G’s Fresh operates end-to-end food production all around the world, including in Spain, the Czech Republic, Poland, Senegal, the USA and the UK. The family-owned firm manages the whole process from seed to shelf, farming and growing fresh produce and delivering it to supermarkets. ‘Our overall strategy and principle is around being a great neighbour,’ explains Group HR Director Beverly Dixon. ‘We want to add value to the community wherever we work.’
Organisation: G’s Fresh
Industry: Food production
Size: Around 8,000 people globally, flexing up and down with the seasons
Connecting with community
Community is a core plank of G’s overall ESG strategy, which also covers people, products and the environment. Local employment is a key part of this and G’s engages with schools to build awareness and talent pipelines. However, as the agriculture sector relies on seasonal work often provided by migrants, mitigating against any modern slavery risk is also core to ESG strategy. In partnership with other businesses and sector groups, G’s is currently piloting a modern slavery intelligence network, working with the Home Office. ‘We will be feeding in data, with the ultimate aim of preventing modern slavery,’ says Dixon. Any observation or complaint, no matter how small, is investigated (out of 400, say, two might lead to arrest).
With large numbers of migrant workers during the growing seasons, it’s important to keep community disruption to a minimum. G’s has 3,000 bed spaces for seasonal workers in the UK. ‘We don’t want to flood the local rental market and push prices up,’ says Dixon. Every year G’s opens the farm gates and invites workers, their families and local people to a farm day. ‘It shows people how we work and makes clear we are good neighbours.’
In Senegal, G’s has set up a farming business from scratch, creating sustainable employment opportunities for a previously nomadic or subsistence farming community. ‘For every hectare we cultivate, we cultivate one for the community,’ explains Dixon. ‘They are becoming better farmers, employing their family members, training their siblings and they have their own land.’
Role of the people profession
Ethical working is core to G’s people strategy, and this comes under Dixon’s remit. The organisation invests heavily in it, even during tough times, because it is so ingrained in G’s values. The people function has a big part to play in modern slavery prevention, which is inextricably linked with HR strategy.
Responsible recruitment is a big part of this, given how many people G’s employs from overseas and the fact that agriculture is a high-risk industry for poor or illegal employment practices. For example, if HR finds out that anyone has paid to access a job (not a rare occurrence in the industry), the company will remediate this. The people team also makes sure everyone is trained in spotting the signs of modern slavery.
When it comes to community outreach, Dixon acknowledges that the people team puts in a lot of discretionary effort. ‘Ethics is part of the job, but we do lean on people and there is voluntary input.’
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