The production of agricultural goods often depends on a seasonal migrant workforce. Disruptions, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, pose heightened human rights risks to these vulnerable but essential workers. Our research on resilience factors of global agricultural supply chains analyzes how vulnerable groups in the workforce are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and how corporate and governmental responses can mitigate human rights risks in agriculture supply chains during and after such a crisis.

Human Rights in Supply Chains in Times of Crisis

Hands holding ripe coffee beans

The repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic affect global agricultural supply chains in ways that are not predictable. It is clear, however, that the weakest supply chain actors will be hit the hardest. This is why analyzing the short-term, medium-term, and long-term impacts of the crisis on vulnerable groups – particularly migrant workers and children –deserves urgent attention.

The direct and short-term human rights effects of the crisis relate to immediate concerns, such as workplace health and safety measures. By contrast, the indirect human rights effects are much broader and impair the livelihoods of workers and their families.

Quick reactions from companies and exceptional interventions from governments help absorb the intrinsic impacts of the crisis. Assessing the effectiveness of these measures and monitoring their medium and longer-term impacts through a human rights lens is a pivotal concern for companies committed to human rights due diligence.

Our Objective

Sugar cane field

Through this research, we support companies and relevant actors in establishing the conditions for a rights-based approach to supply chain management that can be sustained in times of crisis. We ascertain how companies can positively influence supply chain dynamics during and after crises, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. The motivation for our work is to identify levers for corporate actors to proactively and collaboratively mitigate new or amplified human rights risks.

Our Activities

Sugar cane

Our research starts with India where the agricultural sector is of high economic importance. We investigate two critical commodities, sugar and coffee, representing supply chains that are economically highly relevant, but in which the human rights of workers have been disproportionately impacted by the crisis.

In collaboration with corporations at different stages of the upstream supply chain as well as in dialogue with government representatives, we analyze the robustness of existing sustainability structures, map the human rights risks that have been exacerbated by or newly emerge through the Covid-19 crisis, and assess the medium-term and long-term implications for vulnerable groups, especially for migrant workers, informal laborers, and children. Key focus areas are the impact of government interventions and the heightened socio-economic risks for workers.

Download our latest Issue Brief on Covid-19 in India - Recommendations for Urgent Action Human Rights Due Diligence’ for Lead Firms Sourcing Agricultural Goods (PDF)