Equitable Food Initiative has received a $1.2 million grant from Walmart Foundation to advance responsible labor practices through workforce development programs on fresh produce farms in Mexico. The grant runs through the end of 2020.
Since 2012, EFI has worked to build its social assurance program in the United States and Mexico. In 2018 the potential for social assurance programs to advance labor protection received new impetus when the fresh produce industry published the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices. The charter outlines guiding principles and effectively elevates labor concerns to the same critical level as food safety. While the charter provides a vision for the accountability and transparency sought by the fresh produce industry, suppliers will need additional tools and resources to fully abide by charter principles and provide verification to customers and consumers.
The Walmart Foundation grant supports EFI to offer workforce development and certification programs to more Mexican suppliers. But the grant also supports outreach to and collaboration with like-minded organizations that want to expand social assurance protections for produce farmworkers in Mexico. EFI will work with partners to develop training workshops, assessment tools and other materials that introduce continuous improvement and problem-solving strategies that promote responsible labor practices on Mexican farms.
Another key focus of the grant is to strengthen EFI’s capacity to develop responsible recruitment programs, to work with and build the capacity of Mexican organizations and to engage public and private sector leaders on recruitment challenges.
“The grant support allows EFI to work across groups of growers, to expand its direct programs, and to deliver capacity, learning and tools more widely than its immediate networks. EFI is well-positioned to drive this needed learning, collaboration and problem-solving, given its experience implementing its assurance program in Mexico over the past several years,” said Karrie Denniston, senior director, Walmart.org, which represents the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation.
“The ethical charter is an important commitment and market signal for improved practices, but it will take leadership and investment from a range of stakeholders to ensure that the principles laid out in the charter become the norm for the produce industry,” said Peter O’Driscoll, executive director for Equitable Food Initiative. “We applaud the Walmart Foundation’s grant-making to build capacity in this area and look forward to implementing our program and to working with other stakeholders from the public, private and civil society sectors to promote the charter.”