Humanising the Cut Flower Chain: Confronting the Realities of Flower Production for Workers in Kenya



This article examines a particular international supply chain, the Kenya–UK cut flower supply chain, and looks at the implications of such globalised systems of production for women workers. Using womens’ own accounts of their working lives as presented in recent research data and in campaigning activities within Kenya, it confronts the realities facing women workers. With the proliferation of codes of conduct in the cut flower industry, the importance of participatory social auditing (PSA) in uncovering workers’ grievances is highlighted. These accounts have been significant in bringing together different stakeholders, including UK supermarkets, and the subsequent establishment of the Horticulture Ethical Business Initiative (HEBI). The importance of participatory methodology is highlighted in the context of both the research exercise and the auditing procedures recommended by HEBI. The establishment of the HEBI using a PSA methodology emphasizes the importance of a local, multi-stakeholder approach to code implementation. It is concluded that although there are signs of some improvements in labour conditions on some farms, serious problems remain which are inherent in the downward pressures exerted in buyer controlled supply chains.