S Group stands with human rights activist Andy Hall

S Group has continued collaboration with Andy Hall after the legal proceedings. Andy Hall and Lea Rankinen met in March 2017 at the ‘Maailman kekseliäin ruokamaa' trend incubator on food innovations, where Hall talked about the responsibility of supply chains.

S Group defended human rights activist Andy Hall in a lawsuit brought against him by Natural Fruit in Thailand in July. Nevertheless, Hall was convicted for blemishing the reputation of a pineapple juice plant, among other things. S Group finds punishing someone for openness worrisome.

In March 2013, Finnwatch published a report which revealed serious grievances in the production conditions of pineapple juice concentrates in Thailand. The findings of the report resulted in immediate measures in Finland as well, since the said juice concentrates were being used in S Group's Rainbow pineapple juice.

As a result of the publication of the report, Natural Fruit took legal action against Andy Hall, one of the key contributors to the report. Jari Simolin, Senior Vice President of Food, Consumer Goods & DIY Sourcing at SOK, testified for Hall in Bangkok in July.

"As a witness of the defendant, S Group wanted to support a free civil society. A functioning civic society also serves the interests of companies. Instead of taking legal action, the primary methods for resolving problems should be openness and dialogue," says Lea Rankinen, SVP, Sustainability, at SOK.

Nevertheless, Hall was found guilty of blemishing the reputation of Natural Fruit, among others. The court's decision raised international concern about the human rights situation in Thailand.

"We will continue our work for human rights. It is important to us that all operators in the supply chain take these factors into consideration. Openness and bringing up grievances should not be punishable under any circumstances," Rankinen stresses.

In October 2016, Lea Rankinen and Andy Hall visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg to discuss the human rights situation in Thailand and Hall's case in a Parliament session.

In its resolution, the European Parliament found Hall's conviction to be unfortunate and expressed its concern about the legal process and its possible effects on the freedom of human rights work. In addition, the Parliament expressed its support for S Group's efforts to help Hall.

Cooperation with Andy Hall has continued.

"I have personally been touched by the extensive support from Finland that I have received from S Group, stakeholders and the Embassy. Although the court's decision was unfavourable, many of the issues we have been working for have seen progress, and companies in Thailand have started taking the rights of workers better into consideration," Hall says.

Photo: Anssi Vuohelainen