‘Potentially full scale-up’: Cargill pilots cocoa child labor monitoring system

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

ICI's child labor prevention system aims to keep kids in schools and away from hazardous cocoa work. Photo: Cargill
ICI's child labor prevention system aims to keep kids in schools and away from hazardous cocoa work. Photo: Cargill

Related tags Child labour Childhood Slavery Côte d’ivoire

Cargill has begun trialing the International Cocoa Initiative’s (ICI) child labor monitoring and remediation system in cocoa growing communities in Côte D’Ivoire.

It will use the Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) in its own sustainability initiative, the Cargill Cocoa Promise​, in eight farmer cooperatives in Côte D’Ivoire this year, reaching nearly 7,000 households.

A step up from certification?

The system relies on an appointed person within communities to search for instances of unlawful child labor by conducting household interviews three times a year.

Industry-wide approach?

Nestlé began using ICI’s CLMRS system with two cooperatives in 2012​. By 2015, the systems covered 40 coops and 26,000 farmers. There are now five companies using the CLMRS, including Nestlé, Cargill, Olam and Barry Callebaut. Together, they cover 122 coops or farmer groups and 83,000 farmers.

Nestlé began using the CLMRS with ICI in 2012​ and four other companies are currently using the system, including Barry Callebaut and Olam.

ICI claims the method is more effective than audits by certification bodies, which tend to be once a year, only on selected farms are sometimes announced in advance.

Certification has been one of the primary tools to combat cocoa child labor. But only roughly 30% of global annual cocoa volumes are certified by the three main standard bodies - Fairtrade International, UTZ, and Rainforest Alliance - according to the latest Cocoa Barometer.

An estimated 2.03 children were engaged in hazardous cocoa work – a proxy for the worst forms of child labor  - during the 2013/14 growing season in Côte D’Ivore and Ghana, an 18% rise from 2008/09, according to a study by Tulane University.

ICI says it is already helping 4,680 children found to be involved in hazardous activities through the Nestlé’s CLMRS pilot since 2012.

nestle graphic 1
Nestlé infographic describes how the CLMRS works. Source: Nestlé

Scaling up

Cargill’s Cocoa Promise covers 120 cooperatives in Côte D’Ivoire, accounting for almost 100% of its supply in the country.

The company’s CLMRS pilot will cover eight coops in the West African nation.

Taco Terheijden, manager of sustainable cocoa at Cargill, told ConfectioneryNews his company would evaluate the CLMRS’ effectiveness before scaling up, setting no timeline.

“As part of our commitment under the Cargill Cocoa Promise, we have a well-established farmer livelihoods approach where we pilot first and go into measure phases of expansion and potentially full scale-up,”​ he said.

Cargill has relied mainly on third party certification and community needs assessments to monitor and stamp out cocoa child labor to date, said Terheijden.

Pressure to act

The company, along with Nestlé and ADM, are facing a lawsuit in the US​ brought by alleged former child slaves in 2005.

The claimants allege they were trafficked into Côte D’Ivore and subjected to degrading treatment when working on cocoa plantations their lawyers claim may have been supplying company factories.

Cargill has previously said the lawsuit is “without merit”.​ It estimates a third of its cocoa volumes were from certified sources in 2015 and expects sustainable volumes will reach 45% by 2018.

Cargill competitor Barry Callebaut recently promised to stamp out child labor in its supply chain by 2025 and is already trialling ICI’s CLMRS.

Household survey (Farmer Interview)_
ICI's CLMRS system is based on household surveys within cocoa growing communities. Photo: Cargill

CLMRS expands

Nick Weatherill, ICI’s executive director, said: “The more companies that adopt the principle of CLMRS into their supply chains, the better our chances to achieve a step change in child protection and cocoa sustainability.”

ICI projects at least seven companies will use its CLMRS by the end of the year, covering 122 cooperatives and 83,000 farmers.

“Importantly, this year we're also starting in Ghana, with very preliminary pilots in six farmer groups with two companies,” ​Weatherill told this site.

Cargill has been working with ICI since 2002.

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