Some corporations are pursuing policies that exacerbate child labor. Others are attempting to ameliorate child labor. Consumers can use this section to help influence their purchasing decisions.

SEC Adopts Reporting Rule to Help with Human Rights Issues Concerning Conflict Minerals

The primary mission of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is to protect investors from unfair or unscrupulous practices. Last week, however, the SEC did something remarkable: It agreed to adopt a rule with the goal of diminishing the human rights consequences of business practices.

The SEC voted by a narrow 3-2 margin to require companies that use so-called “conflict minerals”—metals like gold, tantalum, tin, and tungsten which end up in a wide array of products like cell phones, computers and other electronic devices—to file reports about the use of minerals that have been fueling violent conflict and abetting widespread social abuses like the use of child soldiers. The rules were mandated under section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and targeted towards minerals extracted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and neighboring countries.

Although two commissioners debated whether the SEC’s core mission of protecting investors should be expanded in this way, they agreed that conflict in the DRC and neighboring countries is a pressing problem and that warring groups are using profits from mineral extraction to engage in armed conflict and a wide variety of human rights abuses. Commissioners Troy Paredes and Daniel Gallagher voted against adopting the rule, arguing that there was no clear evidence that the reporting requirement would help solve civil rights abuses and that the SEC had no jurisdiction to tackle human rights problems. Gallagher complained that the SEC’s proposed rule had no exemptions for small businesses and said the reporting requirements might be overly burdensome.

SEC chair Mary Schapiro joined commissioners Luis Aguilar and Elise Walter in voting for adopting the reporting rule. The three commissioners were quick to point out that the SEC was under a congressional mandate to implement the provisions and that the humanitarian crisis in sub-Saharan Africa is severe and required action.

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Nestle Audit Finds Child Labor Violations in Cocoa Supply


By Dermot Doherty and Stanley James – Jun 29, 2012 9:51 AM ET [from Bloomberg]

Nestle SA (NESN) needs to step up measures to combat child labor in the Ivory Coast cocoa industry, according to a study requested by the Swiss food company that found “numerous” violations of its internal work rules.

The maker of KitKat chocolate bars needs to improve internal monitoring to fight the practice as four-fifths of its cocoa comes from channels for which information on labor is opaque, the Fair Labor Association said in a report. Nestle plans new monitoring programs in two cooperatives this year and in 30 by 2016, with the FLA assessing progress, the Vevey, Switzerland-based company said in a response.

Nestle 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 Nestle’s sustainable-farming program, while the rest comes from the “standard” supply chain, which isn’t transparent, according to the report.

“Child labor is a more persistent problem than anybody believed,” FLA President Auret van Heerden said by phone. “What we’re talking about is changing the way companies in the industry do business, and Nestle has taken the first step.”

About 89 percent of Ivory Coast children were involved in growing cocoa, according to a 2008 government survey.

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Hershey Announces Plans to Reinforce Cocoa Sustainability in West Africa

FBR Staff Writer Published 31 January 2012

The Hershey Company, the US-based chocolate manufacturer, plans to invest $10m over the next five years in West Africa, in programs to lower child labor and improve farming communities, as a part of its plan to reinforce cocoa sustainability efforts.

The company plans to work with experts in agriculture, community development and government, and by 2017, Hershey’s public and private partnerships are expected to directly benefit 750,000 African cocoa farmers and over two million people in cocoa communities across the region.

The Hershey Company president and CEO JP Bilbrey said the company is extending its commitment with new programs to drive long-term change in cocoa villages where families will benefit from the company’s investments in education, health and economic opportunities.

“Our global consumers want The Hershey Company to be a leader in responsible business practices and in finding smart ways to benefit cocoa communities,” Bilbrey added.

Hershey plans to partner with Rainforest Alliance, a non-governmental organization (NGO), to train cocoa farmers to help them address global climate change and adapt to its impacts.

Later this year, the company will launch Hershey’s Bliss products with 100% cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms – the farms which have met comprehensive sustainability standards that protect the environment and ensure the well-being of workers, their families and communities.

Hershey said that it is working with the Rainforest Alliance to source cocoa from certified farms in Latin America and Africa for Hershey’s premium brand Dagoba.

The company plans to increase the presence of CocoaLink mobile phone project to Ivory Coast, which has approximately 600,000 cocoa farmers, with about half are already using mobile phones.… Read the rest

California tells Apple, Others not to use Slaves

This isn’t a repeat from the 19th century

| by Nick Farrell in Rome | Filed in Business Apple California

California has introduced a law requiring Apple and thousands of others to make sure that slave labour isn’t part of the supply chain.

According to Reuters,  the law was written following allegations that Apple and Gap used forced labour to create their products.

The law will force manufacturers to explain how they guard against slavery and human trafficking throughout their supply chain. More than 3,200 major companies which do business in California  will be required to disclose steps they take, if any, to ensure their suppliers and partners do not use forced labour.

Companies will risk getting sued by the state attorney general if they flout that law.

Apple declined to comment on the new legislation but the law comes after controversy about working conditions at huge supplier Foxconn, where there were a string of suicides.

However, it’s not clear how this law could cause Apple much trouble as the last we heard, none of the workers at Foxconn were actually forced to work there.

Apparently the law defines child labour and slavery as forced labour. Apple had some problems with some of its suppliers using child labour, but said that it sorted that out. Read more