Verité statement on the release of our report to Philip Morris International on tobacco farming in Kazakhstan

In support of our mission, Verité regularly engages with companies and other stakeholders to assist in the identification, analysis and resolution of labor rights problems in their supply chains. We utilize a wide range of tools in this work, including social auditing, training, research, policy analysis and advocacy for the adoption of best practices.

In all cases, our objective is to have a positive impact on the resolution of serious human rights and labor rights violations. When a company or other stakeholder approaches Verité for assistance, we conduct an analysis of the opportunity for impact, assessing the severity of the problem to be resolved, the corporate commitment to resolution, the involvement of other stakeholders (local NGOs, trade unions, investors and governments) and several other factors. We assess these factors without reference to the product or service under consideration. If our conclusion is that Verité can likely contribute to meaningful improvements in protections for vulnerable people and the conditions in which they work, we will undertake the engagement. As it is not possible to understand every factor associated with an engagement at the outset, we continuously evaluate the anticipated impacts of our work as engagements are underway.

Most of our work for companies and others is conducted on a confidential basis, as this enhances openness and trust and facilitates difficult changes, and because a full accounting of workplace conditions often requires reference to proprietary business information. In circumstances where a company approaches Verité for investigation and resolution of issues raised by public reports by an NGO or government, we generally require that our findings are also made public. This transparency allows Verité’s findings to be widely available and understood in context.

Our work with Philip Morris International

Verité has worked with Philip Morris International (PMI) for over a year now. The focus of this work has been two-fold: (1) assessing working conditions, and in particular the problem of child labor in tobacco farming, in several locations; and (2) helping to build, among PMI staff and partners, the knowledge of and the capability to respond to workplace problems on tobacco farms.

PMI initially approached Verité to assist in an analysis of the effectiveness of the company’s outreach program to educate farmers and farm workers on the risks of Green Tobacco Sickness, as well as an assessment of a child education program in Argentina. Verité then was engaged to conduct an assessment in Kazakhstan to assess farm labor conditions in PMI’s tobacco farm supply chain. The Kazakhstan assessment emerged from a public report issued by Human Rights Watch on child labor and treatment of migrant workers in tobacco farming in that country.

In taking on the Kazakhstan assessment we agreed with PMI’s initiative to release the final report publicly. This is in accord with Verité’s standard practice when we assess conditions that have already become public through the work of other stakeholders. As PMI has made clear in an accompanying statement, the company has committed to on-going disclosure of third party assessment reports to stakeholders as a commitment to transparency. Here is a link to the report, including findings and recommendations for remedial action. (Right click and save this file to your desktop.)

During the course of our engagement, the company has demonstrated its intention to improve its social performance by taking a range of concrete initial steps, and shown a willingness to engage with Verité and other stakeholders about how to address labor practice issues.

We will work with PMI to ensure that the company's new policies and practices will be effectively implemented and over time lead to tangible improvements for workers on tobacco farms.