Retailer successfully pilots an innovative living wage verification process on banana farms

Ecuador bananas

The Aldi South Group together with Aldi Nord and other sectoral stakeholders, including Heartwood LLC, Banana Link, Dole, Grupo Iren and Banafem, have announced the successful completion of a pilot project to understand worker-led living wage verification in major banana production countries in Latin America.

The aim of the project was to train and guide workers and local trade unions to enable them to review and verify wage data. It covered three farms that supply the Aldi South Group indirectly via exporters, incorporating suppliers, traders, workers and trade unions.

In one case, verification was led by an independent trade union and represented workers who were able to verify the average wages and at the same time point out that the wage averages tend to mask wage fluctuations (sometimes below minimum wage) at certain points in the year.

“Farm management was receptive to the feedback and open to continuing the dialogue to find solutions. As a result, there was a high level of transparency and confidence in the results and clear remediation measures were identified,” Aldi noted.

In another case, verification was led by farm worker groups and Fairtrade worker committees. The meetings between the representatives and farm management achieved transparent dialogue around other related topics, such as informal labour, holiday work, and seasonal pay differences.

Aldi said this produced positive results that would not have normally been identified during remote checks or routine audits.

“Overall, the pilot demonstrated that by establishing dialogue, collaboration and building trust among all the relevant stakeholders, farms were more open to share sensitive information,” Aldi said.

“This enabled more accurate wage calculations as well as an effective verification mechanism. This process worked most effectively when an independent trade union was present and involved.”

Ultimately, the pilot demonstrated potential of worker-led verification. “To ensure scalability for such an approach, investments into large-scale capacity building for local trade unions and worker representative groups are needed,” Aldi continued, noting that “the learnings are not country-specific but relate to the type of worker organisation involved”.

The retailer said it will share the learnings with other stakeholders in the banana sector to help them improve the verification process.

Felix Strauss, team lead corporate responsibility at Aldi Süd, commented: “Reliability of wage data is crucial to further advance the topic of living wages in supply chains and unions/workers play a key role in closing wage gaps.

“I hope this will serve as a blueprint for scaling such approaches on banana farms and beyond.”