British American Tobacco: Human Rights Violations in Bangladesh

Recently Facing Finance published the results of a study by Human Rights Watch on the working conditions occurring on Indonesian tobacco plantations1.

Now the Swedish organization, Swedwatch, reports on similar incidents of environmental and human rights violations this time in Bangladesh. According to the study entitled “Smokescreen in the supply chain”, the suppliers of British American Tobacco (BAT) in Bangladesh are responsible for serious violations of human rights, including widespread child labour, significant health and safety issues and also over-indebtedness of workers. BAT apparently operates its business and supply chain without ensuring the protection of human rights for its workers2.

According to the study, a number of investigations were carried out on the plantations, showing that children often help for extended hours during the harvest and therefore cannot fully attend school. Moreover, the workers take in nicotine through their skin when harvesting and processing the leaves, leading to skin irritations and nausea. They are also exposed to highly toxic pesticides as they are not provided with adequate protective clothing. Young people in particular, are at risk of serious health problems. Finally, the wages provided to workers  are highly unreliable and precarious as they are dependent on the often unpredictable purchasing decisions of large customers.

“Smokescreen in the supply chain” makes the recommendation that companies improve their human rights due diligence. BAT responded to this report claiming the study did not show the reality on the ground. However,  the study by Swedwatch is transparent and open and details explicitly regarding the aforementioned violations.

The study can be found here in full.

Investment funds that hold shares in BAT according Onvista 

Shareholders of BAT, according to Morningstar

  1. 30/06/2016 indonesia /, accessed on 05/26/2016 []
  2., accessed on 07.04.2016 []