Child & Forced Labor

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Altria's companies are committed to addressing concerns about child labor in tobacco farming. We do not condone the unlawful employment of children in the workplace, nor do we condone forced labor.​
Although Altria's tobacco companies don't own or operate farms where tobacco is grown, we respect human rights within our supply chain. Our companies discuss their expectations with suppliers and require them to accept responsibility for their labor practices. Our business and expectations for suppliers are guided by the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and national laws.
The vast majority of our tobacco – more than 70% of total leaf spend – is sourced domestically. In our domestic tobacco supply chain, we execute an on-farm good agricultural practices (GAP) assessment process with our growers that assesses their compliance with practices related to crop, environment and labor management.
Additionally, Altria’s tobacco companies:
  • establish specific contract terms and conditions about child and forced labor;
  • conduct social compliance audits in high-risk regions for goods and services; and
  • work with others to address systemic child labor issues.
Our Commitment in Action 
 
Altria's tobacco companies work to better understand child and forced labor issues and address stakeholders' concerns. This includes listening to stakeholders and evaluating opportunities to raise our standards for hired workers above those required by U.S. law.
Internationally, we buy tobacco from suppliers who source through direct relationships with their growers. Direct relationships provide supply chain traceability and we are able to audit those suppliers for compliance. Also, those suppliers must comply with minimum age employment requirements prescribed by the International Labour Organization conventions or applicable laws, whichever is higher.
We address child labor in tobacco farming through tools like our internal Child and Forced Labor Practices Policy, Supplier Code of Conduct, Good Agricultural Practices program and contract language. We work with the Fa​rm Labor Practices Group (FLPG), a multi-stakeholder group that addresses farm worker issues, including child labor.
Beginning in late 2013, Human Rights Watch (HRW) engaged the major tobacco companies and others about their child labor research on U.S. tobacco farms. Following conversations with HRW, growers and others, we changed our contracts with farmers to further address child labor concerns. Our grower contracts:

  • establish a minimum employment age at 16 years with limited exceptions granted based on local, state and federal laws;
  • require parental/legal guardian consent for those under 18 who wish to work on the farm; and
  • require Good Agricultural Practices training for growers including the prevention of Green Tobacco Sickness and heat stress.
Monitoring & Assessments 
 
Altria's tobacco companies require third-party audits of direct packaging and product materials suppliers, international leaf merchants and contract manufacturers where there's significant country risk, supplier criticality, brand risk and where we have the greatest sphere of influence to improve supply chain compliance. In addition to focusing on child and forced labor, these audits assess other workplace practices such as worker compensation, workplace safety, worker registration, management of employee records and environmental practices.
In 2017, we started a three-year assessment cycle during which all of our domestic growers will be assessed at least once. In 2017, over one-third of our total grower base was assessed, including a review of records such as wages paid to their workers, reimbursement of their worker’s H-2A travel fees and certifications for their worker housing. In addition, bilingual third-party assessors interviewed the growers’ workers to inquire about the wages they were paid, their working and living conditions and their freedom to join or not to join a union.
Internationally, we employ a third-party assessor to conduct social compliance audits using a risk-based approach for our tobacco suppliers and our leaf stemmeries. These audits monitor for adherence to specific elements of our contracts and Supplier Code of Conduct, including workplace practices like child and forced labor, worker registration and compensation, workplace safety, management of employee records and environmental practices. Any supplier factory that has a finding is required to develop a corrective action plan and provide evidence of plan implementation. In 2017, third-party assessors completed 100 percent of planned International leaf supplier audits, and in 2016 and 2017 there were no findings of child labor.
 

Based on a range of factors including our evaluation of risk, we conduct periodic supplier reviews, announced assessments and on-farm visits. For example, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates worked to improve labor standards and requirements with its growers and trade organizations, including the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers.
When Ste. Michelle learns of suppliers that aren’t complying with their contracts, the company notifies the supplier and expects it to take corrective actions. In some situations, Ste. Michelle takes a continuous improvement approach and works with the supplier to improve its practices. In other cases, Ste. Michelle requires immediate action to achieve compliance, or the company terminates its relationship.
Altria's Long History of Addressing Child Labor Issues​
  • ​​Since 2007, our contracts (followed by the publishing of our first Supplier Code of Conduct in 2010) have exceeded U.S. Department of Labor standards which declare that certain agricultural occupations are hazardous and cannot be performed by minors under age 16.  Our contracts prohibit domestic tobacco growers from assigning any hired worker under 18 to work in these hazardous occupations.​
  • In 2012, we worked with grower associations, other tobacco manufacturers, land-grant universities and other stakeholders to develop the first industry-wide U.S. Tobacco Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Handb​ook​. This handbook created guidelines and record-keeping requirements for growers.
  • We developed a GAP assessment process to include company and independent third-party, on-farm verification.
  • We built relationships with growers and promoted the GAP program through company grower representatives who live and work in tobacco-growing communities. 
  • In 2012, we were founding members of the FLPG to help farmers, farm labor contractors and workers better understand and comply with applicable labor laws and regulations and foster improved farm labor practices.
  • In 2013, we were founding members of GAP Connections, which provides governance and oversight of the U.S. Tobacco GAP Handbook and related grower education.​
  • In 2015, we strengthened our grower contract language to:  
    • establish a minimum employment age at 16 years with limited exceptions granted based on local, state and federal laws;
    • require parental/legal guardian consent for those under 18 who want to work on the farm; and
    • require GAP training for growers including the prevention of Green Tobacco Sickness and heat stress.​
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