Tobacco farmer

The 2014-2015 Progress Report on Philip Morris International’s Agricultural Labor Practices (ALP) program, released this spring, demonstrates an approach to scaled reduction of child labor that is notable for its breadth, depth and thoughtfulness. Any effort to address child labor in a supply chain as massive as PMI’s requires recognition that progress is possible, but it will take a long time, substantial resources and continued commitment.

In CEO André Calantzopoulos’ Foreword, he recognizes that the ALP program shows strong progress, ‘for example with significant reductions in child labor incidence in several of the countries where we are sourcing, but clearly that is not enough and more remains to accomplish our vision.’

As we write in our Foreword to this report, PMI’s effort and achievements to reduce child labor have been substantial. During the past five years, PMI has with Verité’s assistance:

  • Created a robust and sustained internal governance structure to address ALP;
  • Developed an unusually detailed knowledge-base about the farmers and families who grow its tobacco, reaching over 400,000 farms around the world.
  • Created internally a sophisticated and decentralized skill set to address ALP requirements; and
  • Followed through on its commitment to allow independent sources to report on its progress.

With this substantial level of infrastructure and detailed knowledge in place, the company has turned its attention to addressing the problems identified. The problems that face PMI’s farmers are endemic to smallholder agriculture. The company’s effort to address them has led to considerable achievement, but as should be expected in such a large and multifaceted set of production processes and locations, serious challenges remain. This Progress Report outlines both successes and ongoing challenges.

One vital commitment made by the company in the ALP program is to ensure access for workers to a grievance mechanism. The company has organized or accessed ’support services’ provided by independent third parties in 13 PMI leaf-sourcing markets so far. As a result, workers and farmers have access to help in solving problems as they arise on farms. Verité believes this is the first time a major agricultural buyer has implemented such tailored and locally oriented mechanisms at such a scale.

PMI continues to achieve a commendable level of disclosure. During this reporting period, the company published on its website third-party assessment reports on ALP implementation in Brazil, Mexico, Italy, the Philippines and the United States with additional reports from audits conducted during 2014-2015 forthcoming. Importantly, these assessments were carried out by assessors from the company Control Union who were specifically trained to deliver high quality measurement against the ALP code. This monitoring is done against 32 measurable standards on over 450,000 farms in approximately 30 countries – a massive undertaking that bolsters the credibility and validity of PMI’s problem-solving interventions.

The report presents clear disclosure of efforts to address a complex set of problems and processes. We welcome reactions and responses from the community of practitioners and advocates around the world who share our concern about the continued tragedy of child labor.