An investigation from the Fair Labor Association (FLA) has unearthed multiple serious violations of Nestlé’s supplier code, particularly through the use of children on cocoa farms.
Nestlé, which allowed the FLA probe late last year, has drawn up an action plan in response to the findings.
The FLA’s investigation traced around 80% of Nestlé’s cocoa supply in the Ivory Coast, the world’s principal cocoa grower. Nestlé sources about 10% of the country’s total cocoa output.
The FLA's report found that child labour persists despite industry efforts to discourage employment of children.
Many children were found to work in unsafe conditions on farms during their school breaks.
The FLA said its findings unveiled that Ivory Coast’s civil war had devastated infrastructure and left few alternatives for children than to work on cocoa farms. The eradication of child labour would therefore be “a long journey”, said FLA president Auret van Heerden.
The association also found that lack of local laws on fair and safe working conditions meant that many reported injuries came from workers’ use of machetes and incidents of discrimination were common and farmers often worked excessive hours.
The FLA has urged Nestlé to be more proactive in communicating its labour code to all involved in its supply chain and encouraged the chocolate firm to conduct comprehensive internal monitoring among its 11 recommendations.
It has encouraged the Ivorian government, Nestlé and farmer cooperatives to work together to combat the root causes of child labour, such as poverty. Nestlé has said that it will take action on all the FLA's suggestions.
“For too long child labor in cocoa production has been everybody's problem and therefore nobody's responsibility."
"Nestlé is taking direct responsibility for decreasing the risks in its supply chain especially when it concerns the persistent challenges of ending child labor,” said van Heerden.
Nestlé taking action
“The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything that we stand for,” said Jose Lopez, Nestlé’s executive vice president for operations.
“Tackling child labour is a top priority for the company,” he continued.
Nestlé has pledged to respond to the FLA’s 11 recommendations and build upon its existing efforts through its sustainability code: Nestlé Cocoa Plan .
It has vowed to take the following action :
- Source 10% of global cocoa supply from farmers covered by the Nestlé Cocoa Plan this year; up to 13% by 2013
- Work with International Cocoa Initiative to set-up a monitoring and remediation system
- Conduct baseline survey on child labour at two copperatives by 2012/13 harvest season, six cooperatives by 2013/14 season, with goal for full compliance at co-ops by 2015.
- Train 24,000 farmers in the Ivory Coast by 2015 and deliver 3m plantlets
- Build or refurbish 40 schools over the next four years in collaboration with the World Cocoa Foundation
- Provide annual updates on progress made
- Continue work with certification partners UTZ and Fairtrade
Nestlé’s plan of action comes as other chocolate manufacturers look to different ways to combat child labour. See ConfectioneryNews.com’s comment piece to see what other industry players are doing to tackle the issue (HERE ).