World Vision Australia said it has taken the decision to pause campaigning activities aimed at chocolate-based product manufacturer, Arnott’s, for a six month period in response to the company publicly committing to addressing potential labour exploitation in its West African cocoa supply chain.
The advocacy group said its Don’t Trade Lives campaign activities prompted a meeting between it and Arnott’s executives last month, following which the Australian biscuit manufacturer, in a statement, said that it is committed to playing its part by sourcing cocoa that avoids the use of child trafficking and unacceptable forms of child labour.
“World Vision is encouraged by Arnott’s acknowledgement that the worst forms of child labour and human trafficking remain issues in the cocoa industry and their preparedness to investigate this issue in their supply chain,” said the campaigners.
World Vision said it eagerly await the details of Arnott’s plan to source ethical cocoa that is independently certified by the end of September 2010.
The company said it will continue working with its suppliers, all of whom, it states, are members of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and/or the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) to identify “a longer-term, independently certified sustainable sourcing approach to its West Africa-derived cocoa supply’’ within that time frame.
The advocacy group said its Don't Trade Lives campaign will continue to actively call on the global chocolate industry to guarantee farmers a fair price for their cocoa and to eliminate exploited labour from cocoa production by 2018.
Last month, BBC current affairs programme, Panorama, investigated the cocoa supply chain and claimed it found evidence of human trafficking and child slave labour.
The programme stated that it also found that there is no guarantee, even with chocolate marketed as Fairtrade, that child labour as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has not been involved in the supply chain.
Caobisco, the association of chocolate, biscuit and confectionery industries of Europe, in response to the programme’s claims said that unacceptable labour practices on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and Ghana are a recognised issue, with too many children participating in hazardous farming tasks or working at the expense of attending school.
The association stated that the industry condemns the worst forms of child labour or forced adult labour in the cocoa supply chain.
But Caobisco stressed that the global chocolate and cocoa industry have made extraordinary efforts to bring about positive and sustainable change to the way cocoa is grown and harvested in West Africa since 2001 through a programme of investment and improvement of social conditions in cocoa producing countries.
“We do not claim that we can do this alone. It is for this reason that we work with governments and the European institutions, donor agencies, NGOs and all other stakeholders to make the essential difference."
Collectively, said Caobisco, the stakeholders have spent more than $75m supporting cocoa farming families and their communities through 40 programmes, which have boosted farmers incomes by 20 per cent and in some cases 55 per cent, and have taught them acceptable labour practices and the importance of access to education for children.