PMA and United Fresh adopted an Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices

The Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices was adopted in January 2018 by the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and the United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh).

Our associations took this step because we share a vision for an industry framework on how to responsibly produce and buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The Charter provides a common baseline for accountability and transparency, that can be widely understood, accepted, and applied across the global produce and floral supply chains.

The framework, however, is just the beginning of cross-industry process or action for ensuring that people throughout our industry are treated with dignity and respect. The Charter was not intended to replace the good work that is already happening in the industry via other initiatives. We will encourage mutual recognition of industry members’ assurance efforts, looking for opportunities to build comparability and transparency between existing systems while preserving their specificities, as a means to reduce audit duplication and set the scene for more collaboration. We will also focus on educating industry members and providing helpful tools to growers, companies, and individual managers to strengthen their capacity to drive and demonstrate responsible labor practices or ethical sourcing in their work.

Responsible labor practices are the right thing to do, and our success as an industry depends on it. Endorsers of the Charter publicly demonstrate this commitment, and include growers, labor agencies, packers, distributors, foodservice operators, marketers, and retailers. Join us by becoming a Charter Endorser. Read our FAQ to learn more.


What does it cover?

The Charter contains guiding principles and values intended to set a neutral reference framework for responsible labor practices. The Charter is based on a foundation of employment law, good management systems and sound occupational safety and health practices and covers the following areas:

Respect for Laws at Work: Legal Compliance; Occupational Safety & Health; Wages & Benefits; and Working Hours

Respect for Professional Conduct: Communication and Worker Protections; Ethical Recruitment; Responsible Purchasing Practices; Management Systems and Continuous Improvement

Respect for Human Rights: Employment is Freely Chosen; Freedom of Association; Humane Treatment and Non-Harassment; Non-Discrimination; and Protection of Children and Young Workers

The Charter is available in English and Spanish.

How is the Charter supported?

The Charter is supported by two guides and one tool:

The Measurement Criteria: Implementing the Charter is explained in a supporting document, the Measurement Criteria. This provides the definitions and explanations for the principles in the Charter and is an operational document that producers, buyers, auditors or others may use to ensure a consistent interpretation of the Charter. The Criteria is available in English and Spanish.

The Guidelines for Responsible Purchasers: The Guidelines for Responsible Purchasers provides guidance on responsible purchasing practices to help companies facilitate adherence to that principle of the Charter within a supply chain. The Guideline is available in English and Spanish.

The Employer Self-Assessment Tool: The Employer Self-Assessment Tool enables a business to evaluate its own performance against the Charter principles, by completing a self-assessment form that will uncover gaps in operations and/or opportunities for improvement. The self-assessment is an educational tool. It is not designed for auditing or verification.

These reference tools can voluntarily either be integrated in part or in full by organizations into their respective systems or used by them as a reference against which to compare, or otherwise review, their existing program against the Charter.

How was the Charter developed?

A Joint Committee on Responsible Labor Practices, comprised of 16 members equally divided among produce suppliers and buyers, developed the Charter throughout 2017 under defined terms of reference. After extensive dialogue with industry members, expert consultants and a public consultation held January-February 2017 (see the report), the associations adopted the final Charter in January 2018 as a recommendation for all industry members.

Are companies using the Charter going to be audited?

The associations aim to lay a foundation for implementing these industry expectations in an effective and efficient manner. The associations rejected adding a new audit and database in the market for assurance of the Charter’s implementation, not wanting to add costs to the industry from duplicative existing due diligence systems. The associations will also not undertake, or compete with existing, accreditation or certification activities as it seeks to remain a non‐aligned, neutral reference framework.

Any social compliance auditing system is invited to benchmark its audit to identify gaps with the Charter and to adapt its audit to incorporate the Charter’s Measurement Criteria as appropriate. The associations encourage sharing data and harmonizing data collection practices to reduce the burden on producers of having multiple buyer audits that review labor practices. The Charter does not mandate or control how companies make their own business decisions.