This summer, I’m interning for Oxfam America in the Private Sector Department and Food Systems Department. Oxfam is a global organization that works in over 90 countries to end the injustice of poverty. To address the root causes of poverty, they focus on issues of food, water, and land access, human rights, gender justice, climate justice, and labor inequalities through technical support to partners, advocacy work, and humanitarian relief. Their slogan, “The power of people against poverty,” shows how united the organization stands in their mission to fight the intersecting issues of poverty.
I was inspired to join Oxfam because they fight for so many causes that I’m passionate about, specifically gender justice and food system reform. The work that Oxfam does is rooted in the idea that the many forms of justice are intertwined, and we can’t address poverty without also simultaneously looking at different forms of injustice. I admire Oxfam’s ability to fight poverty through programs that provide immediate support, such as hunger alleviation and emergency humanitarian efforts, while also promoting structural changes that address the root causes of poverty.
The work that I’m doing for Oxfam this summer is on food value chains, which includes the stakeholders involved in the production, processing, and manufacturing stages in the supply chain. This work highlights inequalities–e.g., the domination of agricultural conglomerates that limit the power of small farmers, the emission rates of corporations, the marginalization of rural women workers–that occur within some of the largest food and beverage corporations. Food companies have a lot of power in controlling our food choices, making it crucial to examine their global impact and the inequalities built into their structure.
Oxfam has a campaign called “Behind the Brands” that assesses the impact of some of the world’s largest food and beverage companies (the “big ten”) through a scorecard evaluation project which is available to consumers on this page. This campaign aims to investigate the practices of global corporations, while educating consumers about the practices of food companies like Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Kellogg’s that we support every day. The Behind the Brands campaign’s framework has the following dimensions: fair economies, equal human rights, climate justice, and gender justice. As part of Behind the Brands 2030, Oxfam seeks to amplify the voices of the people in their value chain, address inequality, and harness the power of the private sector.
As part of the Behind the Brands team, I’m working on multiple projects and leading one to research and document the disclosure efforts of the Behind the Brand companies and traders. Supplier disclosure is one way that food and beverage companies can be transparent with their sourcing efforts. I am working on a spreadsheet that tracks sourcing details about each company, with information on the agricultural commodities they use (like palm oil and sugar), where they source the commodity from, any supplier lists they have published, the date of disclosure, and commitments they have made to increase transparency and sustainability efforts. The work that I’m doing is contributing to their growing research that will support future initiatives in the countries that they work with. Once they have a research knowledge base on where companies source their commodities, they can perform their outreach work to the companies to advocate for them to take measures that will promote equitable food value chains through sustainability, gender, human rights, and other commitments.
This project is showing me how much power is concentrated in companies, and the potential that organizations like Oxfam have to fix structural issues within companies to bring about justice for marginalized workers, the land, the economy, and the future.