What is Illovo and three reasons why you should care

Campaigning for change, Food & climate change article written on the 07 May 2015

What is Illovo? Is it an exotic insect? Is it Honda’s newest car model? Is it the newest green detox juice? Illovo is the latest food and beverage company to adopt a zero tolerance land grabs policy.

Illovo is Africa’s largest sugar producer operating in six countries in southern Africa — Tanzania, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Mozambique. Recently the company became the fifth food and beverage (and the first African company) to adopt a zero tolerance land grabs policy — which covers its suppliers too.

This comes after Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Unilever all made commitments to respect community land rights.

Illovo is a subsidiary of Associated British Foods — one of the companies in the Behind the Brands campaign. A year after Oxfam called on the 10 biggest global food and beverage companies to take action on land grabs, in the summer of 2014, Illovo’s new policy commitment has proved that companies do listen to supporters like you that took over 300,000 actions.

OK, it’s great that Illovo made this announcement, but what difference will it really make?

1. Illovo has a lot of leverage in the sugar industry.

It is one of the biggest cane sugar companies and supply to some of your favourite brands. It is also the first trader to commit to zero tolerance for land grabs and we are sure that others will likely follow.

2. The commitment goes deep.

In Illovo’s new policy the company clearly outlines how it will work closely with local communities to implement policies in practice. Illovo is promising to ‘walk the talk’ and has a clear plan for holding suppliers to account.

The company has identified two key projects which it will implement over the coming year; one in Maragra, Mozambique and another in Dwanga, Malawi. In Mozambique, Illovo will work with local stakeholders to establish secure community land rights and in Malawi, Illovo will assist in the resolution of ongoing land disputes.

3. Taking responsibility.

Illovo has acknowledged its responsibility to help protect the land rights of the communities in areas where it operates. Illovo’s commitment to the principle of Free Prior and Informed consent (FPIC) provides communities with the right to decide for themselves about the future of their land.

Illovo’s commitment is bold. The company seems to have a genuine interest in using their influence to protect the land rights of the communities in which it operates.

Will it follow through in practice? The company sources from countries where land tenure is complex. It can’t go it alone or cut corners. It’ll need to enlist the support of others to help, and recognise it’s just beginning a journey.

Along with other stakeholders, Oxfam will be tracking the company’s progress.