Research by ECCHR, foodwatch and a Guatemalan organization shows that there are routine violations of labor rights on palm oil plantations in Guatemala, including excessive working hours, inadequate wages and the hindering of efforts to form trade unions. Pesticides are also used on the plantations, which leads to pollution of the drinking water in neighboring communities. The company NaturAceites is the focus of the criticism. This company cultivates palm oil in monocultures on plantations whose land was traditionally used by the indigenous population. Our local partners have reported that demonstrations by the people against such land-grabbing have been violently suppressed by security forces.
Edeka sells products that are manufactured in the Walter Rau Lebensmittel GmbH factory in Hilter, such as “Die Leichte” low-fat margarine, along with vegetable oil, margarine and cream spread from Gut & Günstig. For years, this factory has sourced palm oil from Guatemalan plantations run by NaturAceites. Back in 2019, the supermarket chain learned of specific human rights violations committed by NaturAceites through research conducted by the Christian Initiative Romero (CIR). However, Edeka refused to improve the conditions in its supply chain. Together with foodwatch and in close collaboration with the affected communities, ECCHR submitted a complaint under the German Supply Chain Act to the corporation, which demands that Edeka uphold its human rights responsibilities within its palm oil supply chain. Edeka must verify whether the palm oil from Guatemala is actually processed in its products and then approach the identified suppliers to work towards ensuring that the lands of indigenous communities and basic labor rights are respected. If Edeka fails to comply with the request, the affected parties are entitled to assert their rights by lodging a complaint with the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA).
From the perspective of those affected and local partners, the RSPO seal has proven to be an inadequate means of preventing human rights violations and environmental destruction in the supply chain. The RSPO, which was introduced by the environmental organization WWF, has faced criticism for years: human rights organizations have repeatedly reported violations of labor and human rights standards by RSPO-certified companies, including in Guatemala. Edeka's use of the RSPO seal is also problematic from a consumer perspective: consumers are deceived by the label into believing they are buying a sustainable product. For this reason, ECCHR and foodwatch filed a lawsuit against Edeka at the Karlsruhe Regional Court for violation of the Unfair Competition Act and called on the supermarket to remove the misleading RSPO label from its products.