Case story

  • Germany

OECD NCP Germany - Germanwatch vs. Bayer

India 2007

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Story

On 11 October 2004, three NGOs (German Watch, Global March, and Coordination gegen Bayer-Gefahren) submitted a complaint to the German NCP against Bayer CropScience. The Complainants alleged that suppliers of Bayer CropScience were using child labour in cotton cultivation in Andrah Pradesh, India, and that Bayer CropScience had not taken adequate measures to counter the practice. Bayer CropScience asserted that all reasonable means had been taken to prevent this practice.

The Complaint: Child labour is frequently encountered on Indian cotton plantations. The Complainants alleged that Bayer CropScience tolerated the use of child labour by its subcontractors producing cottonseeds, and that it failed to use its leverage to influence their operations. They asserted that the formal prohibition of child labour in Bayer CropScience contracts was not monitored in practice. Moreover, Bayer CropScience was said to have contributed to the use of child labour by paying its suppliers low profit margins.

Bayer CropScience responded that since Aventis CropScience (a subsidiary of Bayer AG) took over the Proagro seed company (India) as part of its global acquisitions, a child protection program was instituted to prevent child labour in Aventis’ sub-contractors. Bayer AG added that child labour was incompatible with its corporate philosophy, and that it had already initiated measures to eliminate this practice (e.g. independent supervision, training, etc.). The Complainants maintained that the implementation of these measures was inadequate, as child labour was still occurring within Bayer’s supply-chain.

The Proceedings: On 26 October 2004, Bayer responded to the Complainants in a letter to the NCP that the complaint was unfounded. After an exchange of letters and having received comprehensive comments by both parties, the German NCP invited all parties to a meeting. Bayer objected to the participation of one of the Complainants and thus refused to participate. Therefore, instead of a joint meeting, the NCP held separate meetings in which Bayer explained how it intended to deal with the issues raised in the Complaint. OECD Watch reports that the Complainants felt holding separate meetings with the Complainant and the Multinational compromised the NCP’s independent/objective nature because it put the NCP in the position of having to present the views and arguments of the Multinational to the NGOs.[1]

In December 2005, the Complainants sent a letter to Bayer with questions regarding the Multinational’s action plan. Bayer failed to respond. Independent research revealed that there were still 450-500 children working in the fields in the 2005/06 season producing for ProAgro/Bayer. After additional (separate) meetings in 2006 and 2007, in June 2007 the results of independent research indicating structural problems with Bayer’s implementation of the action plan, together with an analysis by the Complainants, were given to the NCP for consideration.

Outcome

In August 2007, the NCP concluded the complaint with a Final Statement. In order to further assess the outcome of the case, the Complainants pledged to continue to monitor the situation on the ground and to see how/whether the German NCP assumes the monitoring role that is foreseen in the Final Statement.

Bayer CropScience issued a declaration committing itself to act in conformity with the principles set forth in Chapter II §10 and Chapter IV §1.b of the OECD Guidelines.

For the German NCP Final Statement, see [2]

For OECD Watch synopsis, see: [3]

References

OECD Watch case story page: http://oecdwatch.org/cases/Case_50

 Contributor(s): This article was modified by Nicolaclayre (3), Kyle (2), 65.96.169.178 (1), and Ejfturnbull (1).