Ethical Employment in Agriculture and Food Production


The Chilled Food Association (CFA) defines ‘Sustainability’ as:

Meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

As part of the Association’s commitment to sustainability, our members aim to work in their own businesses and with their suppliers to improve working conditions and human rights.

Responsible employment

CFA members want their customers and consumers to be confident that the people employed in their supply chains work in safe conditions and are treated fairly. Our members pride themselves on being trusted and ethically responsible businesses.


CFA is fully committed to the highest standards of ethical and social responsibility. Our members work to tackle modern slavery and hidden exploitation in their own businesses and in relevant supply chains.

CFA Executive Committee and Sustainable Development Working Group provide fora in which our members can raise and discuss specific issues with respect to ethical matters. CFA coordinates and communicates the views of the chilled food sector, as required, to Government, enforcers and other stakeholders.

Agriculture and food production

CFA recognises that modern slavery and labour exploitation is a risk in some global food supply chains.  Food production and the agricultural industries can be vulnerable due to significant labour requirements, seasonality and uncertainties in both market demand and workload.

Management of supply chains

CFA members primarily operate and manufacture in the UK. However, they source raw material from a worldwide supply base. Suppliers to the industry range from small farmers to multi-national manufacturing businesses. CFA recognises that it can have a significant influence on the way in which the industry’s suppliers operate and behave. It promotes transparency and collaboration throughout the supply chain.

CFA members expect their suppliers to comply with all applicable laws, and regulations and codes within their countries of operation and, where these are considered inadequate, to meet the more stretching standards recognised by the UK and UK customers.

 Retailer standards

Over 95 per cent of UK chilled prepared foods are sold under retailers’ own labels. Producers therefore have to meet all of their retail customers’ legislative and non-legislative requirements including those relating to responsible sourcing and ethical employment.

 Modern slavery

Modern slavery is the exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain.

CFA recognises that developed economies can be affected by modern slavery issues. In the UK, labour exploitation is the most common form of modern slavery. It involves forcing people to work for little or no wages. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 has meant that companies have a greater duty to recognise and report slavery within their supply chains.

Initiatives / tools

CFA members are committed to ethical and social responsibility and are active participants in (and users of) initiatives and tools designed to help reduce the risk of labour exploitation, as well as working with their retail customers to assure their requirements are met.

Initiatives and schemes include:

  • Stronger Together: A multi-stakeholder business-led initiative aiming to reduce modern slavery particularly forced labour, labour trafficking and other hidden third-party exploitation of workers.
  • SEDEX: One of the world’s leading ethical trade membership organisations, working with businesses to improve working conditions in global supply chains.
  • Spanish Ethical Trade Forums (Foros Comercio Etico): The Spanish Ethical Trade Forums were established to create a non-competitive space where Spanish growers (supplying the UK retail market) can discuss joint challenges and share best practice on human rights.
  • Gangmaster & Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA): A non-departmental public body which protects vulnerable workers in agriculture by licencing labour providers in the UK.
  • Responsible Recruitment Toolkit: Offers a toolkit to help businesses achieve and be recognised for responsible recruitment.
  • Modern Slavery Intelligence Network (MSIN): An industry-led intelligence sharing group.
  • Food Network for Ethical Trade: Aiming to support members to identify, manage and respond to global supply chain ethical trade risks, to improve the food industry’s understanding of ethical trade, to identify and facilitate collaboration opportunities, to promote trust and to build a forum for sharing issues and best practice.
  • Food Industry Intelligence Network: Established in 2015 to help ensure the integrity of food supply chains and protect the interests of the consumer.
  • The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI): an alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations improving the lives of workers who make consumer goods.
  • A.P. Risk Assessment on Social Practice (GRASP): certificated standard assessing social practices on the farm, such as specific aspects of workers’ health, safety, and welfare.
  • Stop The Traffik: – Since 2013, STOP THE TRAFFIK has partnered with businesses and financial institutions who want to address the risk of modern slavery in their operations, supply chains, and customers. We offer bespoke solutions that enable your organisation to manage the risk of modern slavery, protecting your brand and supporting your organisation to be an ethical market leader
  • Just Good Work: – A dynamic communication, education and engagement tool, demonstrating a pro-active approach to preventing and tackling worker exploitation risks across supply chains.

Published 7 March 2022