Promoting Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)
Tobacco leaf production is the most environmentally impactful aspect of RAI’s tobacco operating companies’ supply chains. To reduce negative impacts associated with both environmental and social risks, RAI’s operating companies that purchase tobacco require growers to comply with Good Agricultural Practices, or GAP, through provisions in their contracts. The GAP program requires growers to comply with trainings and audits that cover environmental and social risks associated with agriculture.
R.J. Reynolds was the first U.S. company to provide a comprehensive and documented Good Agricultural Practices program to its contracted tobacco growers. All contracted growers must register and participate in GAP Connections (GAPC). GAPC is focused on establishing industry best practices in the areas of Crop Management, Environmental Management and Labor Management.
GAP Environmental Management Standards
GAP Environmental Management best practices reduce environmental impacts of tobacco cultivation. By following GAP with respect to soil management, water management, energy management, agrobiodiversity and agrochemical management, contracted growers can ensure that their operations are environmentally sustainable.
Our contracted U.S. tobacco growers have a great environmental stewardship story to tell. From our 2016 audit report, contracted growers demonstrate soil and water management, and agrochemical management practices that benefit the environment. These include:
- Presence of buffer zones between farmland and bodies of water (100%);
- Use of a Licensed Pesticide Applicator (98%);
- Conservation plan in place for Highly Erodible Land (HEL) (91%); and
- Maintenance of all proper soil and water management documentation (94%).
Internationally, our tobacco suppliers have made significant progress in lessening their impact on the environment both in their operations and on the farms from which they source tobacco. Historically, tobacco farmers in many countries outside the U.S. have used wood from native forests for curing fuel and barn construction. This has led to unnecessary deforestation and, as a result, a loss of biodiversity and increases in carbon emissions in countries such as Brazil. Our suppliers are collaborating with their contracted farmers to lessen the environmental impact of tobacco curing through:
- Improving barn efficiency and reducing fuel needs;
- Transitioning to sustainable wood sources and alternative fuel sources such as biomass; and
- Assisting with reforestation projects.
GAP Labor Management Standards
GAP Labor Management best practices address compliance with the laws that protect employees’ health, safety and rights. By following GAP Labor Management practices, growers mitigate the risks inherent in tobacco cultivation and promote the social sustainability of their operations by ensuring that the rights of their employees are respected. Farm employees are critically important to tobacco production. These jobs are seasonal and often filled by migrant employees, many of whom are working to support families in Mexico and Central American countries. For those migrant employees, these jobs offer significant opportunities and significant challenges.
- Child Labor: Grower contracts for all RAI operating companies that purchase tobacco include a minimum age of 16 for farm employees working in tobacco in the U.S., which is more stringent than the legal requirement. Employment of minors 16 and 17 years of age is prohibited unless the grower provides safety training and appropriate personal protective equipment and obtains a written consent from the minor’s parent or guardian.
- Forced Labor: A hallmark of forced labor is the withholding of employees’ identity documents to restrict their travel and ability to return home. Third-party audits include questions directed to this issue. To date, no instance of withholding of identity documents has been identified on farms with which RAI operating companies contract. In our 2016 audit report, 100 percent of interviewed farm employees reported that they had free access to their passports or identify documents and 100 percent of the employees interviewed reported that they felt free to leave or terminate their employment at any time.
- Freedom of Association: Farm employees who wish to join a union have the right to do so. Growers violate their contract if they retaliate against employees for joining a union or for making complaints about the terms and conditions of their employment. In our 2016 audit report, 99 percent of the farm employees interviewed reported that they were aware of their right to join a labor union. The remaining 1 percent of employees incorrectly said they would need to tell the grower before joining a labor union.
- Health & Safety/Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS): Health and safety risks, including GTS, are included in the GAP training program, at annual grower meetings and in the audit program. Worker training is a key tool for promoting health and safety. RAI tobacco operating companies promote GTS awareness and safety best practices by paying for the production of English- and Spanish-language training DVDs, which are provided to growers to train their employees. In addition, we support live, on-farm training programs, including training on heat stress, heat stroke, personal protective equipment, farm equipment safety and CPR. In our 2016 audit report, 99 percent of farm employees interviewed reported receiving GTS and Heat Stress training.
- Housing: Growers who provide housing to employees are required to have housing inspected and certified by a government-authorized agency prior to occupancy. Housing certification requirements are covered in GAP training and are a focus of third-party audits. Contracted growers are required to comply with the inspection and certification requirements.
- Wage & Hour: A key focus of GAP training and audits is compliance with wage and hour laws. R.J. Reynolds’ third-party audits of their growers indicate that audited growers do a good job complying with these laws, and uniformly pay at or above minimum wage. In our 2016 audit report, 100 percent of farm employees interviewed reported being paid above the local minimum wage, and 98 percent reported receiving some form of itemized pay statement.