Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Dutch supermarket faces boycott call

February 2013

The Netherlands’ largest supermarket chain Albert Heijn (AH) was the target of a consumer boycott call when a TV documentary revealed the ‘medieval conditions’ that migrants working on its suppliers’ mushroom farms were forced to endure.

Not only was it claimed that the eastern European workers were exploited through below minimum-wage rates of pay but, said KRO’s Inspection of Value show, they also had to sleep ten to a room.

Dutch minister of social affairs Lodewijk Asscher responded to the programme by calling on consumers to shun AH stores until the company started using the country’s new Fair Produce certificate, established last year. The label currently certifies only mushrooms but is set to be extended to other produce soon.

Asscher described AH’s lack of co-operation with Fair Produce as “incomprehensible”.

But the Ahold-owned supermarket hit back, insisting that it only buys mushrooms from Fair Produce-certified suppliers. However, it explained that it does not include the label on its packaging so as to avoid confusion over whether its other products are sourced according to the same standard.

An AH spokesman told the Financial Times: “The question our customers will have is, if the certificate is on the mushrooms, what’s with the cucumbers and the tomatoes?”

Meanwhile, Asscher later denied calling for a boycott, but wanted AH to use the Fair Produce logo to lend it credibility. Doing this, he said, would help build consumer pressure on Dutch mushroom producers.

The row does have implications beyond the Netherlands’ borders as the country is Europe’s largest exporter of agricultural products and the second largest in the world, after the US, with trade worth €73bn (£62bn, $98bn) in 2011.

Albert Heijn | Europe | Working Conditions


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