“The outcome of the NORC report doesn’t surprise us, it’s depressing,” says Schoenmakers. “No child should be doing hazardous work to make a luxury product like chocolate. In 2001, the industry signed the Harkin–Engel protocol pledging to end the worst forms of child labour within five years.
“In 2010, after failing to meet their deadlines three times, the pledge was extended to reduce illegal child labour by 70% by 2020. Almost 20 years later, despite numerous voluntary programmes and agreements, nothing has changed. In fact, the report reveals that in low and medium production areas, child labour has actually increased. Time’s up.”
The US government-funded report from a National Opinion Research Centre (NORC) at the University of Chicago found that more than two-fifths (43%) of all children aged between five and 17 in cocoa-growing regions of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana – the world’s largest cocoa producers – are engaged in hazardous work.
These shocking figures further prove to us that voluntary initiatives clearly don’t work. It’s time for mandatory human rights due diligence legislation -- Paul Schoenmakers, Head of Impact at Tony’s Chocolonely.
Schoenmakers claims that still missing from this total are the victims of child trafficking and forced child labour, often brought in from other countries.
“These shocking figures further prove to us that voluntary initiatives clearly don’t work. It’s time for mandatory human rights due diligence legislation,” he says.
Richard Scobey, president of the Word Cocoa Foundation, an influential body with more than 100 members, recognises the NORC report provides important insights for all those working to end child labour in cocoa and says the industry is scaling up its efforts to eradicate farmer poverty
“The real problem in the chocolate industry is inequality,” says Thecla Schaeffer, Head of Marketing at Tony’s Chocolonely.
“Hundreds of thousands of farmers, and millions of children as young as five are suffering daily just to try and survive, while someone else enjoys the profit and can indulge in a sweet luxury. That is unfair, period. We all – and I mean everyone – can be part of the solution and not just demand but create actual change. If exploitation leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, don’t buy or make products that support a system of inequality.
“Tony's Chocolonely is committed to leading by example and creating awareness about the root cause of the issue - poverty - so we can all take effective action.”
A spokesperson for Mars Wrigley, one of the first of the big chocolate companies to respond to the report, said: "Child labour has no place in the cocoa supply chain, which is why Mars Wrigley has committed $1 billion USD as part of its Cocoa for Generations strategy to help fix a broken supply chain. We call for robust public-private collaboration and we support appropriate due diligence legislation to address the root causes of child labour in West Africa cocoa growing communities.”
The chocolate industry recognises poverty is a complex issue and needs to be tackled from all angles, from systemic fairness to improved productivity.
“Paying a higher price for cocoa is just one example. It’s a difference of pocket change for chocolate fans, but it makes real change for millions of cocoa famers and their families. Solving poverty is solving illegal child labour,” said Tony’s Chocolonely in statement.
The Dutch ethical brand, which says its mission is to 'make 100% slave free the norm in chocolate', added: “Although Tony’s Chocolonely welcomes all initiatives aimed at tackling illegal child labor, the NORC report findings make it clear that the industry cannot continue with empty promises or superficial action. Too often, initiatives focus on symptoms rather than on systemic change.”
Schoenmakers told ConfectioneryNews, “Eradicating illegal child labor from the cocoa supply chain takes a holistic approach, which we have laid down in Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles. They are applicable for all chocolate producers and we support them in joining our way of working via Tony’s Open Chain.”
Tony’s Chocolonely also strongly recommends a sector-wide rollout of the Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System, developed by the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) to successfully find and remediate illegal child labour.