Submitted by: Chiquita Brands International, Inc.
Categories: Business Ethics
Posted: Nov 13, 2002 – 11:00 PM EST
Nov. 13 /CSRwire/ - CINCINNATI, Ohio – Chiquita Brands International, Inc. (NYSE: CQB) announced the issuance of Our Continuing Commitment, its second corporate responsibility report, which offers a comprehensive assessment of the company’s environmental, social and financial performance in 2001. The report may be downloaded from the company’s web site (www.chiquita.com) in English and Spanish.
“This new report answers two vital questions many stakeholders have about corporate responsibility efforts at leading companies: ‘Will the company stick with it when times get tough?’ and ‘What will happen when there is a change in the CEO?’” said Cyrus Freidheim, Chiquita’s chairman and chief executive officer. “At Chiquita, our achievement of high standards of corporate responsibility is a source of great pride and has become an essential part of our culture and business strategy.”
“At Chiquita, corporate responsibility is simply living our values – every day, everywhere we operate,” said Jeff Zalla, Chiquita’s corporate responsibility officer and vice president, corporate communications. “This report not only demonstrates solid progress toward the goals we outlined last year, but also strengthens our social reporting to include verification opinions from some of the most respected observers of labor rights performance in Latin America.”
Chiquita measures itself against leading third-party environmental and social standards. These include the Better Banana Project (BBP) certification program of the Rainforest Alliance, a respected nonprofit environmental conservation group, and the Social Accountability 8000 international labor standard.
In 2001, Chiquita earned recertification of all its 119 owned farms and improved its average Rainforest Alliance audit score in five of seven divisions. In addition, 30 percent of Chiquita’s purchased bananas come from BBP-certified farms, and the company is working with independent banana suppliers to accelerate their adoption of the BBP standard.
“Although this report notes numerous areas for improvement, it is clear that by the company’s actions and transparency, Chiquita has earned its well-deserved reputation for environmental leadership,” said Tensie Whelan, executive director of the Rainforest Alliance.
The SA8000 standard, developed by Social Accountability International, is currently the most credible and verifiable social accountability standard for labor rights. The company is actively working to achieve SA8000 compliance in all of its Latin American banana divisions, including at least one division later this year. Chiquita would be the first major agricultural operator in Central America to achieve SA8000 certification.
“Chiquita continues to impress,” said Stephen Coats, executive director, U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project. “The transparency of its corporate responsibility reporting and the use of highly respected independent observers combined with some real progress on the ground is a track record which is unmatched in our work in Latin America. While the road is long, Chiquita has traveled far in a few short years.”
One significant highlight in 2001 was the signing of a labor rights agreement with regional and international unions representing the company’s banana workers. This landmark labor rights framework agreement with the Coordinating Committee of Banana Workers’ Unions (COLSIBA) and the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) reaffirmed Chiquita’s commitment to core ILO conventions and to worker health and safety, committed the parties to fair dealing and continuous improvement, and established a joint review committee to oversee compliance. The agreement has improved labor relations and is expected to allow the company to operate at lower cost and with less risk of business disruptions.
“We have seen real progress as a result of the agreement in a number of Chiquita operations,” said Ron Oswald, IUF general secretary. “We need to work hard to confront the serious challenges that remain, particularly with some Chiquita suppliers. I remain impressed with the good faith and serious intent Chiquita has brought to this process and look forward to continuing progress and concrete benefits for our current and future members over the coming months and years.”
The 2001 report focuses on Chiquita’s banana-sourcing operations in Latin America, which employ approximately 20,000 people or about two-thirds of the company’s workforce. Chiquita’s next report, to be published in spring 2003, will expand in scope to include the company’s worldwide logistics and vegetable canning operations.
Chiquita Brands International is a leading international marketer, producer and distributor of high-quality fresh and processed foods. The company’s Chiquita Fresh division is one of the largest banana producers in the world and a major supplier of bananas in North America and Europe. Sold primarily under the premium Chiquita® brand, the company also distributes and markets a variety of other fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, Chiquita Processed Foods is the largest processor of private-label canned vegetables in the United States. Additional information about Chiquita’s corporate responsibility efforts are available for search and download at www.chiquita.com.