BSCI has joined an international movement in support of human rights activist Andy Hall by asking its participating companies to use their influence and request Natural Fruit Co. and subsidiaries to drop the charges against Mr. Hall. The Thai producer sued Mr. Hall in February 2013 after the company was implicated in a report on labour abuses in the Thai pineapple and fisheries industries led by the activist. Mr. Hall is now awaiting a decision on 24 August 2015 by the Thai courts on whether to indict him, a process that could lead to a long legal battle, and up to USD 10 million fine and seven years in prison if convicted.
BSCI believes that cooperation, and not litigation, is the solution and that the right to freedom of speech should be respected and recognised to all organisations, in particular those working to protect human rights and improve labour conditions. When the trial began in September 2014, BSCI called on Natural Fruit to drop its court case and pursue more constructive means of resolving issues with stakeholders, as well as concrete efforts to improve working conditions. Since the publication of Mr. Hall’s 2013 report by Finnwatch -a Finnish civil society organisation promoting corporate responsibility- BSCI and its participants have engaged in positive dialogue with this organisation in order to take steps towards addressing the labour issues identified. Such a valuable relationship with stakeholders and with the actors involved in the supply chain is fundamental to increase transparency around labour issues, build trust and achieve long-term improvements.
Building on this long cooperation and in support of Finnwatch’s campaign to stop prosecution of Mr. Hall, BSCI has requested all participants sourcing from Thailand to check their list of suppliers and sub-suppliers and request any subsidiary of Natural Fruit Co. to immediately drop the charges. BSCI also urged participants to contact any related producer that is a member of the Thai Pineapple Industry Association (TPIA), of which Natural Fruit Co. is President and request that charges be dropped. In the matter of this case, TPIA has previously threatened NGOs with further lawsuits.
Thailand is an important trading partner for European retailers and importers. However, the lack of full alignment of domestic legislation with international standards and law enforcement in key areas such as illegal fishing – the EU issued a yellow card due to failures in preventing harmful fishing practices – and the protection of the environment are making sourcing operations of European companies increasingly risky. BSCI and FTA, its mother organisation, have been involved in a series of discussions with the Thai government and representatives of the Thai industry and civic organisations to ensure progress is made in addressing these critical issues. The close cooperation of policy-makers and stakeholders led to tangible progress but more efforts are needed in order to meet the high sustainability standards of the European retail sector.