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 November 2020, Ethical Consumer searched Lidl UK's website for a cotton sourcing policy.

The following statement was found:

"By the end of 2025, 100% of our cotton will be sourced from sustainable sources including either Fairtrade, Cotton Made in Africa, Organic and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)".

While this was positive, as the commitment was not yet in place, the company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its cotton sourcing policy and lost marks under three categories, as detailed below.

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. Due to the high proportion of cotton likely to have come from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and the prevalence of forced labour in its production, the company lost half a mark in the Workers Rights category.

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. 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.

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. 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.

Reference:

corporate.lidl.co.uk (2020)

In November 2020, Ethical Consumer searched the Lidl UK corporate website for a policy on genetically modified ingredients and the use of genetically engineered animal feed. No information was found.

Ethical Consumer noted that the company sold meat and dairy not labelled organic, therefore it was likely to be from animals fed a genetically modified diet. In June 2017 the British government website www.food.gov.uk stated that the EU animal feed industry imported 70% of its maize, soya and rapeseed requirements; that "almost all" of the soya from the major producers Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and the USA was genetically modified and that "much of" the maize imported from the USA was genetically modified.

The company therefore lost half a mark in the Controversial Technologies category.

Reference:

corporate.lidl.co.uk (2020)

A search of EuroCommerce, www.eurocommerce.eu, in November 2020, 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.

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 November 2020, 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.

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 explanation of 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 Tax Conduct.

Reference:

Generic Hoovers ref (2020)