Monday, July 07, 2008

Nestle and other chocolate companies failing to act on plan to end child slavery

A couple of years ago I interviewed Bama Athreya, Director of the International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF) regarding Nestlé and child slavery. The interviewed occurred as Nestlé was refusing to participate in a meeting in the United States regarding its failure to meet commitments to a US Senate plan, called the Harkin-Engel Protocol. At the same time Nestlé was sponsoring a meeting at the UK Labour Party Conference about its commitment to ending child slavery. So in the UK it was trying to look good by buying itself a platform, but in the US was refusing to explain why its actions did not meet its words. See:

Now ILRF has produced a report, analysing what has happened since the Senate plan was introduced in 2001. Its press release is included below. A more detailed briefing is available at:

Rather than engaging with government initiatives, the industry has promoted its own 'standards' and used these to claim great progress. Claims which do not stand up to scrutiny. This once again demonstrates the importance of independent monitoring of internationally-agree standards (as we have with the baby food marketing requirements). In the book Global Obligations for the Right to Food I discuss some of the ways to better hold corporations to account.

---ILRF press release
Cocoa Industry Fails to Deliver on July 1, 2008 Child Labor Commitments
ILRF Releases New Analysis of Industry’s Failure to Eliminate Child Labor

The chocolate industry has failed to provide consumers with a reasonable assurance that the chocolate they buy was made without exploited and trafficked child labor. Major chocolate companies signed what is referred to as the Harkin-Engel Protocol in 2001, promising to eliminate the worst forms of child labor from their supply chains, after media stories emerged depicting the widespread use of forced child labor and trafficking on West African cocoa farms. After failing to meet their July 1, 2005 commitments, the Protocol was weakened and extended to July 1, 2008. Once again, the industry has missed the deadline.

Bama Athreya, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, said, “The major chocolate companies are not able to prove the elimination of exploited child labor in their cocoa supply, nor show concrete improvements in West African farmers’ lives. Consumers cannot be assured today that their favorite chocolate candies are made without abusive child labor.”

In a new report issued today, titled “The Cocoa Protocol: Success or Failure,” the International Labor Rights Forum presented the following findings:

  • The original intent of the ‘protocol’ has not been achieved, and consumers today have no more assurance than they did eight years ago that trafficked or exploited child labor was not used in the production of their chocolate;
  • Industry is making false claims regarding certification;
  • Industry may be assigning itself too much credit for activities that may in any case have resulted from bilateral and multilateral government engagement;
  • ‘Verification’ has been rendered irrelevant by the fact that the process supported by industry no longer bears any relation to supply chain monitoring or certification;
  • Industry-supported programs have not been properly evaluated and therefore the actual impacts of such programs are unknown;
  • Industry has not adequately defined what it considers remediation;
  • Reports from West Africa point to the continued use of the worst forms of child labor as well as trafficking of children.

The report presents the following recommendations*:

  • Companies should establish traceability within their own supply chain to the farm or cooperative level;
  • Companies should work through existing initiatives (for example, Fair Trade, Utz Certified and Rainforest Alliance) to develop stronger methodologies for labor standards monitoring and link these systems directly to the government processes with an incentive/sanction system;
  • Companies should ensure that their own operations and their supply chains adhere to internationally established codes of practice, including the ILO Tripartite Declaration for Multinational Enterprises and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Corporations;
  • The US Government should cease to protect the interests of chocolate companies and instead invest in funding multilateral initiatives through the ILO-IPEC program and through funding for the Education for All initiative, and should support revenue transparency in the cocoa sector.

Tim Newman of ILRF’s Campaigns Department stated, “Consumers should reward companies with ethical integrity in their supply chains and continue to demand that world’s largest chocolate companies answer the question of how consumers can be assured their chocolate is not produced using exploited child labor.”

*Note: Many of these recommendations are supported by the “Commitment to Ethical Cocoa Sourcing” document which has been endorsed by 60 chocolate companies and organizations.

The full report can be read online here:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It may be interesting for you to know that in Côte d'Ivoire Nestlé has been granted a prize from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (namely the Ivorian Prize for Quality). Not good enough, its managing director Mr. Patricio Astolfi hsd been appointed as Chevalier de l'Ordre de Merite National (Knight of the National Order of Merit)! For a company involved in child slavery and misleading marketing about child feeding, this is not good news. What is worse is that the justification recognizes the "efforts of this multinational in nutrition, health and well-being of the Ivorian populations”. It’s sad to see how African governments are not ready to fight this (real) type of colonialism while they are so ready to attack political interference. It may be also interesting to know how Nestlé had the courage to propose to the National Nutrition Program of the MoH in Côte d'Ivoire IEC (information, education and communication) tools to train health personnel on nutrition issues at peripheral health centres. With a fit of pride, the MoH refused… until something is paid? To be followed up.
From an actor in the health sector in Côte d'Ivoire.