In November 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries website which stated that the company manufactured defense products for the armaments industry. This included armoured vehicles and tanks, naval ships and submarines, fighter planes and guided weapons systems like the PATRIOT surface to air missile.

The company lost a whole mark under Arms and Military Supply.

Reference:

www.mhi.com (November 2020)

In November 2020 Ethical Consumer searched for any updates since January 2020, when Ethical Consumer had received a questionnaire response from Princes which contained information regarding the company's Supply Chain Management policies. It also provided a link to the company's Ethical Trading Policy dated August 2018.

Supply chain policy - rudimentary
The Ethical Trading Policy contained adequate clauses on forced labour, child labour, discrimination and freedom of association. It stated that all suppliers must pay a minimum wage but did not state a living wage. It stated that working hours must not be excessive but did not specify that this meant a limit of 48 normal working hours + 12 hours over time per week. It stated "We expect all our suppliers to have ethical processes in place throughout their supply chain" but did not specify that suppliers should meet equivalent standards, so was not considered to demonstrate whole supply chain commitment. Overall Princes was considered to have a rudimentary supply chain policy.

Stakeholder engagement - rudimentary
The company was a member of the multi-stakeholder process the Ethical Trading Initiative.
The company stated in its questionnaire "Princes recognise the benefit in collaborating with NGOs, charities, trade union organisations, customers and our competitors to drive meaningful change and address some of the root cause issues of large and complex modern slavery incidences." This was not considered to amount to systematic input into the verification of labour standard audits. However, the questionnaire did contain information on the company's ongoing strategy to further involve multi-stakeholder initiatives, NGOs, governments and trade unions which was considered a positive aim.
The company provided no evidence that the suppliers' workers could on a regular basis provide anonymous feedback to the company on working conditions at no cost and in their first language.

Auditing and reporting - poor
The company did have an auditing system. It stated that "Via our Ethical Trade Policy, we communicate to all of our suppliers that Princes may conduct risk assessment onsite evaluations of suppliers including requiring independent ethical audits to be undertaken at appropriate intervals". The company stated "We are prepared to share and disclose the results of ethical audits with relevant stakeholders to drive improvements throughout the supply chain" but did not publicly disclose any audit results nor a clear audit schedule. The company did state that it had a staged remediation approach to addressing any issues found within its supply chain. It stated that costs of audits were borne by the suppliers.
Its 2019 Modern Slavery Statement stated that "100% of our third party finished good suppliers have commissioned and shared details of a third party ethical / social audit within the past 24 months." However, it also stated that since 2019, "any direct Ingredient and Packaging suppliers deemed to be Higher Risk (based on their sourcing country) would be required to undertake and share details of an independent, third-party ethical / social audit", but did not report on the % that met this requirement.
The company was considered to have a poor approach to auditing and reporting.

Difficult issues - rudimentary
The company stated that it had an ongoing training programme for purchasers in relation to modern slavery, human rights and workers rights in the supply chain and provided full details of this.

No other difficult issues were addressed.

Overall Princes received Ethical Consumer's middle Ethical Consumer rating for Supply Chain Management and lost half a mark in this category.

Reference:

https://www.princesgroup.com/csr/ (23 November 2020)

In August 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed a report via the Business & Human Rights website, first published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in February 2020, entitled “Uyghurs for sale ‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang”.

The findings of the report were summarized as follows: “The Chinese government has facilitated the mass transfer of Uyghur and other ethnic minority citizens from the far west region of Xinjiang to factories across the country. Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.

In all, ASPI’s research has identified 83 foreign and Chinese companies directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through potentially abusive labour transfer programs as recently as 2019”. Mitsubishi was listed as one of these companies.

Business & Human Rights had contacted all of the companies named in the report and published their responses. At the time of writing, no response had been received from Mitsubishi.

As a result, the company lost half a mark under Human Rights.

Reference:

Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report: Uyghurs for sale (3 December 2020)

In November 2020, Ethical Consumer searched the website of Mitsubishi Electric for its policy on the sourcing of conflict minerals which was found on its Supply Chain Management page - https://www.mitsubishielectric.com/en/sustainability/csr/social/supplyc…

1. Ethical Consumer expected to see companies commit to conflict-free sourcing, to continue to source from the DRC and to ongoing due diligence.
The company stated "The Mitsubishi Electric Group aims for transparency in its supply chain to avoid any affiliation with armed groups that trade in conflict minerals as their source of funding. We also recognize the possibilities of human rights violations occurring in the severe labor conditions in cobalt mining sites as a major problem. The Group adheres to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, and removes certain minerals from the supply chain in situations where their procurement encourages or contributes to serious human rights violations or environmental destruction."
No statement was found that it was committed to continue to source from the region.

2. Ethical Consumer also expects that a company demonstrates its commitment through membership of a multi-stakeholder initiative. Mitsubishi Electric was a member of JEITA.

3. Surveys of suppliers were conducted using the survey form (the Conflict Minerals Reporting Template (CMRT) or the Cobalt Reporting Template (CRT)). The Group adheres to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas.

4. Mitsubishi did have a detailed list of smelters but no indication of each one's Conflict Free Smelter Program status, nor a commitment to only use Conflict Free Smelter Program smelters.

Overall, the company was awarded Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its conflict minerals' policy and lost a whole mark under Human Rights and a whole mark under Habitats and Resources.

Reference:

Supply chain management (4 November 2020)

On 17th June 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed the corporate family tree of Mitsubishi Corporation on its website.
It indicated that the company had numerous subsidiaries located in countries considered by Ethical Consumer to be oppressive regimes. These were Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Mexico, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Cambodia and the Philippines.

Mitsubishi Corporation lost a whole mark under Human Rights.

Reference:

www.mitsubishicorp.com (17 June 2021)

In November 2017 Ethical Consumer viewed a report on the Business and Human Rights Resources website titled, 'Brazil/UK: JBS supplied beef to UK retailers from Brazilian farm being investigated for forced labour; comments from Waitrose, NHS, Marks & Spencer, Co-Op, Sainsbury’s, Lidl and Princes', and dated June 2017. The report stated:

'an investigation by the Guardian...and Repórter Brasil show[e]... that JBS, one of the world's largest meat processing companies, previously purchased cattle from a farm under federal investigation for using workers as modern-day slaves. JBS says it ceased buying from the farm on discovering the alleged link to labour abuses...Its produce is used in tinned corned beef sold by major retailers including Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Co-Op, Sainsbury's, Lidl and Princes....

In... June 2016,...police officers discovered men forced to live in inhumane and degrading conditions, with no shelter and no toilets or drinking water...[W]orkers were in debt bondage, with payments for food and protective equipment illegally deducted from their wages. The farm owner, Antônio José Junqueira Vilela Filho, had previously been fined...for deforesti[on]... '

The company lost half a mark in the Workers' Rights category.

Reference:

Brazil/UK: JBS supplied beef to UK retailers from Brazilian farm being investigated for forced labou

On 14th June 2021 Ethical Consumer searched the Olam International Limited website for a cotton sourcing policy. The company stated that it was "a universal supplier of cotton to the world’s textile markets."

It also stated: "We source from the four major growing regions - Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia – and are supported by significant investments in gins and logistics infrastructure [...] We are committed to the traceable and sustainable supply of cotton. We are a member of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), a progressive step to formalising a sustainable cotton supply to consumers. Through the BCI, we have helped farmers and retailers verify their cotton standards, improving their marketability."

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. Olam's website stated: "We are the leading supplier of medium and extra-long staple cotton from Central Asia. We transport cotton from the region’s land-locked countries to major markets worldwide." It had not signed up to the Responsible Sourcing Network's cotton pledge. A locations webpage stated: "Our focus in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan is sourcing and exporting 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. No policy regarding pesticides or organic cotton could be found. 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. No policy regarding GM cotton or organic cotton could be found. 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 Olam International Limited received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its cotton sourcing policy.

Reference:

Cotton webpages (14 June 2021)

In August 2018, Ethical Consumer viewed a report on the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre website, titled "Japan: Workers work up to or beyond "karoshi line" in most Japanese manufacturers" and dated to February 2017.

The report stated: "An umbrella organisations of labour unions in the manufacturing industries has published a study showing that the agreements between management and the labour unions of manjor manufacturers all allow for overtime at least up to the officialy recognised "karoshi line" of 80 hours overtime per month, and many provide for overtime far beyond that limit.... Mitsubishi Electrics [allows] 105."

Japanese law was said to cap overtime at 45 hours per month, except where a labour agreement had been made permitting overtime beyond this threshold.

The company lost half a mark under Workers' Rights for allowing excessive overtime in its factories.

Reference:

Japan: Workers work up to or beyond "karoshi line" in most Japanese manufacturers (February 2017)