A report in the Sunday Times alleged that guards working for Kakuzi, which supplies avocadoes to supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Lidl, are accused of 79 claims of extreme violence, including beatings, rape and murder, on the local population over a 10-year period.
A Tesco spokesperson told FoodNavigator: “Any form of human rights abuse in our supply chain is unacceptable. We have been working closely with the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), alongside other ETI members, to investigate this issue and ensure measures have been taken to protect workers. However, in light of the additional allegations published over the weekend we have suspended all supply whilst we urgently investigate.”
The Ethical Trading Initiative is a UK-based independent body which monitors member NGOs and companies’ supply chains in accordance with an ethical code. Sainsbury’s and Lidl have also confirmed they are taking part in the investigation.
Kakuzi said it “does not condone any criminal activities or behavior by any of its employees” and has asked the chief prosecutor in Kenya to investigate the allegations of criminality on its estates and “take action in accordance with the law”. Kakuzi’s land is also used to farm macadamia nuts, blueberries, tea and livestock.
It added: “We are committed to professionally resolving any matter which is brought to our attention. When things go wrong, as they sometimes will in a company that employs up to 3,000 people and where the land is crisscrossed by public roads and paths, Kakuzi does what you would expect a responsible employer to do. We investigate the cause, cooperate with the authorities to ensure justice for those affected, make amends where we can and learn for the future. This is the proper way to deal with allegations.”
The ETI investigation is directed at British company Camellia, which owns a 50.7% stake in Kakuzi but which doesn’t have operational or managerial control, nor control of the Board. It said: “The welfare of the people in the group and those working in our investee companies is very important, as we hope is clear from our values and our culture.
“Kakuzi is investigating the allegations so that if there has been any wrongdoing, those responsible for it can be held to account and if appropriate, safeguarding processes can be improved. What the [Sunday Times] article did not mention is that Kakuzi also has in place a fully funded alternative dispute resolution process so that anyone who feels they have been mistreated can get independent legal advice and support, paid for by Kakuzi, with anonymity provided.”
A Lidl GB spokesperson said: "We operate with a fundamental respect for the rights of the people we interact with, whether they be our own direct employees, contract workers or people employed throughout our supply chains, and are firmly opposed to all forms of labour exploitation. We have been working continuously in recent years to better understand the human rights risks within our supply chains, enabling us to increase transparency around working conditions and drive improvements in labour standards.100% of our fruit and vegetables are third party certified to internationally agreed standards and suppliers are regularly audited for compliance. Given the systemic nature of the allegations, a working party was established with multiple stakeholders, including several other retailers and suppliers, to undertake a full independent investigation from which an action plan was agreed, and its implementation is being monitored by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). We recognise that human rights due diligence is an ongoing process and one that we are committed to developing in the long term."