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The Essence of Associated British Foods

Associated British Foods started out as a bakery business in 1935. Over the past 81 years, we have grown and evolved into an international food, ingredients and retail business. A great deal has changed in that time but what has remained a constant is the ‘essence’ of Associated British Foods. By this, we mean the ethical way in which we operate. Our intention has always been to do the right thing for our people and the wider community, believing that in feeding and clothing millions of people we do good every day.

An ethical business


At Associated British Foods we believe that an ethical business is primarily built by its people, not through codes or words on a page. We try to hire people who have integrity and demonstrate kindness towards others. Our employees should recognise the culture that we share and thrive in an environment where high moral standards are expected.

We nurture ethical business practices through the actions we undertake every day and if we observe something is not right we act quickly to correct it. Our Company is built on strong ethical foundations with a large proportion of our shareholder dividends supporting charitable works through the Garfield Weston Foundation.

A decentralised business


We aim to match our high moral expectations with the autonomy that we give to each business and the individuals employed within them. Of course there are some requirements common to all businesses, such as ensuring that our people stay safe at work, but the best and most ethical course of action will differ according to particular markets or businesses. We recognise that the people best placed to make a decision are those who understand the local circumstances and will apply our ethical mind-set.

Although we have a highly decentralised structure, we are more than simply the sum of our parts. We share functional knowledge and expertise across businesses to the benefit of all. By being a group of businesses operating in different sectors, we are able to manage short-term financial cycles for long-term gain and maintaining our ethical culture fits naturally with this long-term thinking.

A guided business


The corporate centre plays an important governance function to complement our decentralised structure. Assuring our ethical culture involves a robust and rigorous process of internal verification.

  • every division has a Corporate Responsibility (CR) lead and a Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) lead. The CR and HSE leads from the businesses meet regularly and are supported by the central CR and HSE teams within Associated British Foods.

  • the chief executive of each business is required to submit an annual risk survey identifying all relevant risks for the business including safety, environment and other CR issues (see our 2016 Annual Report for our principal risks); and

  • finance directors also annually provide a report on progress against each business’s identified CR priorities.

 We know that our people do not require policies to ensure that they behave ethically. The purpose of policies at Associated British Foods is to ensure those outside the Company know what we expect of ourselves; that employees have protection to maintain the highest ethical standards; and to give suppliers clear guidelines on the behaviour we require of them. Please see a summary of our policies below.

Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy

Anti-Fraud Policy

Environment Policy

Genetically Modified (GM) Ingredients Policy

Health and Safety Policy

Payment Policy

Supplier Code of Conduct

Taxation Principles

Whistleblowing Policy

A focused business


Since our 2013 CR report, each business within the group has been engaged in a process to prioritise the CR issues upon which they will focus. As with all our activities, our CR priorities are identified by each business and driven by them.

The process of identification, which was supported by Forum for the Future, took into account each business’s unique impact and the CR issues that were found to be most material to them. By aggregating these priorities, Associated British Foods has identified its group wide priorities. This approach creates focus whilst remaining true to our culture of decentralisation.

We recognise that the world in which we operate is constantly changing. Our businesses engage with and respond to a wide range of CR issues, including those which stakeholders have brought to our attention. We benefit greatly from these stakeholder relationships which include our customers, employers, suppliers, shareholders, NGOs and surrounding communities.

Our businesses have common areas of interest: every business strives to minimise its environmental impact, look after its employees, customer and suppliers, and be a good neighbour. We have categorised our corporate responsibility programmes into five pillars, which you will see reflected throughout our communications.

This is the first year that we have chosen to separate our work with suppliers into a distinct pillar. In previous years, this content has been spread between Neighbour and People but, as it is an increasingly significant part of our corporate responsibility agenda, it deserves greater prominence.

Similarly, we have broadened the focus of what was previously categorised as a responsibility for promoting good health to supporting our customers in their understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet.

ABF - Our Pillars

Corporate Responsibility Governance


Corporate Responsibility Governance

Our policies

To ensure that every business in the group operates to the same high standards, Associated British Foods has a number of ethical policies.

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