Sustainability in hazelnuts

Improving social and labor conditions in the hazelnuts supply chain

Since 2012, Olam Progida has been taking actions to support farmers and seasonal workers, and to improve conditions in the hazelnut supply chain in Turkey. This is in line with our commitment to develop supply chains that respect people and human rights. And to make sure no children or adults are subject to illegal, forced or abusive labor practices. Over 70% of the world’s hazelnuts are grown in Turkey, where the challenges in the supply chain are complex and deeply entrenched. During the hazelnut harvest each summer, workers (the vast majority of whom are Turkish citizens) travel to take up seasonal work on hazelnut farms.

In partnership with the Fair Labor Association (FLA), Olam Progida piloted the USDA’s Guidelines for Eliminating Child Labor and Forced Labor in Agricultural Supply Chains in collaboration with the Turkish government, Nestlé and Balsu. Completed in June 2018, the pilot assessed over 1,000 hazelnut farms and the report identified the systemic barriers and solutions to improving working and social conditions.

“The Fair Labor Association values the partnership with Olam to further our common agenda of improving working conditions for seasonal migrant workers in the hazelnuts supply chain in Turkey. We are grateful to Olam for its continued commitment to improving supply chain and labour standards, collectively identifying human and labour rights risks, and supporting remediation in the supply chain.” 

Fair Labor Association | April, 2020

Improving Workers’ Livelihoods and Incomes

In 2018, we worked with farmers and labor contractors in its supply chain to introduce labor contracts for hazelnut harvest workers - a first for the hazelnut sector, and also for Turkey’s agriculture sector. This resulted in contractual agreements being signed by 11 labor contractors and farmers and 535 seasonal workers, approved by the Employment Agency (İŞKUR). The contractual agreement includes a minimum wage guarantee, legal working hours (eight hours), health and safety, safe transportation, proper meals and decent housing conditions. It also stipulates that no money can be deducted from the workers’ wages as a commission for the labour intermediary, which traditionally amounted to 10% of workers’ income. Instead, farmers will cover this cost. 


Alongside the International Labor Organisation (ILO), FLA and the Turkish authorities, we’re promoting these contracts so they can be replicated across the agricultural sector in Turkey. 


Seasonal workers working on hazelnut farms are often paid less and work longer hours than their local counterparts and we’re raising these wage inequalities with the Wage Determination Commission of the Turkish Employment Agency (İŞKUR). We’re also commissioning research from Düzce University and Ordu University into the reasons behind wage inequality.

Improving Working Conditions and Eliminating Unacceptable Labour Practices

We don’t tolerate illegal or unacceptable labor practices in our operations or our supply chains and we’re committed to respecting and abiding by the ILO conventions No 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and No. 138 on the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and Work. We comply with all Turkish laws and regulations in our hazelnut processing operations, and we have set out labor standards for our direct hazelnut suppliers in the  our Supplier Code.  


We immediately investigate any allegations, and any supplier found to be in breach of these standards may be subject to suspension. We were the first agri-business in the world to become an affiliated member of the  Fair Labor Association (FLA) to allow independent auditing of our hazelnut supply chain. In partnership with government, NGOs and industry partners we’re working to raise awareness of child labor, to eliminate unacceptable labor practices and to improve access to education for children in hazelnut harvesting communities.  


Since 2013, we’ve been training farmers and seasonal workers to support improvements to agricultural and labor practices, and improve understanding of labor rights. Starting in 2019, the training will increase awareness that harvest workers should not work more than eight hours per day; in instances where workers are required to work longer they should be entitled to overtime wages. These sessions are being supported by the distribution of over 2,500 handbooks and more than 1,000 coasters in local coffee shops and public spaces. 


Labor contractors are integral to seasonal work in the hazelnut sector, and we have identified 126 labor contractors who received training to help reduce forced labor. Carried out in cooperation with the Pikolo Association, the trainings covered forced and child labor, working hours and compensation.  


In cooperation with the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services we’ve also launched a program to support labor contractors and encourage them to sign contractual agreements with farm owners, submit annual reports to the Employment Agency and ensure harvest workers enjoy decent working conditions. We’re also advocating for a national policy to curb irregular employment in the agricultural sector. 


Olam has introduced a grievance mechanism to enable workers and farmers to raise concerns and complaints free of charge via telephone. All complaints will be immediately and thoroughly investigated and appropriate actions taken as necessary. 

Supporting Seasonal Workers and Families

We’ve renovated worker houses in selected villages to provide seasonal workers with access to basic services, such as clean water, electricity, proper toilets and bathrooms. 


In partnership with the  International Labor Organisation (ILO), we’ve established three summer schools for the children of seasonal workers. These schools provide safe spaces where children have access to educational facilities including libraries, information technology classes, sports and playground facilities, as well as healthy daily meals.  

We’ve also established partnerships with the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services, Düzce University and Istanbul Bahcesehir University to improve the working and living conditions of seasonal workers, and to provide educational and vocational training to children and students. 

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