Does Nestlé have child labor in its cocoa supply chain?

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

No company sourcing cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire can guarantee they have completely removed the risk of children working on small farms in their supply chain. Nestlé is no different, but we are determined to tackle the problem.

The use of child labor is unacceptable and goes against everything we stand for. We’ve set ourselves the goal of eradicating it from our cocoa supply chain and have put a dedicated action plan in place.

We have made important progress with this action plan, but we acknowledge that as long as there are children working on cocoa farms, there will always be more to do.

What about the more extreme problem of child trafficking and slavery that has been reported in Côte d’Ivoire?

We have zero tolerance for trafficking or slavery. It is illegal. If we find evidence of it we’ll report it to the police and appropriate authorities immediately.

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.

It is work that should not be done by children, either because they are too young, or because it is dangerous and unsuitable for them.

This doesn’t mean that children can’t perform light, non-hazardous work on family farms, assuming this is not harmful to their mental and physical development, is limited in terms of daily working hours and does not deprive them of access to education.

Why does child labor exist?

Child labor is usually the consequence of a combination of a lack of access to education, poverty and a lack of community awareness about the hazards for children working in cocoa plantations.

A realistic strategy to eliminate child labor depends not only on improving the living standards of cocoa-growing communities but also on working with people right across the supply chain to change attitudes and perceptions, and with national and local authorities to improve access to education.

What actions have you taken to address child labor in Côte d’Ivoire?

In 2012 we began a pilot monitoring and remediation system in two cocoa cooperatives to raise awareness about child labor and to identify children at risk.

Today, this monitoring and remediation scheme has begun in 22 farmer cooperatives, covering more than 12,000 farmers. The scheme will be rolled out to all cooperatives that supply us with cocoa in the country (about 70) by the end of 2016.

To the best of our knowledge, we’re the first cocoa purchaser to set up such a system. It is starting to give us unprecedented information about the living and working conditions of farming communities and it’s an opportunity to help individuals directly and make real progress.

How does the monitoring and remediation system work?

We have recruited and trained 18 child labor monitoring and remediation agents so far, as well as 332 community liaison people.

The community liaison people and child labor agents are trained to raise awareness about child labor, identify children at risk, and report their findings to us, and to our suppliers.

The system is helping us to identify the root causes of child labor in each cocoa community, and the interventions needed in order to begin to tackle them.

What is ‘remediation’?

Remediation refers to the intervention efforts we put in place with our partners when a child, or group of children, is identified as being at risk. This could be something as simple as helping a family to get a copy of their child’s birth certificate so he or she can attend school, or providing them with school equipment and uniforms.

We know that in Côte d’Ivoire, it is women, rather than men, who are more likely to seek to send their children to school. That's why we are piloting projects to enable mothers of children at risk to generate their own income, such as growing or selling cassava, which can help them cover the cost of enrolling two children in school per household.

We are looking at creating apprenticeship schemes and vocational training and literacy courses for children above school age.

We are also setting up groups of adults who will be employed by villages to carry out high-risk activities such as cutting trees and spraying crops, to reduce the chance of these kinds of tasks being undertaken by children.

In other cases, more resource-intensive interventions are needed, such as the building of new schools or the recruitment of additional teachers. This is why direct engagement and collaboration with local authorities and civil society organizations is important, in order to address the root causes of child labor at community level.

How is this monitoring and remediation system being supported?

This system is part of our action plan, which we drew up in response to recommendations from the Fair Labor Association (FLA).

The FLA is a non-profit organization that works with major companies to improve working conditions in their supply chains. We first invited it to investigate our cocoa supply chain in Côte d’Ivoire in 2012 to help us assess labor conditions generally, including the child labor problem.

In August 2014, the FLA published its first report on our cocoa supply chain since 2012, highlighting the areas where we need to do more to meet the FLA code. In September 2015, the FLA published its second report, summarizing its findings from assessments made in 2014, and our response to them.

What are you doing to improve cocoa communities’ livelihoods in Côte d’Ivoire?

Our work with the FLA builds on the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, which we launched in 2009. It is a holistic effort to tackle the root causes of child labor, by helping cocoa farmers to increase their income, to enhance their agricultural techniques, and to improve their understanding of child labor issues.

As part of the plan we committed to building a total of 40 schools in Côte d’Ivoire by 2015. We recently achieved this milestone. Find out more about how building schools improves life for children and the wider communities where they live.

How quickly can child labor be eliminated from your cocoa supply chain?

Unfortunately change won’t take place overnight. Finding and training the right people in local communities to act as agents takes time, and we want to make sure we do this properly.

We’re committed to acting responsibly and transparently. Where we have evidence that we’re making a difference, we’ll seek to scale up efforts in these areas. We’ll continue to work with the government and our partners to improve standards across the industry. Now we have the right structures in place, we believe we’re heading in the right direction.

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