The Asahi Group implements the following human rights due diligence process in order to respect the human rights of people affected by our business activities. This due diligence process is pursued in accordance with the United Nations' Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Overall Image of Our Human Rights Due Diligence
Determining Priorities in Responding to Human Rights Risks
When formulating the Asahi Group Human Rights Principles, we identified eight key human rights issues to be tackled in the course of our business activities.
Subsequent gap analysis and best practice case studies on these eight issues revealed the high importance of responding to human rights risks in the “supply chain” and among “Asahi Group employees,” and the need for “development of a framework for remedy to victims of human rights violation.”
The following three high-priority areas have thus been identified, and work is underway on the formulation and implementation of concrete action plans for the short and medium terms.
- Supply Chain
- Development and Operation of a Framework for Remedy to Victims of Human Rights Violation
The Asahi Group appreciates the importance of tackling human rights issues in supply chains in the course of its business activities, and has launched a number of initiatives in this area.
Activities from 2020 to 2022
- Implement the human rights due diligence process from the aspect of supplier risk and modern slavery risk.
- Complete a full cycle of the human rights due diligence process with suppliers by 2022.
- Concurrently, revise internal rules and regulations, build supplier management systems, and conduct training for procurement officers and major clients.
Analysis of Modern Slavery Risk
To coincide with its commitment to the UK's Modern Slavery Act 2015, the Asahi Group conducted a theoretical analysis and assessment of risk focusing on modern slavery from two perspectives: the 17 countries in which the Asahi Group's production bases are located and the 11 major items procured by the Asahi Group.
The analysis and assessment determined that the highest risk of modern slavery in the Asahi Group's supply chain occurs during the “growing crops” stage. We also confirmed that even among the main direct materials procured by the Asahi Group, those deemed to carry an “extremely high” risk of modern slavery were coffee, sugar, tea, palm oil and cacao. The assessment also verified the business impact of these five raw materials.
Dialogue with Stakeholders
Dialogue with Experts
The Asahi Group has received recommendations from experts from the perspective of what kind of human rights risk management will be necessary in the future to mitigate human rights risks, with a focus on addressing human rights in supply chains that carry a particularly high risk in the food industry. These recommendations are reflected in our action plans.
Major Recommendations from Experts:
- Strengthening approaches to suppliers in high-risk categories
- Identifying and understanding potential risks in achieving 100% sustainable use of resources, and taking action against such risks
Participating in Initiatives and Dialogues with NGOs and Other External Experts in Human Rights
In order to further our work on human rights issues in the supply chain, in 2020 we joined The Global Alliance for Sustainable Supply Chain (ASSC). The Asahi Group supports ASSC's activities aimed at “building and promoting a sustainable economic society that respects the human rights and the workers' rights of all people.” In 2020 we held dialogues on a variety of topics as we worked to give concrete shape to our action plans.
Furthermore, some working environments for foreign technical interns and other foreign workers in Japan have been criticized both in Japan and abroad for violating human rights. The Asahi Group has now become involved in the Japan Platform for Migrant Workers towards Responsible and Inclusive Society, an organization established by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and ASSC for purposes including the protection of human rights and improvement of living and working environments for foreign workers. In partnership with other organizations in the platform we continue to work toward the realization of “decent work” for foreign workers.
Revising the Asahi Group Supplier Code of Conduct
To coincide with the formulation of the Asahi Group Human Rights Principles, in January 2020 we implemented revisions to the Asahi Group Supplier Code of Conduct. The Asahi Group shares information about various policies with its suppliers at briefings held annually and in other opportunities. In the Asahi Group Supplier Code of Conduct, we call upon suppliers to respect human rights, including to “not discriminate against, commit any act that damages the dignity of any individual or engage in any harassment” “ensure safe and healthy work environment,” “eliminate forced labor,” “abolish child labor effectively,” and “uphold their human rights responsibility in the communities in which they do business.” We also required our primary suppliers of raw and packaging materials to provide a statement of consent to our new Code of Conduct.
Implementing Human Rights Training
In 2020, we conducted human rights training for the managers and leaders of procurement departments at operating companies in Japan, and also provided e-learning programs for procurement department personnel both in Japan and internationally (176 people eligible; 100% attendance rate).
We sent training materials on sustainable procurement initiatives and global ESG trends including human rights, to all 900 of our continuous primary suppliers in Japan and internationally, enabling them to further their understanding of the Human Rights Principles and Supplier Code of Conduct. We also had them submit their opinions on these materials to serve as a reference point for future policies and responses.
Implementing the Human Rights Due Diligence Process
- In 2020 we asked all continuous primary suppliers of raw and packaging materials in Japan and abroad to respond to a Supplier CSR Questionnaire, and received responses from 84% of suppliers. Supplementary questions in this questionnaire were used to check on suppliers' use of the foreign technical intern system (for suppliers in Japan only), management structures and onsite safety and hygiene conditions in the context of the COVID-19, initiatives to prevent and counteract discrimination related to the virus and establishment of consultation points. Moreover, in 2020 we joined Sedex, and will make use of Sedex to monitor suppliers' management of human rights and working conditions from now on.
- Utilizing the above results, through site visits and other activities in 2021 and beyond, we will pursue discussions with suppliers aimed at developing workplaces that respect human rights.
- In addition to these efforts, we will establish a risk-based priority order for surveying suppliers in high-risk categories (suppliers at the growing crops stage of the supply chain) who are assumed to be involved in serious or high-impact human rights risks based on modern slavery risk analysis. Focusing on the highest priority suppliers, from 2021 we will make use of Supplier CSR Questionnaire to monitor actual conditions, conduct investigations on site, and engage in human rights due diligence.
- Looking ahead, the Asahi Group continues to implement human rights due diligence based on its approach of not tolerating forced labor or child labor, and make efforts through the Group and supply chain towards achieving a sustainable supply chain.
The Asahi Group appreciates the importance of human rights initiatives among its employees and is introducing such initiatives as part of its business activities. We strive to mitigate human rights risks to employees and pursue human rights education for employees, as the basis for creating an environment in which employees can work with vigor and extend their capabilities.
Activities from 2020 to 2021
- Implement human rights initiatives initially for employees in Japan, where Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd. is located, then use the insights gained therefrom to extend our initiatives beyond Japan.
- Prioritize our response to the risk of forced labor and realization of freedom of association within Japan—issues that gap analysis has identified as requiring attention.
- Use the results of compliance questionnaires, engagement surveys, and the internal Clean Line System to address human rights risks at an early stage.
- Ascertain the status of initiatives in group companies outside Japan, and strengthen employees' implementation of the human rights due diligence process and human rights education for employees.
Activities to Prevent the Use of Forced Labor
We have conducted checks for the employment of non-regular foreign workers and foreign technical interns by all group companies in Japan.
In 2020, together with ASSC, we conducted a labor conditions survey and native-language interviews with 40 technical interns at the Okayama Plant of Asahi Group Foods, Ltd., which accepts foreign technical interns. This investigation yielded positive overall evaluations, finding that there was interest among the interns in the Technical Intern Training Program and that their living environment was sound. Improvements to be made in the future include the posting of notices in employees' native languages on matters such as internal regulations and precautions within the plant, and education on emergency response procedures. Moreover, we will work to address problems that cannot be solved by the company alone, through channels such as the Japan Platform for Migrant Workers towards Responsible and Inclusive Society.
Realizing Freedom of Association
The Asahi Group considers it important to ascertain the needs of vulnerable stakeholders, in order to identify internal human rights risks and prevent and rectify infringements of human rights.
- In 2020, we consulted the leadership of labor unions of our major operating companies in Japan to ascertain current conditions for both union members and non-members. This confirmed that union members were able to engage in discussions concerning the day-to-day working environment and feedback on the company's operations, but that opportunities to hear the views of non-union members were not sufficient. To address this problem, in 2020 we developed a workplace questionnaire system for major group companies in Japan, to be rolled out progressively from 2021. Going forward, we will implement workplace questionnaires for non-union members periodically, using the opinions gathered thereby to identify problems and institute improvements, as we seek to build healthier labor-management relations.
- We are also conducting interviews at group companies outside Japan, to ascertain the current status of labor-management relations and participation in external labor unions in each country.
Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Asahi Group publicly proclaims its commitment to respecting human rights, regardless of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are taking a wide range of measures as shown below.
- We believe that the top priorities for respecting human rights in the context of COVID-19 are “health and safety of employees and their families,” “support for stakeholders,” and “support for local communities.” The CEO of Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd. has declared this position and conveyed it to all employees of the Group. Management teams in regional headquarters have also been instructed to offer support to stakeholders and local communities.
- Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have been working from day to day to gather local information related to the virus. Human rights issues that have become apparent in this process, and proposed responses thereto, have been reported to the Directors responsible for human rights. The content of these reports has provided the basis for discussions in the Corporate Strategy Board and Board of Directors, and the pursuit of initiatives for the respect of human rights.
- Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd. Global Headquarters HR, Japan Headquarters Human Resources Department, and the Asahi Group Workers' Union Council (which is composed of the major labor unions at operating companies in Japan) have exchanged opinions based on requests, complaints, and other feedback from union members with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the current conditions faced by union members.
Similar exchanges are being conducted between labor and management in each group company. In Asahi Breweries, Ltd., for example, the President and Human Resources Department are engaged in discussions with the Asahi Breweries Labor Union on matters such as work styles during and after the pandemic.
- Envisaging that the pandemic would have an especially adverse impact on employees caring for children and non-regular employees, we offered employees special paid leave, and provided wage compensation for dispatched workers and contract workers within Japan.
- We monitored the conditions of foreign technical interns employed by Asahi Group Foods, Ltd. Owing to uncertainty over the recommencement of return flights for interns whose contracts had expired, we extended employment periods based on their will so that the interns would not be left without income.
Human Rights Education
The Asahi Group Code of Conduct states that we “will not discriminate against or commit any act that damages the dignity of any individual based on nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, ideology, gender, age, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, or employment status.” We are implementing training for employees in order to instill the principles of this Code of Conduct and the Asahi Group Human Rights Principles.