According to an article published on 17 October 2016 on the Herald Scotland website, Mexican fruit workers sought a boycott of berries sold by the Lidl supermarket chain, citing allegations of slave labour, unsafe working conditions and harassment.

The pickers worked for farms that sold to a multinational supplier of the supermarket chain. Workers in San Quentin Valley, in Baja California state, alleged that their unsafe and unfair employment conditions earned them just $6 a day for 12 to 15 hour shifts. Workers in Washington state had also complained about conditions and in 2013 they launched a series of walkouts and lawsuits over alleged labour violations.

Gloria Garcia, leading the Mexican protest, stated, "In countries like USA and Mexico many irregularities and injustices have been encountered on farms ... such as child labour, sexual harassment, pesticide use, non payment of wages, the avoidances of social security payments and many other abuses of labour rights.”

A spokesperson for Lidl said it was a responsible retailer continuously working to improve the welfare and working conditions of employees across its supply chain. “These allegations are extremely serious and as such we are currently investigating as a matter of urgency. We are in contact with the supplier to establish the facts and whether there is any validity to the claims.”

Although the boycott of the supplier, Driscoll's, appeared to be ongoing, no mention of Lidl could be found in relation to it in May 2018.

The company lost half a mark under Workers' Rights.

Reference:

Call to boycott berries sold by Lidl over supplier's alleged workers' rights abuses (17 October 2016

In December 2019 Ethical Consumer searched the Lidl website for a policy on GM animal feed and viewed a completed Ethical Consumer questionnaire received from Lidl in March 2019. Regarding a GM policy the company stated: 'Lidl products do not contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients. The Regulatory Standards for Food state that it must be declared on the label whether a food product has been genetically modified, may contain genetically modified ingredients or the product is manufactured from genetically modified materials. This is monitored by Lidl and an external body.'

Regarding GMOs in animal feed it stated: 'We work closely with all our meat, egg and dairy suppliers towards using, where possible, non-genetically modified crops in their animal feed. However, global farming has made it increasingly difficult to guarantee that crops imported for animal feed has not been subject to cross contamination with GM materials. Therefore, we, like the majority of UK retailers, are no longer able to guarantee that all our products are produced using 100% GM free animal feed.'

The GMO Watch website, www.gmwatch.org, did contain a story, dated 2016, stating that Lidl's German stores would begin selling GMO free dairy products with Lidl bearing the cost of its suppliers ensuring cows were fed GMO free feed. While this was considered a positive policy it was not applied accross the companies entire range or operations.

The company lost half a mark under Controversial Technologies for the likely use of animal feed containing GMOs.

Reference:

Ethical Consumer questionnaire (14 March 2019)

In December 2019 Ethical Consumer searched the Lidl website for information on how it sourced cotton. No information could be found. In March 2019 the company had sent Ethical Consumer a questionnaire response which was viewed.

According to Anti-Slavery international (ASI) website viewed by Ethical Consumer in August 2018, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan were two of the world’s largest exporters of cotton, and every year their governments forcibly mobilised over one million citizens to grow and harvest cotton.
The questionnaire stated: "Lidl has banned the use of Uzbek cotton in our products due to the well-documented risks of human rights violations in its harvest. This policy has been communicated to all levels of our supply chain." No information could be found relating to cotton sourced from Turkmenistan. Lidl therefore lost half a mark under Workers' Rights.

The Organic Trade Association website, www.ota.com, stated in July 2018 that cotton covered roughly 2.78% of global arable land, but accounted for 12.34% of all insecticide sales and 3.94% of herbicide sales. Regarding organic cotton and GM cotton the company stated: "A range of single textile articles have been produced using cotton according to organic-regulation EU 834/2007. We are continuing to increase the share of textiles made up of organic-cotton up to 10% by the end of 2017. Textiles in our range made with organic cotton can be recognised by the GOTS-Label." Due to the impacts of the widespread use of pesticides in cotton production worldwide the company lost half a mark in the Pollution & Toxics category as not all its cotton was organic.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit pro biotech organisation, genetically modified cotton accounted for 80% of cotton grown in 2017. Lidl stated: "Within our sourcing strategy we are phasing out the use of GM Cotton for the production of our own-branded labels. This commitment is underpinned by our decision to increase the share of organic cotton to 10% by the end of 2017." Due to the prevalence of GM cotton in cotton supply chains and the lack of any evidence that the company avoided it, it was assumed that some of the company's cotton products contained some GM material. As a result it lost half a mark under the Controversial Technology category.

Overall Lidl received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its cotton sourcing.

Reference:

Ethical Consumer questionnaire (14 March 2019)

A search of EuroCommerce, www.eurocommerce.eu, in February 2019 found Lidl listed as a member. According to its website, 'EuroCommerce strives to ensure that every company, big or small, has the ability to be competitive, has access to efficient payment systems, and is not impeded by any market access barriers'.

Ethical Consumer considered EuroCommerce to be an international corporate lobby group which exerted undue corporate influence on policy-makers in favour of market solutions that were potentially detrimental to the environment and human rights.

In a position paper in June 2014 called TTIP: A good deal for Europe, it stated "EuroCommerce encourages the EU to seek the closest possible economic integration and regulatory cooperation with the US."

If successful the Transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) would have been one of the world's largest trade agreements. Most of the negotiations were being held in secret and campaigners said it would threaten democracy, give unprecedented powers to large companies, weaken environmental regulations and undermine workers' rights.

The company lost half a mark under Political Activities for its membership of a free trade lobby group.

Reference:

Members List 2019 (February 2019)

According to the organisation's website www.errt.org, viewed by Ethical Consumer in February 2019, Lidl was a member of the European Retail Round Table. This was regarded by Ethical Consumer as an international corporate lobby group which exerted undue corporate influence on policy-makers in favour of market solutions that were potentially detrimental to the environment and human rights.
The company lost half a mark under Political Activities for its membership of a free trade lobby group.

Reference:

Members List 2019 (February 2019)

In December 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed the corporate family tree of Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG on the D&B Hoovers database.
It indicated that the company had a number of subsidiaries located in jurisdication considered to be tax havens. These were: Ireland, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Singapore and Cyprus. Some of these companies were considered to be high risk company types for likely use of tax avoidance strategies. These were:

SG FINANCE & TREASURY LIMITED in Ireland
LMT Finance Limited in Malta

An internet search using the search terms “Lidl Stiftung tax policy statement country”.
The company's UK tax policy stated "Lidl engages in efficient tax planning that supports our business and reflects commercial and economic activity, will make use of available incentives and reliefs to reduce the tax cost of business, and will arrange its business affairs accordingly. However, Lidl will not knowingly make use of reliefs or incentives in a manner contrary to that intended by legislation, nor enter into artificial business arrangements whose purpose is solely for tax advantage". It also stated that "Lidl’s tax affairs are a private matter between Lidl and HMRC." No country-by-country reporting could be found nor a narrative explanation of the purpose of the subsidiaries' locations and why they were not being used for tax avoidance purposes.

News articles from 2014 were found, one by tax campaigner Richard Murphy stating, "What's strange about Lidl's accounts is that there are none on public record in the UK", and "It operates in the UK as a branch of a private German company and because that company is legally obliged to file accounts in Germany nothing is required to be filed here under UK law", and campaign group Action Aid also stated, "To know whether Lidl is paying its fair share of tax, you would need full, open access to its accounts."

Given that Lidl Stiftung had two or more high risk subsidiaries in jurisdictions on Ethical Consumer's tax haven list and no country-by-country financial information, nor a narrative explanationof the purpose of the relevant subsidiaries, the company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies and lost a whole mark under Anti-Social Finance.

Reference:

2 January 2019