Child & Forced Labor

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.
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.
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.
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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