Nestlé’s child labour pledge ‘small and incomprehensive’, says labour group

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Around 1.8m children are currently working on cocoa related activities in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
Around 1.8m children are currently working on cocoa related activities in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

Related tags Child labour Certification Term Nestlé

Nestlé’s commitment to eradicating child labour misses a 'big pile of the problem', according to a labour rights group.

Antonie Fountain, director of STOP THE TRAFFIK Netherlands, told shortly after Nestlé’s webcast on its Cocoa Plan earlier today that the chocolate company had practically neglected 85% of its cocoa supply in its commitments.

Nestlé webcast came off the back of a report​ from the Fair Labor Association (FLA) that unearthed multiple child labour violations on cocoa farms supplying the company, following an investigation allowed by Nestlé late last year.

Fountain didn’t go as far as Stop The Traffik’s global director Steve Chalke, who called Nestlé’s action on child labour “lame “​ on his Twitter page, but said that its pledges  “only deal with a small dimension of the problem”.

85% of cocoa supply neglected

He said he was disappointed as the business, which claims to be the world’s largest food company, was capable of having a huge influence on the issue.

Nestlé purchases around 10% of both the global and Ivorian cocoa supply. The company has promised to take 11 steps to tackle child labour based upon the FLA’s recommendations. (see here​)

Fountain called Nestlé’s action “small humble steps and short term solutions that won’t solve the long term problem”.

He said that 10 out of 11 steps only covered the 15% of cocoa Nestlé supplies under the Nestlé Cocoa Plan​.

“What about all the other stuff,”​ he said. “It’s the 85% that cause more problems.”

During the webcast, Nestlé’s executive vice president for operations Jose Lopez was asked how long Nestlé’ had been using child labour. “For as long as we have been using cocoa,”​ he replied.

Third party certification

Nestlé will continue to work with its third-party certification partners Fairtrade and UTZ, on top of its own sustainable cocoa plan.

Fountain said that although third party certification was no magic bullet, setting goals to certify, such as Mars’ pledge to go 100% certified by 2020, would help in the long-term journey to eliminating child labour on cocoa farms.

He added that it was unacceptable that Nestlé failed to commit to similar goals.

In its last Cocoa Barometer, The Tropical Commodity Coalition found that of Nestlé’s 360,000 tonne cocoa volume, just 1.1% came from certified farms which seek to eradicate child labour.

Today, more of its volume is expected to be sourced from certified farms as the company has committed to certifying more  lines such as Kit-Kat through organisations like UTZ Certified.

Fountain said that both Nestlé’s Cocoa Plan and third party certification were good tools, but he said that a third party was absolutely vital to detect human rights abuses.

Ideally, Nestlé’s cocoa plan would cover its supply and involve third party certification, he said.

Fountain called Nestlé’s commitments to eradicating child labour “small and incomprehensive”​ compared to other chocolate firms that had made more sweeping pledges including deadlines.

Nestlé's Lopez warned of the deep rooted problem. “If a child doesn’t work on a farm supplying Nestlé, he will just work on another farm,” he said,  ​adding that the entire supply chain and government needs to play its part in sensitisation and training.

Chris Hogg, deputy head of corporate media relations at  Nestlé, told this site: "Certification is an important part of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan but certification on its own does not give a guarantee of no child labour."  

"This is why we are implementing the measures set out in our Action Plan.  The new monitoring and remediation system should contribute to improving and strengthening the effectiveness of the co-ops internal control systems in collaboration with our certification partners."

Kraft Warning

Fountain said that Nestlé's actions were a step forward, but one of the other major players had been “conspicuously silent”​ on the issue.

According to Fountain, since Kraft Foods had acquired Cadbury it has rested on its laurels from earlier commitment made by Cadbury.

“They need to start-up their game,”​ he said.

Kraft’s entire Côte-d'Or range will go certified, but it has yet to announce plans to certify its entire chocolate portfolio.

Fountain has also been critical in the past of Hershey’s stance on child labour. (See HERE​)

See’s comment piece to see what other industry players are doing to tackle the issue HERE.

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1 comment

Progress Against Child Labor in Cacao Bean Production

Posted by Phillip Minton, MD,

On the positive side, it is obvious that the continued pressure from everyone concerned about child labor practices in cacao production is yielding results.

As more and more of us write on this topic and bring this matter to the attention of consumers, surely the large chocolate companies will be further motivated to take action against child labor by those who supply them with their raw materials. But we need to realize that this will not be easy for the chocolate companies to do.

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