Peeling Back the Label

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Behind the Brands ranks the ‘Big 10’ food companies based on seven different categories.

The global food system is profoundly flawed—there’s enough food being produced yet one in eight are undernourished; food and beverage companies pollute water sources and have unfair labor practices; costs related to diabetes amount to $245 billion dollars annually in the U.S. and rates are only expected to rise. To bring awareness to some of these problems, Oxfam developed the Behind the Brands campaign. At their website, you can discover what products are owned by various corporations. For instance, Unilever owns Hellmann’s, Lipton, and even Ben & Jerry’s. You can then check out the scorecard for the company. Unilever has a 63 percent score which is based on ratings that take into account land, women, farmers, workers, climate, transparency and water. When the campaign launched in February of 2013, Unilever came in at 49 percent so already there’s been some progress. Of the ‘Big 10’ companies, General Mills ranks last at only 21 percent.

The purpose of Behind the Brands is not just awareness. It’s also launched actions to get consumers to petition specific companies on specific issues. Mars and Nestle were compelled by over 100,000 people to improve conditions for women cocoa farmers. And more than 225,000 people pressured Coke to commit to a “zero tolerance” policy on land grabs which have become a problem in sugar-producing areas. Judy Beals, the Behind the Brands campaign manager said, “The public response to the campaign has been tremendous. This commitment is further evidence that no company is too big to listen to its customers. The biggest food giants in the world are changing how they operate because consumers are demanding it.”

Photo by tanakawho, licensed underCreative Commons.

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