Largest Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn takes action on human rights after Oxfam Novib campaign

Campaigning works. Following Oxfam Novib’s Behind the Barcodes campaign, Albert Heijn supermarket is introducing new policies on human rights and sustainability. The supermarket chain Jumbo and the parent company of Albert Heijn, Ahold Delhaize, still lag behind.

Supermarket Albert Heijn commits that their new policy will bring big improvements on women rights, living wage and transparency about where products come from. Albert Heijn is the first supermarket in the world to make such far-reaching commitments following the Behind the Barcodes campaign from Oxfam Novib.

“In the last eight months we have been in intense negotiations with Albert Heijn. These commitments look promising.” - Michiel Servaes, Director, Oxfam Novib

Fighting exploitation

As part of the global Behind the Barcodes campaign, which launched in June 2018, Oxfam Novib examines what supermarkets are doing to help solve issues around exploitation of workers in developing countries. In the Netherlands, Oxfam Novib focused on how the five biggest supermarkets (Albert Heijn, Jumbo, Lidl, Aldi and Plus) treat workers and farmers in developing countries who produce our food.

“It’s good to see that Albert Heijn, the biggest Dutch supermarket, is finally taking responsibility for the people in their production chain, including those in developing countries. Albert Heijn shows that it’s possible.”
- Michiel Servaes, Director Oxfam Novib

New human rights commitments

With this announcement, Albert Heijn commits to:

  • prevent human rights violations and improve labour conditions
  • take responsibility for its own brand products, and later also for other brands
  • research living wage, women rights and labour conditions in consultation with local workers, farmers, labor unions and NGO’s.

This is the first time that a Dutch supermarket has publicly committed to make human rights part of the standard training for its own buyers before the end of 2019. The company states that all current buyers will be required to complete the new training by 2020 at the latest. 

Keeping a close eye

Oxfam Novib will monitor the new policy of Albert Heijn and check if Albert Heijn will indeed do what it has promised - because putting these promises into practice is will help take the suffering out of our food.

Oxfam Novib pushing Dutch supermarket Jumbo to end the suffering in its supply chains. Photo: Oxfam

Oxfam Novib campaigning for Dutch supermarket Jumbo to end the suffering in its supply chains. Credit: Oxfam

Jumbo and Ahold Delhaize lag behind

Parent company Ahold Delhaize should follow its subsidiary. As the owner of both Albert Heijn and many other supermarkets around the world, their action would have an even bigger impact on the lives of farmers in developing countries.

Oxfam Novib hopes that other Dutch supermarkets, like Jumbo, will follow the example of Albert Heijn. The negotiations with Jumbo to date have not resulted in any concrete commitments.

You can help end the suffering in our food

Oxfam Novib knows that this campaign will take a lot of patience.

We will keep on pushing the five biggest supermarkets in the Netherlands towards sustainable improvements in their supply chains.

We will continue to speak out against the exploitation of workers in developing countries, and against inequality and injustice. 

We need your support for this.

Join the movement to end the suffering in our food.

This entry posted on 20 February 2019, by Tim Zijlstra, Oxfam Novib Campaigner.

Photo: Oxfam Novib campaigners hand over 23,000 signatures to Albert Heijn staff, as part of the Behind the Barcodes Campaign. Credit: Oxfam Novib

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