Promoting Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)
Tobacco leaf production is the most environmentally impactful aspect of RAI’s operating companies’ supply chains. To reduce negative impacts associated with both environmental and social risks, RAI’s tobacco operating companies 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 Connection (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.
GAP Labor Management Standards
GAP Labor Management best practices address compliance with the laws that protect workers’ 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 workers are respected. Farm workers are critically important to tobacco production. These jobs are seasonal and often filled by migrant workers, many of whom are working to support families in Mexico and other Central American countries. For those migrant workers, these jobs offer significant opportunities and significant challenges.
- Child Labor: Grower contracts for all RAI operating companies include a minimum age of 16 for farm workers working in tobacco. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows workers as young as 12 to be employed in agricultural production. The grower contracts entered into by RAI and its operating companies go further than the FLSA requirements: employment of non-family minors under the age of 16 is prohibited, and 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 workers’ identity documents to restrict their travel and ability to return home. Third-party audits include questions directed to this indicator. To date, no instance of withholding of identity documents has been identified on farms with which RAI operating companies contract.
- Freedom of Association: Workers who wish to join a union have the right to do so. The law guarantees that right, and RAI’s operating companies that purchase tobacco promote respect for that right by requiring compliance in their grower contracts. Growers violate their contract if they retaliate against workers for joining a union or for making complaints about the terms and conditions of their employment.
- 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 workers. In addition, we support live, on-farm training programs, including training on heat stress, heat stroke, personal protective equipment, farm equipment safety and CPR.
- Housing: Growers who provide housing to workers 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.