Does Nestlé have child labor in its cocoa supply chain?

We’re committed to and investing in preventing child labor and taking strong action - in 2012, Nestlé became the first company in the industry to establish a supply chain approach with a comprehensive child labor monitoring and remediation system. We develop targeted solutions for vulnerable families working through trained community liaisons, including building local schools and providing educational resources. We also transparently report on the successes and failures of the system.

We have a zero tolerance policy for slavery and trafficking. Where we find evidence of it we report it to the appropriate authorities immediately.

Is there child labor in your cocoa supply chain in Côte d’Ivoire?

No company sourcing cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana can fully remove the risk of child labor in its supply chain. Nestlé is no different, but we’re determined to tackle the problem.

We’re tackling child labor in our cocoa supply chain through pioneering monitoring and remediation schemes in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which form part of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan.

In October 2017 Nestlé published a report (pdf, 5Mb) laying out, for the first time, the important progress that we’ve made in tackling child labor. However, we realise that as long as child labor still exists on cocoa farms, there is more to be done.

Ending child labor is a shared responsibility, and Nestlé is keen to take collective action with everyone who is committed to tackling it.

We strongly oppose any kind of child exploitation, and we’re committing to preventing and eliminating it in our supply chain. This is stated in our Corporate Business Principles and Responsible Sourcing Standards, which guide the behavior of our employees and business partners worldwide.

What exactly is ‘child labor’?

The International Labor Organization defines child labor as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. One example is children carrying heavy loads of harvested cocoa beans.

Most child labor occurs when children support their parents on farms in West Africa. Children can perform light, non-hazardous work on family farms. However, this must not harm then mentally or physically and should not deprive them of access to education.

What is Nestlé doing to tackle child labor in cocoa?

Child labor in the cocoa sector is usually the result of a combination of a lack of access to education, poverty and a lack of community awareness about the dangers of such work.

Nestlé is working with local communities to tackle child labor and address the root causes, while ensuring that these communities remain financially and socially sustainable.

In 2012, we set up a Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) in Côte d’Ivoire – working with Swiss non-profit International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) – that covers the co-operatives where we source under the Nestlé Cocoa Plan. In 2016, we began rolling-out the CLMRS in Ghana.

Our system uses locally recruited ‘community liaison people’ and ‘child labor agents’. They work to raise awareness of child labor in communities, identify children at risk and report their findings to us and our suppliers.

We were the first cocoa purchaser to establish such a system, which now covers more than 2,000 communities and 65,000 farmers in Côte d’Ivoire. Since 2012, the system has helped us identify over 25,000 children involved in child labor. We’ve helped over 11,130 of these children to help them move away from laboring, and are taking action to assist the remainder who are still children (i.e. under 17). Two years after receiving help, analysis indicates that over 50% of these children do not return to working in the sector. In 2016, we began rolling out the scheme in Ghana, and it now covers 2800 farmers in four districts.

Nestlé is also tackling child labor by helping children in cocoa-growing communities to attend school. We’ve built or renovated 42 schools to benefit more than 11,000 children. In 2016, we kicked off a partnership with the Jacobs Foundation to improve quality of education, and through this we have built over 40 small ‘bridge schools’ benefiting over 3100 children so far. Measures also include providing children with birth certificates so they can access existing educational facilities.

What 'remediation' do you provide to children?

'Remediation' refers to the help we give when we identify a child who is at risk of child labor. This could be something as simple as helping a family get a copy of their child's birth certificate so he or she can enroll in school, or providing them with school equipment and uniforms.

We've given support to help increase household incomes – so that children don't have to work and families can afford to send them to school. For example, we've helped women's groups start growing food crops for sale.

Nestlé has also helped young adults organize labor groups that villages can employ for high-risk work like cutting trees and spraying crops, to make it less likely that children do this work.

In other cases, more costly steps are needed, such as building new schools or recruiting additional teachers. This is why we collaborate directly with local authorities and civil society organisations, to address the root causes of child labor.

Does your child labor monitoring system actually work?

Yes. Data indicates that the majority of children assisted through our monitoring system do not return to work. Many are now in full-time education instead.

Our monitoring system forms part of our Child Labor Action Plan (pdf, 500Kb), which we drew up in response to recommendations from the non-profit Fair Labor Association (FLA). The FLA works with major companies to improve working conditions in their supply chains.

We first invited them to investigate our cocoa supply chain in Côte d’Ivoire in 2011, to help us assess labor conditions generally, including the child labor problem.

FLA’s latest independent monitoring report from September 2016 shows a decrease in the rate of child labor in cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire that supply Nestlé. We continue working with the FLA to help ensure a sustainable, transparent cocoa supply.

What is Nestlé doing to tackle child trafficking and slavery?

We have zero tolerance for illegal trafficking or slavery. If we find any evidence of it then we report it to appropriate authorities immediately.

What are you doing to improve livelihoods in cocoa communities?

Our work on tackling child labor builds on the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, which we launched in 2009. The program is designed to improve cocoa farmers’ lives and their communities: better farming, better lives and better cocoa.

We help farmers by training them in good agricultural practices, promote gender equality, address child labor and creating long-term relationships with them as suppliers.

Download the infographic: Tackling child labor in our cocoa supply chain.