Nestlé has made significant progress in its efforts to tackle child labor in West Africa’s cocoa-growing communities, the company claimed, and has invested CHF224m ($227m) in the past decade, according to its latest 'Tackling Child Labor' report.
The company said it has almost doubled its outreach to include 78,580 children across 1,750 communities over the past two years and continues to invest $45m annually in its Nestlé Cocoa Plan to achieve 100% sustainable cocoa sourcing in its confectionery products by 2025.
‘The system continues to be successful in identifying children involved in child labor, with over 18,000 children found. Through awareness raising and assistance, 55% of these children have been able to stop child labor activities. Nestlé will continue its efforts to provide solutions for all the children identified’, the report claimed.
Since 2012, over 87,000 children within and outside Nestlé's supply chain have benefitted from remediation, including the following educational activities:
- Building and renovating schools and funding bridging classes.
- Providing school kits / uniforms.
- Financing the issuance of birth certificates that give access to the education system.
- Raising awareness on the importance of preventing child labor with half a million farmers and community members.
- Improving women’s literacy as well as providing support on other income-generating activities to support livelihoods.
The International Cocoa Initiative
Working with the International Cocoa Initiative’s (ICI), Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) database, the scheme covers roughly two-thirds of its supply chain (with plans to expand the reach of the CLMRS) in West Africa, where child labor is prevalent.
It doesn’t mean the elimination of child labor, but that the issue has being reported and remediated.
One of the important contributions of Nestlé’s Tackling Child Labor Report is raising awareness of the complexity of child labor through sensitive, honest case studies that illustrate a range of situations and outcomes - Dr Kristy Leissle
Magdi Batato, EVP, head of operations at Nestlé, said: "Child labor is unacceptable. All children deserve the chance of a brighter future and we can best contribute to achieve that by giving them access to a quality education. That is why we committed to invest in the Nestlé Cocoa Plan and continue to expand and refine our program. It is the right thing to do for farmers and their families who grow the raw ingredients we buy, but also for consumers who want to enjoy chocolate made in a sustainable way."
As part of the initiative, over 1,640 Community Liaison People (CLP) are nominated to identify and record cases of child labor and monitor each child’s progress with home visits.
After a case of child labor has been identified, the child, family or community receives a remediation. Subsequently, the CLP follows up with the child to determine whether he/she has stopped doing hazardous tasks.
“Even using the term ‘child labor’ poses a challenge. It forces us into a binary way of thinking, whereby a child is either clearly “a laborer” or not. Such thinking suggests that children can ‘move out’ of labor into a permanent state of non-labor, for which a proxy term is often ‘in school,’” said Dr Kristy Leissle, who is based in Ghana and an expert voice on the cocoa sector in West Africa.
Writing in the report, Leissle said: “I raise this point about language because the terms we use to describe and define child labor impact how we measure success in reducing it. If we rely solely upon a binary classification of ‘permanent child laborer’ or ‘never child laborer,’ it will seem as if little progress has been made.
“One of the important contributions of Nestlé’s Tackling Child Labor Report is raising awareness of the complexity of child labor through sensitive, honest case studies that illustrate a range of situations and outcomes.”
Nestlé said its latest report shows progress was possible and it is experimenting with how many villages a CLP can cover and is looking at engaging full-time rather than part-time CLPs in order to cover a larger area.
ICI executive director Nick Weatherill told ConfectioneryNews: “We’re greatly encouraged by the Nestlé commitment to roll out their CLMRS across all of their West African supply chains by 2025. Ambitions of this sort are essential if we are to bridge the gap between the situation today – where industry due diligence systems cover about 15% of the Ivoirian and Ghanaian cocoa supply chains – and full coverage of those households at risk of child labour.
"That being said, we won’t solve child labour just by putting in place due diligence systems. Farmer poverty, access to education and many other root cause issues need to be addressed for which we also need governments, civil society and development partners on board.”
In the last edition of Cocoa Barometer (2018), it said child labor in general in the cocoa sector ‘remains at a high level’ with an estimated 2.1 million children working in the West African cocoa sector.
‘Not a single company or government is anywhere near reaching the sector-wide objective of the elimination of child labor, and not even near their commitments of a 70% reduction of child labor by 2020,’ it reported.
Nestlé currently sources 68% of the cocoa in its confectionery products sustainably, while just under half the cocoa it uses in all its cocoa-based products comes from sustainable sources.
“Nestlé has joined its peers Mars, Mondelēz and Barry Callebaut in sourcing cocoa entirely from its sustainability program by 2025, albeit only for its confectionery division (two-thirds of the group’s cocoa supply), Oliver Nieburg, market analyst for Lumina Sustainability and host of the Sustainable Food & Drink Podcast, told ConfectioneryNews.
"This allows the company to bring training, access to finance and premiums to new cocoa communities. It’s a positive step – particularly as cocoa for the Nestlé Cocoa Plan from African and Indonesian origins is also third-party certified, meaning even more premiums for farmers," he said.
Alexander von Maillot, global head of confectionery at Nestlé, said: "While we have made progress, we will not stop here. Our goal is to source 100% of our cocoa for confectionery from the Nestlé Cocoa Plan by 2025. As well as tackling child labor, this commitment also guarantees that we can contribute to greater productivity and profitability of farmers. This will help improve people’s lives in the many different parts of the world where we source cocoa."
But Nieburg also raised the questiona that “if 18,000 child labourers have been found within established cooperatives, more are likely to be unearthed as Nestlé expands the Plan to new farmers likelier to be more impoverished than the existing cohort."
He said the new European Commission president has promised ‘zero tolerance’ on child labour in EU trade agreements.
"Will having a CLMRS in place while thousands of child labourers are being uncovered – even if the cases are being remediated - be considered zero tolerance under EU regulation?,” he asked.