Arla updating human rights policy to avoid 'negative footprint' in Africa


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Arla Foods sells products, including Dano milk powder, in the Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
Arla Foods sells products, including Dano milk powder, in the Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

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Arla Foods is taking steps to update its human rights policy to ensure its operations in Africa and other developing regions do not leave a "negative footprint."

Earlier today, the European dairy outlined a series initiatives​ designed to bring its human rights policy in line with United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines.

By updating its policy, Arla hopes to avoid "negative consequences for the local farming sector" ​its growth ambitions in Africa and other developing regions may have.

The Danish dairy established a joint venture with Ivorian distributor, Mata Holdings, in August 2013​ - marking its debut on the African continent. 

From its new address in Abidjan, Dano milk powder manufactured in Denmark is packed into 25 metallic sachets for local distribution. It also sells products in Nigeria, and has its sights set on entering Ghana, Senegal, Congo, and other East African markets.

Revenue from Arla operations in sub-Saharan African is forecast to increase to around DKK 2bn (US$318m, €270m) by 2017 - largely on the back of demand for milk powder and ultra-heat treated (UHT) milk.

This growth must, however, be achieved in "a responsible way that does not bring unintentional consequences for the local farming industry and its related communities,"​ it said.

"More and more African consumers demand types of dairy products that cannot always be produced locally in adequate volumes,"​ said Finn Hansen, executive vice president of Arla's international business.

"We offer good nutrition through our powdered milk products, and simultaneously we want to ensure our business does not have any negative effects on local farmers," ​Hansen added.

Due diligence

It has first set itself the task of complying with the UNGPs and OECD guidelines by July 15 2015. 

To ensure it is "well placed to manage the human rights impacts of its global business activities"​ Arla plans to introduce due diligence procedures complying with the UNGPs and OECD guidelines by October 31 2015. 

It will pilot test the audit procedure in the Ivory Coast and Nigeria, the results of which will be published in April and May 2015. 

It announced plans for a human right policy update after discussions Action Aid, which confirmed the need for such initiatives. 

"Arla has done well to acknowledge that the time is right to support the company's good intentions with hard data and know-how when it comes to driving a globally responsible commercial business,"​ said Frans Mikael Jansen, secretary general, Action Aid Denmark.

"Arla is about to lead the way in its industry when it comes to responsibility. We believe both the company and the less advantaged of this world will benefit from this,"​ Jansen said.

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