Kesko and Plan’s collaboration in Thailand yields good results

The joint project between Kesko and the children’s right organisation Plan International in Thailand has proven that a change for the better is possible. For three years, learning centres established in the country have helped more than 200 children of Cambodian migrant workers to get into Thai schools. Social responsibility training has also been arranged for suppliers in Thailand and transparency in the supply chain has improved.

Thailand’s massive fishing industry is fully dependent on migrant labour. Some 70% of the workers come from poor neighbouring countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar. The children of the migrant workers often do not get the chance to go to school in Thailand.

Learning centres prepare children for school

For three years, Kesko’s Board has donated funds to Plan International’s SEAS of Change project. One of the project’s goals is to help children of migrant workers enter school. To prepare the children for school, two learning centres have been established in the Trat and Rayong provinces in Eastern Thailand.

“The learning centres provide pre-school education for children aged 4-14 who are not ready to enter public schools in Thailand,” explains Ossi Heinänen, Secretary General at Plan International Finland.

“The children typically spend a year at the learning centre, after which we can help them apply to public schools in Thailand. Between 2015 and 2017, a total of 944 children registered at the learning centres and 212 children moved onto public schools.”

According to Heinänen, education is one of the most effective means of preventing poverty from passing on to the next generation: “Education provides knowledge and skills for a good life and raises income levels. Children who get to go school are more likely to put their children to school later on.”

Increasing transparency in the supply chain

Kesko entered the collaboration with Plan because it wants to bear responsibility for the sustainability of its supply chain. Thailand is classified as a high-risk country, i.e. a country with a high risk of human rights violations.

“Supply chains in the fishing industry are complex, and tracing them to the lowest steps is challenging. The collaboration and Plan’s knowledge of local circumstances have given us a chance to go deeper into the supply chain,” says Matti Kalervo, Kesko’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility. 

“By supporting the protection and education of migrant families and children, we can prevent human rights risks in our own supply chain.”

Social responsibility training for Thai companies

Kesko’s principle in high-risk countries is to collaborate only with suppliers that are already included in the scope of social responsibility audits or that start the process when the cooperation begins. The primary audit method is the amfori BSCI (amfori Business Social Compliance Initiative).

Many smaller companies in Thailand are poorly familiar with social responsibility requirements (such as work hour regulations and health and safety issues) and need guidance when entering the audit process. As part of the SEAS of Change project, suppliers are given training and guidance for entering amfori BSCI auditing. A total of 25 suppliers from the Thai fishing industry took part in the trainings in 2017.

One of those suppliers was Rayong Fish Sauce, which has a factory on the coast at Rayong that employs 81 Thai, 66 Cambodian and 8 Burmese workers. The migrant workers live either in rented flats or the fishing communities.

The Rayong Fish Sauce facility manufactures Pirkka fish sauce. The anchovies used for the sauce are fished from nearby waters. The fishermen clean the fish and deliver it straight to the factory, where the other ingredients – water, salt and sugar – are added to make the sauce. The sauce is kept in vats outside the factory for a year before it is ready to be bottled.

 

 Pirkka fish sauce travels from the Rayong Fish Sauce factory to Finland by boat.

Kesko’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility Matti Kalervo visited the Rayong Fish Sauce factory, which produces Pirkka fish sauce. Watch the video to hear his impressions.

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