor practices, food safety and pest management while engaging workers at all levels on the farm to produce “Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured” fruits and vegetables.
In 2018, the potential for social assurance programs to advance labor protection received new impetus when the fresh produce industry published the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices, according to a press release from EFI. The charter outlines guiding principles and effectively elevates labor concerns to the same critical level as food safety. While the charter provides a vision for the accountability and transparency sought by the fresh produce industry, suppliers will need additional tools and resources to fully abide by charter principles and provide verification to customers and consumers.
The Walmart Foundation grant supports EFI to offer workforce development and certification programs to more Mexican suppliers. But the grant also supports outreach to and collaboration with like-minded organizations that want to expand social assurance protections for produce farmworkers in Mexico. EFI will work with partners to develop training workshops, assessment tools and other materials that introduce continuous improvement and problem-solving strategies that promote responsible labor practices on Mexican farms.
The grant runs through the end of 2020.
To date, 20 grower-shipper companies across 39 commodities in four countries have begun applying the EFI workforce development model, according to the press release. The efforts have improved company bottom lines and the lives of more than 30,000 farmworkers who are experiencing opportunities for advancement and skill development. Participating retailers have paid more than $6.5 million in bonuses to farmworkers through EFI’s premium program.
Above, Mexico workers discuss best practices. Photo: Equitable Food Initiative