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
By Ellie Murphy, CLC Intern
Combatting child labor during a global pandemic is a staggering challenge. In countries like Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Bangladesh—and dozens more struggling with child labor problems—school cancellations and lost family income may push children into the labor market. Once in, it may be hard for them to get out and return to school. In the face of this dire emergency, governments, the corporate world, and charitable institutions will need to support vulnerable families during this unprecedented time.
There is a strong correlation between access to education and preventing child labor. An estimated 1.5 billion children are out of school. “Lack of access to education keeps the cycle of exploitation, illiteracy and poverty going – limiting future options and forcing children to accept low-wage work as adults and to raise their own children in poverty,” noted the children’s advocacy group Their World.
With 9 in 10 children across the globe prevented from attending school in person, Human Rights Watch notes that interrupting formal education will have a huge impact on children and jeopardize their opportunity for better employment opportunities in the future: “For many children, the COVID-19 crisis will mean limited or no education, or falling further behind their peers.”
With many parents losing their jobs, children will face increasing pressure to supplement family incomes. Poverty is the single greatest cause of child labor. “Children work because their survival and that of their families depend on it, and in many cases because unscrupulous adults take advantage of their vulnerability,” notes the International Labour Organization.
Countries are being impacted by COVID-19 differently, but developing countries are expected to feel more negative consequences than developed countries, according to a WorldAtlas.com report, “How Are Third-World Countries Affected by COVID-19?” Tourism and trade helps fuel many of these economies and COVID is devastating both sectors.
Developing countries—primarily in Africa and Asia—already house 90 percent of working children, according to the International Journal of Health Sciences. Economic pressure from the pandemic will likely drive even more children into the work force.
Before the pandemic, child labor in West Africa was widespread—1.2 million child laborers were employed by cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and 900,000 children on cocoa farms in Ghana, according to researchers from Tulane University. Ghana and the Ivory Coast produce about 60% of the world’s cocoa—a critical ingredient in chocolate. A recent Voice of America (VOA) article included predications that “…there will be increased economic pressures on farming families, and ongoing school closures in Ghana mean children are more likely to accompany their parents to their farms and be exposed to hazardous activities.”
The VOA cited research by the International Cocoa Initiative that analyzed the impacts of income loss on child labor rates in the Ivory Coast and found that a 10% drop in income for families in the cocoa industry is expected to produce a 5% increase in child labor.
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.
[On July 30, 2015, Tulane University researchers released their latest study — “Survey Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas”– we present highligths here written and compiled by Mary Donovan, contributing writer to the CLC.]
The full report, “Survey Research on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas,” by Tulane University may be viewed here.
Compiled July, 2013
By Sharon L. Fawcett, CLC Intern
For a small sum of money, James Kofi Annan’s father handed him over to a child trafficker when he was just six years old. Born into a family in Ghana with 12 children, there was no money for school uniforms and books. So instead of gaining an academic education, James would learn the painful lessons of the enslaved, in Ghana’s fishing villages.
Sold by his trafficker to a Lake Volta fisherman, James worked 17 hours per day, enduring constant physical and emotional abuse. When displeased, his master often withheld food, beat him with a paddle, or threw him in the lake.
Lake Volta, one of the world’s largest man-made lakes, was created by the construction of Ghana’s Askombo dam in the 1960s. Although the lake provided a bountiful supply of fish for many years, fish stocks have been declining in recent years, making it more difficult for fishermen to earn a living. Children provide a cheap source of labor and their tiny fingers prove useful for picking the fish that are captured in the nets’ webbing, as the holes get increasingly smaller to catch smaller fish.
The children trafficked to work in Ghana’s fishing industry as bonded laborers are as young as four years of age. Their tasks may include paddling boats, hauling nets, or performing domestic labor in the homes of fishermen. Like James Kofi Annan, these children work long hours for no pay; do not attend school; and are often malnourished, sleep deprived, and treated abusively. Nets often get snagged on submerged tree branches and children forced to dive underwater to free them risk water-borne diseases and drowning.
According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO), 60 percent of the world’s 215 million child laborers work in the agricultural sector—comprising activities in agriculture, livestock-raising, forestry, and fishing. In Ghana, one in six children aged six to 14 are involved in child labor. Eighty-eight percent of them work on farms; another 2.3 percent in fishing.
Work that is likely to harm the health, safety, or morals of children is categorized as hazardous by the ILO. This is the kind of work Lake Volta’s child fishers are exposed to, among the “worst forms of child labor.”
Ghana has ratified several international conventions that establish standards to protect children from exploitative work, including the ILO’s Minimum Age Convention (C138) and the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention (C182). It also has national laws restricting child labor, but the laws are not vigorously enforced. The minimum age for work in Ghana is 15 years; 18 years for hazardous work. However, the practice of children working is commonly accepted in Ghanaian society.
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.”
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.
The CocoaLink project, which was launched in 2011 in Ghana, involves sending text and voice messages to cocoa farmers to help them improve farming practices, understand problems related to pests and adverse weather conditions, improve labor practices and ask questions of cocoa experts in real time.
Under the next phase of CocoaLink, Hershey plans to work with the Rainforest Alliance to include important messages about conservation and climate change into the program, and also reach 100,000 Ghana cocoa farmers by 2014.
In addition, Hershey and Source Trust, a non-profit organization, have launched a new initiative ‘Hershey Learn to Grow’, which will establish 25 community-based farmer organizations.
Through the organizations, Hershey plans to improve the living standards of 1,250 cocoa farm families through good agricultural, environmental, social and business practices training; improve access to improved planting material; and finance for farm inputs with the goal to double productivity yield and farm income over four years.
Hershey and Source Trust will also assist the Government of Ghana to meet the goals of Ghana’s 2009-2015 National Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor (WFCL) and bring high-tech learning to rural farm villages.
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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