Chocolate: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) [Aired 10/30/2023].
Chocolate: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) [Aired 10/30/2023].
Today, June 12th, is the International Day against Child Labour. On this day, as a large group of civil society organisations working on human rights in the cocoa sector across the world, we urgently call on chocolate & cocoa companies and governments to start living up to decades-old promises. The cocoa sector must come with ambitious plans to develop transparent and accountable solutions for current and future generations of children in cocoa communities.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the chocolate industry’s promise to end child labour in the cocoa sector of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, a commitment they made under the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol and renewed again with the 2010 Framework of Action. Furthermore, it is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.
This year should have been a landmark in the fight against child labour in cocoa. Instead, the cocoa sector as a whole has been conspicuously quiet on this topic.
Child labour is still a reality on West African cocoa farms, and there is strong evidence that forced labour continues in the sector as well. Recent reports – such as Ghana’s GLSS 7 survey and the study of the University of Chicago commissioned by the United States government – show that close to 1.5 million children are engaged in hazardous or age-inappropriate work on cocoa farms in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The vast majority of these child labourers are exposed to the worst forms of child labour, such as carrying heavy loads, working with dangerous tools, and increasing exposure to harmful agrochemicals.
After two decades of rhetoric, voluntary initiatives, and pilot projects, it is clearer than ever that ambitious, sector-wide action is needed, coupled with binding regulations, to address both child labour and the poverty that lies at its root.
These solutions must include regulations for mandatory human rights due diligence for companies operating in all major cocoa consuming countries, including avenues for legal remedy in those companies’ home countries. We note with interest the developments around regulations in the EU, although the announced delays are concerning. We also observe that the United States – the world’s number one cocoa consuming country – is particularly lagging in regulatory developments on this issue.
The industry, however, cannot use a lack of regulation as an excuse not to shoulder their own responsibility. As such, every chocolate and cocoa company should have a system in place that monitors and remediates child labour in all of their value chains with a child labour risk. The impact of these systems must be communicated publicly and transparently in a way that enables meaningful participation and access to remedy for workers and their representatives.
In parallel, effective partnerships between producer and consumer countries are needed to work on the necessary enabling environment. These must be developed in a much more inclusive manner than previous attempts, bringing in civil society organisations, independent trade unions, local communities, and farmer representatives. Adequate resources must be provided to enable these local actors to participate as equals in the development and implementation of solutions.
Child labour can only be effectively tackled if its root causes are also adequately addressed. As such, the cocoa sector must ensure that child labour approaches are deeply embedded into realistic and ambitious strategies to achieve a living income for all cocoa households. Such strategies must include the payment of fair and just remuneration at the farm gate; prices need to be sufficient to provide a living income. There are clear calculations available for Living Income Reference Prices, which are not even close to being met.
Chocolate Companies Must Do More to Reduce Widespread Child Labor Confirmed by New Report on the West African Cocoa Sector; Due Diligence Legislation is Needed to Fix Supply Chains
For immediate release: October 21, 2020
Washington, DC – A new report out this week confirms that the chocolate industry’s deep dependence on child labor to produce cocoa, a main ingredient of chocolate, continues unabated in West Africa despite nearly two decades of interventions and manufacturers’ promises to end the worst forms of child labor. The report confirms what advocates at the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which consists of 38 child rights groups, consumer groups, and worker rights organizations (including several of America’s largest unions), have been saying for years. According to the new study by the research group NORC at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of child labor in agricultural households in cocoa-producing areas in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, the two primary sources of cocoa in the world, increased from 31 percent to 45 percent in the decade leading up to 2019.
The $3.5 million study, funded by U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), released earlier this week, confirms that rampant child labor still exists on Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa farms. Researchers also concluded that the vast majority of the child labor continues to be hazardous, with children using sharp tools like machetes, clearing land, carrying heavy loads, working long hours, conducting night work, and increasingly using pesticides and other agrochemicals—a major concern.
“The NORC report findings make clear that an industry that generates more than $100 billion per year in sales is doing far too little to address farmer poverty and child labor,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director at CLC-member Green America. “The industry needs to focus on paying a living income while also rapidly scaling up programs that identify child laborers and ensure that children are able to go to school.”
Child labor in cocoa became well known to the public and Congress in 2001 following news reports of child slavery in West Africa. With consumers outraged, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) attempted to mandate a child-labor-free product-labeling requirement, but the chocolate industry fought it. Engel and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) initiated a multi-stakeholder initiative called the Harkin-Engel Protocol, combining the efforts of the chocolate companies, West African governments, laborers, and nonprofits to combat the “worst forms of child labor” in the cocoa sector. Since this innovative initiative began, chocolate companies have missed deadlines set to eliminate child labor in 2005, 2008, and 2010. Another goal to reduce the “worst forms of child labor” by 70 percent by 2020, was also missed.
NORC interviewed samples of children and heads of agricultural households and extrapolated those results to find that 1.6 million children toiled on cocoa farms in the two countries in 2019—and most of those children performed hazardous work. Although 1.6 million would seem to compare favorably to the 2.1 million in child labor found in the last cocoa child labor survey in 2015 by Tulane University’s Payson Center, the NORC study totals are not comparable to the Tulane totals because of methodological differences.
“Survey findings show an increase in both child labor and hazardous child labor in cocoa production in the cocoa growing areas of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana between 2008/09 and 2018/19, while cocoa production increased significantly over the same period,” noted NORC. Report authors found that child labor and hazardous child labor was ‘stabilizing” in area of historically high cocoa production, which tended to be areas with greater company interventions aimed at reducing child labor. Child labor and hazardous child labor increased in areas of medium- or low-cocoa production areas, suggesting to researchers that more interventions should be targeted to these areas.
“It’s frustrating to see that there is basically no substantive progress in reducing child labor after two decades of companies pledging to end the problem,” said CLC co-chair Sally Greenberg and executive director of the National Consumers League. “It’s clear that companies need to commit more resources to combatting child labor. We must hold them accountable because they are the entities profiting from the child labor.”
“The fact that nearly half of the children aged 5-17 living in agricultural households in the Ivory Coast and Ghana are engaged in hazardous work in cocoa production demonstrates the failure of voluntary corporate initiatives under the Harkin-Engel Protocol, and the need for greater government regulation in consumer countries,” said Charlotte Tate, Labor Justice Campaigns Director at Green America, and chair of the CLC’s Cocoa Workgroup.
“The NORC Report shows conclusively that “voluntary” initiatives like the Harkin-Engle Protocol, in which the cocoa companies pledged 19 years ago to end their use of child labor, have not worked,” agreed Terry Collingsworth of IRAdvocates, a CLC member and nonprofit litigation firm that is suing chocolate companies alleging the use of forced child labor. “Child slavery and subjecting children to the worst forms of child labor must end now. These serious human rights violations require mandatory rules with serious penalties, not empty promises from cocoa companies profiting from the exploitation of children.”
The NORC findings were not entirely negative: school enrollment continued to climb, and researchers found that child labor interventions showed evidence of reducing child labor (especially if there were multiple interventions or school-based initiatives).
“There is no turning away from the devastating news that hazardous child labor has actually increased in cocoa over the last decade, despite years of effort and millions of dollars spent,” noted CLC International Issues Committee chair Judy Gearhart. “Yet the significant increase in school attendance in Ivory Coast—22 percent in the Ivory Coast over the last 10 years—and continued high attendance rates in Ghana are a testament to cocoa farmers’ drive to give their children opportunities despite the continuing poverty that perpetuates their reliance on child labor.”
“We’re encouraged by the progress in getting children who work on West African cocoa farms into school,” said Lorretta Johnson, a CLC co-chair and secretary-treasurer emeritus of the American Federation of Teachers. “We cannot rest, though, until every child is in school and we have ended the worst forms of child labor so that children who work now can focus on their education.”
In addition to better prices for cocoa farmers to help them achieve a living wage, the CLC also supports federal “due diligence” legislation that would require companies to remove labor exploitation like child labor from their supply chains when it is identified. The European Union has promised mandatory legislation in 2021. France passed due diligence legislation in 2017; other countries are working on it, but legislative efforts in the United States have been fleeting and have not advanced.
It’s critical that future cocoa child labor survey reports funded by DOL use consistent methodologies to fully evaluate whether progress is occurring. “Our inability to compare the NORC total of children in child labor in cocoa with Tulane’s is very unfortunate,” said Maki. “The study also did not attempt to assess farmer income—of vital importance in addressing child labor.”
“The scope of the studies must be expanded,” added Maki. “For mystifying reasons, The NORC study did not attempt to determine if children are trapped in forced labor or modern slavery. The researchers apparently were not given the mandate to look at forced labor and doing so would have required a different methodology says NORC.”
“NORC found that 6 percent of the children in cocoa—roughly 90,000 children—do not work for their parents or relatives. This could be an indication of children at risk of forced labor and should be investigated further,” noted the CLC’s Gearhart.
The Child Labor Coalition and its members seek greater participation in the development and release of future cocoa surveys. “Civil society would have appreciated the same level of consultation on the report methodology as was afforded to government and industry actors,” noted Charity Ryerson, the executive director of the Corporate Accountability Lab and a CLC member.
Another area not covered by the NORC report that deserves the public’s attention is deforestation. “Deforestation in cocoa-growing areas has been widespread,” notes CLC-member Etelle Higonnet, senior campaign director for Mighty Earth. “Cocoa remains a major global driver of forest destruction and the ensuing climate change, especially rainfall loss. Deforestation is frequently connected to child labor in cocoa, often in the least regulated areas. Chocolate companies must pledge to end deforestation in West Africa as they work to reduce child labor – otherwise these children will be growing up facing desertification and climate chaos, on top of poverty and exploitation.”
About the Child Labor Coalition
The Child Labor Coalition, which has 38 member organizations, represents consumers, labor unions, educators, human rights and labor rights groups, child advocacy groups, and religious and women’s groups. It was established in 1989, and is co-chaired by the National Consumers League and the American Federation of Teachers. Its mission is to protect working youth and to promote legislation, programs, and initiatives to end child labor exploitation in the United States and abroad. The CLC’s website and membership list can be found at www.stopchildlabor.org
Here at the National Consumers League we are very proud that we’ve been a leader in the fight to end child labor since our founding in 1899. Thrity one years ago, we established the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which merges the resources of nearly 40 groups that are committed to the fight to eliminate child labor. The CLC brings together several major unions and a variety of child rights and human rights groups to perform child labor advocacy.
In the last few years, the coalition has focused increasing energy on child labor in cocoa. In 2001, news broke that cocoa–the main ingredient in chocolate–was being produced, in part, by large numbers of children who were trapped in the worst forms of child labor in West Africa. An alarmed U.S. Congress decided to act. First, it threatened to mandate labels on candy bars to help consumers purchase child-labor-free chocolate.
The chocolate industry fought hard to derail the labeling system. In its place, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) launched a multi-stakeholder initiative called the Harken-Engel Protocol. Eventually, it brought together the chocolate industry, the governments of Ghana and the Ivory Coast (where 70 percent of the world’s cocoa was produced) and the U.S. Department of Labor to try to tackle the problem. Over the next decade, over $70 million would be spent to fix cocoa’s child labor problem.
Despite these efforts, a creeping sense that remediation strategies weren’t really working began to emerge. In 2015, Tulane University researchers issued a federally-funded report that said the number of children in child labor in West African cocoa numbered over two million and had not declined. One bright spot was noted: most children in Ghana were attending school but in Ghana and the Ivory Coast children continued to toil, often without pay, and continued to use machetes, carry heavy loads, and apply pesticides—things that made their work dangerous.
There’s no doubt that humans love chocolate. Globally, we consume $80 to $100 billion worth of it a year. Despite its popularity and the joy it gives us, there is a dark side to chocolate: cocoa, its main ingredient, is often produced by child labor. The US Department of Labor (USDOL) identifies this as the case in six countries: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
In two of those countries, the Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, USDOL notes there is forced labor on cocoa plantations. There is also evidence that thousands of children have been trafficked to work on cocoa plantations from neighboring countries Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo.
Exploitation in chocolate’s supply chain became hotly discussed in 2000 and 2001 when media reports about wide-spread child labor in the West Africa nations of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, where the majority of cocoa was being produced, were published.
Congressional leaders were alarmed about the reports. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced legislation that would require child-labor free chocolate to be recognized with a label. The measure passed the US House of Representatives but it didn’t take long for everyone to realize that wanting child-labor free cocoa and delivering on that promise were two very different things. The nature of cocoa farming made it a very difficult crop to remove child labor from cocoa production. The region features hundreds of thousands of small cocoa farms operating in jungle-like topography. The region is lacking much infrastructure, including thousands of schools that would be needed to educate all the children working in cocoa.
A few weeks ago a request for internal documents from the chocolate giant Hershey’s Co moved forward, with a judge ruling that the company will have to share confidential information with its shareholders. The Louisiana Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System brought legal action against the company in 2012, asserting that the company knowingly bought cocoa from areas plagued with child labor issues.
Even though Hershey’s is the company targeted in the lawsuit, human rights abuses like child labor are still rampant throughout the food supply chain. Although companies like Mars or Nestlé now publicly discuss child labor in their supply chains, these issues are unlikely to go away when these same companies rely upon cheap land and labor to operate.
Last week the UC Davis School of Law featured a full day conference “Confronting Child Labor in Global Agricultural Supply Chains.” The conference featured a parade of impressive experts from a wide range of stakeholders, including Mars Co, Bonsucro, the International Labor Organization and the U.S. Department of Labor. Each presented on the problem of child labor in the fields, and of need to create financial alternatives for rural youth, to educate communities about illegal practices, and to increase productivity in the fields.
But what was not discussed by speakers as a solution to child labor was to substantially raise the price farmers and workers are paid for their work.
Reflecting on the conference, speaker Professor Alfred Babo, an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Bouaké, commented. ”I think if you ask most farmers if they need a new school, they would tell you that they would rather be paid better. If they had the money in their own pockets, they could send their children to school, and they would not need their children to work on the farms.”
Article published with permission of the author, who is a member of the faculty at the University of San Francisco.
With Easter nearly upon us, consumers will be purchasing a lot of candy over the next several days. In recent years, the chocolate industry has been rocked by a child labor scandal, when it became known that 80 percent of chocolate derives from the West African nations of Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where large numbers of children help harvest cocoa–the main ingredient of chocolate–under conditions that are extremely dangerous and difficult. In many cases, they use razor-sharp machetes and work without pay under circumstances that some advocates have likened to slavery.
How can consumers buy responsible candy—candy free from slavery and abusive child labor?
First, we recommend you check this chocolate scorecard developed by the group Green America in 2010. The groups that have been given an “A” grade are making a substantial effort to eliminate child labor and ensure that workers and farmers are fairly treated. We know “Divine” chocolate the best; they work with farmers cooperatives to reduce child labor and help farmers earn better prices.
The scorecard also explains various consumer certification programs like Fair Trade that try to ensure decent livelihoods for farmers and take steps to protect against child labor, although many child labor advocates recognize that monitoring efforts may not successfully ensure products are child-labor free.
In addition to purchasing chocolate that is child-labor free, NCL also advises consumers to purchase union-made products because we believe collective bargaining helps guarantee fair wages and decent benefits for workers. Check out this list of union-made candy, complied by Union Plus. The list represents the products produced by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM); the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); and the fruit and nuts from members of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW).
Included on the list, which Green America compiled in 2010, are Hershey and Nestle – two companies that produce union made candy but have received poor grades on the chocolate scorecard. Hershey’s products (excluding “Hershey’s Bliss”) have been given an “F” grade in large part because of its extremely slow, lackluster response to child labor allegations. More recently, the company announced a certification scheme to ensure their products are child-labor free by the year 2020, but it doesn’t seem to be making any progress in enacting that scheme. Hershey currently is also facing a shareholder lawsuit over its refusal to release documents about the presence of child labor in its supply chain.Additionally, a few years ago, Hershey’s used a contractor that was accused of trafficking foreign students, essentially tricking them into signing up for a cultural exchange program and then forcing them to work in a factory. In 2009, a 29-year-old worker drowned in a vat of chocolate in a New Jersey factory that supplied chocolate to Hershey, raising questions about the company’s willingness to risk worker safety in its pursuit of low product cost.
Coalition urges Hershey and all chocolate companies to go 100% Fair Trade
The Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign (www.raisethebarhershey.org) welcomed today’s announcement from the Hershey Co. (HSY) that it will be certifying 100 percent of its cocoa by 2020 and urged the chocolate giant to go 100 percent Fair Trade with incremental benchmarks. Hershey appeared to join its main rival Mars in announcing its target for certification with a 2020 deadline. Many other smaller chocolate companies are already 100 percent certified, a number of them using Fair Trade certification, the most rigorous certification for identifying and remediating the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign released the following joint statement:
“The Raise the Bar, Hershey! campaign is pleased that Hershey is announcing 100 percent certification for its cocoa by 2020. To truly address child labor, Hershey needs to make sure it is certifying all of its cocoa Fair Trade, the only certification that adequately addresses the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Hershey should certify and label one of its top-selling, brand name bars Fair Trade within the next year, and should certify and label all of its chocolates Fair Trade by 2020. We urge Hershey to reveal how the company plans to get to 100% certification by disclosing the certifiers it will be working with as well as a timeline for converting specific product lines.
The Raise the Bar Hershey campaign, joined by over 150,000 consumers, union allies, religious groups, and over 40 food co-ops and natural grocers has been pressuring Hershey to address child labor for several years. Just this week, Whole Foods Market (WFM) announced that it was removing Hershey’s Scharffen Berger line from its shelves until Hershey took steps to address child labor in its supply chain. The Raise the Bar, Hershey Campaign! and its allies will continue to encourage Hershey, and other chocolate companies, to improve labor practices on cocoa farms and plantations.”
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.
From the Queensland Times:
MORE Australians are buying ethically produced Easter eggs this year but child labour is still a huge factor in global chocolate production, aid groups say.
Aid agency Oxfam said its Fairtrade Easter chocolate sales were up 50 per cent this year compared to the pre-Easter period in 2010.
“It’s really heartening to see so many Australians choosing to make a difference through their purchases this Easter,” Oxfam’s director of trading Nadine Silverberg said. Read more
CLC members—the Ramsay Merriam Fund, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association—made this web site possible through their generous support.
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