Nestlé: Accused of persistent child labour on its cocoa farms

This report is part of our former “Harmful Cases” documentation, where we continuously and concisely recorded human rights violations, violations of international law or environmental destruction caused by companies.

Rights of the child infringed in Ivory Coast

A report of the Washington-based civil society organisation Fair Labor Association (FLA) has shown that child labour is still widespread on Ivory Coast cocoa farms supplying Nestlé. It was the first time that a multinational chocolate producer had allowed its procurement system to be completely traced and assessed.

The study had found numerous violations of internal work rules and children’s rights. The most common tasks carried out by children on cocoa farms are filling plastic bags for nurseries, breaking up pods and transporting plants, according to the FLA. Under local law, carrying heavy loads is one of the worst forms of child labour, and the use of machetes and knives to break pods is a hazardous task. The report also found rampant injuries, mainly with machetes that slice into the children’s legs as they harvest the cocoa pods, as well as both adults and children working long hours without pay. Nestlé has announced to improve its monitoring mechanisms in its cooperatives. The root causes of child labour in the cocoa industry include poverty and a lack of schools in the country which is still recovering from civil war.

The FLA said its suggestions for Nestlé are applicable to other companies in the industry. The world’s biggest chocolate companies include Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT), Mars Inc. and Hershey Co. (HSY).

Nestlé buys about a 10th of the global cocoa production and more than a third of that comes from the Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest producer. About 20 percent of the cocoa the chocolate maker gets from that country can be traced because it comes from Nestlé’s sustainable-farming program, while the rest comes from the “standard” supply chain, which isn’t transparent, according to the report.

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Please click here for the complete report of the Fair Labor Association (FLA).