Tom Philpott has a thoughtful post over at Grist on Chipotle, which is supporting the film Food Inc. but is refusing to stand behind a coalition of tomato pickers in Florida to lock in a 1 cent per pound raise. I had wondered about this seeming contradiction too, so am glad Philpott looked into it.
Chipotle has a very forward-thinking approach to sustainability, supporting small farms, banning growth hormones and antibiotics in the production of its meat, and taking the extra step on animal welfare. That's why its position on worker rights is so confusing, especially given that McDonald’s, Burger King, Yum Foods, as well as Whole Foods and Bon Appetit Management Co. - a food service company -- have signed on to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
I wouldn't say Chipotle's support of Food Inc. amounts to greenwashing, since the company is clearly ahead on sustainability. But it's position with the tomato workers, who have worked in "virtual slavery,"
is confusing. (Chipotle is escrowing the 1 cent per pound increase but not committing to a program with the workers' main representative).
As author Eric Schlosser, who appears in Food Inc., told Philpott:
I like the food at the Chipotle. I think their efforts on behalf of sustainability, animal welfare, and the misuse of antibiotics are terrific. But I care more about human rights than any of those things.
If Taco Bell, Subway, Burger King, and McDonald’s can reach agreement with the CIW, I don’t see why Chipotle can’t. It will not cost much—and it will help to end human trafficking in Florida.
Talk about brand risk. Why can't Chipotle step forward and clear up this issue?