Edeka, Lidl or Rewe – an international comparison

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Cheap prices and starvation wages – what role do human rights play for supermarkets? An investigation by Oxfam shows how Lidl, Aldi, Rewe and Edeka compare internationally.

The development organization Oxfam has assessed the business policies of 16 supermarkets from different countries with regard to their handling of human rights. The result is cautious for the four largest German supermarket chains: none scores more than a third of the possible points.

Lidl, Rewe and Aldi would have improved compared to previous years. However, Edeka remains at the bottom of the German markets – and also internationally.

“Inhumane reality with bitter consequences”

Supermarkets in Germany, Great Britain, the USA and the Netherlands were analyzed with regard to the topics of transparency, workers’ rights, dealing with small farmers and women’s rights. According to the report, the pricing policy in the markets ensures that, for example, harvest workers still receive starvation wages.

“What we see in Corona outbreaks in German slaughterhouses is also inhumane reality in the international supply chains with bitter consequences: Corporations do little to prevent the people who make the food on the supermarket shelves from being exploited,” says Franziska Humbert , Oxfam expert on business and human rights. The development organization is therefore calling for a supply chain law to make supermarkets rethink.

Dealing with human rights: The percentage shows the proportion of the respective supermarket that achieved the total number of points that could be achieved in 100 evaluation criteria.  (Source: Oxfam)Dealing with human rights: The percentage shows the proportion of the respective supermarket that achieved the total number of points that could be achieved in 100 evaluation criteria. (Source: Oxfam)

The placements in the supermarket check

The British supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury’s do the best in the check – with 46 and 44 percent of the possible points. Reason: In Great Britain, a law requires supermarkets to be transparent, which means that they have to report on their human rights policy. According to Oxfam, Tesco has ensured that each of its suppliers in Peru has employee representation so that people there can defend themselves against exploitation.

Lidl, the best German supermarket in the ranking, is in fourth place because, according to Oxfam, the company now publishes a large part of its direct suppliers. In the third year of the supermarket check, Lidl thus increased from nine to 32 percent of the total number of points. Aldi Süd and Rewe came in sixth and seventh with 25 percent each, Aldi Nord in tenth (18 percent).

What Edeka says about the last place

Edeka takes last place with only three percent of the possible points. One of the reasons for this is that the chain has not signed an agreement in which it is committed to ensuring living wages in the global supply chains. The supermarket chain is surprised at the placement. “Because the Edeka network takes human rights very seriously and has been working intensively on this subject for a long time,” the group wrote in a statement. “It goes without saying that we value living wages in our supply chains.” For example, Edeka is a member of the working group on living wages and living wages of INA (Initiative Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains). In addition, the company is involved in various projects on the topic, such as one that should make conventional banana cultivation more environmentally and socially compatible.

“The ‘supermarket check’ is a campaign, not an objective study,” criticizes the company. It accuses Oxfam of only evaluating the external image of a company, but not its real commitment – since only publicly available information in sustainability reports and on websites served as a benchmark for the check.

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