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Ethical charter program inaugurated


WASHINGTON, December 5, 2023 – Fresh produce industry stakeholders came together to launch the Ethical Charter Implementation Program (ECIP) in early November, which aims to recognize and strengthen engagement around labor practices in the fresh produce industry without additional audits.

Six founding buyers – Costco Wholesale BB #:150902, Kroger BB #:100073, McDonald’s USA, Sam’s Club BB #:140368 Target BB #:166987 and Walmart BB #:143789 – are inviting more than 100 of their suppliers to use the capacity-building platform to strengthen their farm labor management systems. Those suppliers are in turn inviting growers into the ECIP LAB online platform to assess their labor practices.

ECIP LAB offers three channels for engagement. In the learn channel, growers explore the management systems required to implement each principle of the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices. In the assess channel, growers rank their own management systems, understanding that they can answer honestly because their responses are not visible to their customers. Lastly, the benchmark channel allows growers to track progress over time as they prioritize and address opportunities to strengthen their systems. ECIP measures an employer’s willingness to engage and improve labor practices rather than testing compliance with a standard.

“At Walmart, we are excited about the potential of this program to scale across the produce value chain without adding additional audits,” said Laura Himes, vice president of global sourcing for Walmart. “What we like about ECIP is that it focuses on continuous improvement while offering many tools and resources for growers to assess their management structures, benchmark their progress and continue to improve over time.”

Suppliers who were involved in the program’s development and testing also affirm the value of creating better alignment with the Ethical Charter through capacity building rather than through a compliance program and additional audits. “As a supplier, we are excited to support ECIP as a tool that credibly measures employer engagement and encourages continuous improvement, thereby enhancing our relationships with both our customers and our growers,” said Wyatt Maysey, director of sustainability at Taylor Farms. “Our hope is that the industry embraces this program as it is an opportunity to help reduce the audit burden already felt by growers.”

“EFI is committed to multistakeholder collaboration, so we’re proud to have worked with leaders from across the industry to develop and launch the ECIP LAB platform. Amid a labor shortage, strong management systems and responsible practices are an important recruitment and retention tool,” noted Peter O’Driscoll, executive director of Equitable Food Initiative, one of the implementing organizations for the program. “ECIP will be a valuable resource for employers who want to build better workplaces.”

A small group of suppliers and growers took part in a beta test prior to the official program launch. In addition to offering feedback to strengthen the ECIP LAB platform, participants noted the value of the program. “We believe the Ethical Charter Implementation Program is an important step for the entire industry and reflects our values and mission at NatureSweet,” said Fernanda Suarez, the company’s sustainability and social impact director. “We are glad to invite our growers to access the relevant resources and information in ECIP LAB and believe it provides a great opportunity to learn and support them in continuous improvement of their practices.”

Participating buyers are each crafting their own invitation to their suppliers. Suppliers are encouraged to speak with customers about expectations for using ECIP. If suppliers haven’t yet received a request from a buyer, suppliers or growers can register for the ECIP LAB platform and begin to learn about and assess their management systems prior to receiving an invitation.

The program is funded by an annual subscription fee paid by the buyers, suppliers and growers who use ECIP LAB. Buyers pay $25,000 per year; suppliers pay between $1,800 and $9,000 depending on their annual sales; and growers pay $200 per year. Founding buyers also committed an additional $100,000 each for the platform’s development.

ECIP will generate a single engagement profile for each grower and supplier, which they can share with as many customers as they choose. More information about the program can be found at

Industry groups published the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices in 2018 to provide a common baseline for accountability and transparency that can be widely understood, accepted and applied across the global produce and floral supply chains. In 2020, several major buyers and suppliers came together to develop ECIP as a way to support agricultural employers to implement the principles of the Ethical Charter. They agreed that ECIP should focus on capacity building rather than compliance testing and should not impose more audits. After a pilot program in 2021, the Walmart Foundation made a $2 million grant in 2022 to help launch and scale ECIP as a self-assessment tool to strengthen labor management systems at field level.

About EFI

Equitable Food Initiative is a capacity-building and certification nonprofit that works to improve the lives of farmworkers and drive business performance by integrating worker voice and engagement throughout the supply chain. As a multistakeholder organization, EFI brings together growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumers to create assessment, training and organizational development programs that support continuous improvement and address the industry’s most pressing problems. For more information about Equitable Food Initiative, visit

About The Sustainability Consortium

The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) is a global nonprofit organization transforming the consumer goods industry to deliver more sustainable consumer products. It works to enable a world where people can lead fulfilled lives in a way that decouples their impacts on people and the planet. Its members and partners include manufacturers, retailers, suppliers, service providers, NGOs, civil society organizations, governmental agencies and academics. TSC convenes its diverse stakeholders to work collaboratively to build science-based decision tools and solutions that address sustainability issues that are materially important throughout a product’s supply chain and life cycle. TSC also offers a portfolio of services to help drive effective improvement and implementation. Formed in 2009, TSC is jointly administered by Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas and has a European office at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands. For more information visit

About the Ethical Charter

The Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices provides an industry framework for accountability and transparency related to respect for laws at work, respect for professional conduct and respect for human rights in the production and purchase of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers. It was adopted in 2018 by the Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association (now combined to form the International Fresh Produce Association) after a committee of suppliers and buyers defined the common baseline to ensure everyone in the industry is treated with dignity and respect.

About ECIP

The Ethical Charter Implementation Program (ECIP) is a collaboration among retailers, grower-shippers and implementing organizations to recognize and strengthen engagement around labor practices in the fresh produce industry, highlight existing best-practice efforts and identify opportunities for continuous improvement. The program is built around self-assessment to avoid the burden of an additional audit. Through an assessment tool and capacity-building resources, it helps measure and strengthen alignment with the principles of the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices. Launched with initial funding from the Walmart Foundation and administered by Equitable Food Initiative and The Sustainability Consortium, the program is overseen by an advisory group composed of leading buyers and suppliers and key stakeholders, including representatives from AgSocio, Bonduelle Fresh Americas, Costco Wholesale, Kroger, McDonald’s USA, Naturipe BB #:165382, Sam’s Club, Target, Tanimura and Antle BB #:115075, Taylor Farms BB #:154001 and Walmart. More information about the program can be found at

About Philanthropy at Walmart represents the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. By focusing where the business has unique strengths, works to tackle key social and environmental issues and collaborate with others to spark long-lasting systemic change. Walmart has stores in 24 countries, employs more than 2.2 million associates and does business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. is helping people live better by supporting programs to accelerate upward job mobility for frontline workers, advance equity, address hunger, build inclusive economic opportunity for people in?supply chains, protect and restore nature, reduce waste and emissions, and build strong communities where Walmart operates. To learn more, visit