Is there child labour in your cocoa supply chain?
Yes, both our own Child Labour Remediation and Monitoring System (CLMRS) and the Fair Labor Association (FLA) found children working on farms from where our suppliers buy cocoa in the Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. The vast majority of these children are working for their parents, typically carrying loads of harvested beans that are too heavy for them. Unfortunately, no company sourcing cocoa from these two countries, can guarantee that it has completely removed the risk of child labour from its supply chain. Nestlé is no different, but we are determined to tackle the problem.
How many children has your CLMRS found so far?
Out of the 36,740 children we have surveyed since the CLMRS was rolled out in 2014, 6,065 were classified as child labourers. So far, we have helped 4,680 and are taking action to assist the remainder of them early in 2017. The vast majority of these children are working for their parents, typically carrying heavy loads of harvested beans.
Were these farms certified?
Yes, all these they have all been certified either by either the Fairtrade or UTZ standards. We are discovering that traditional audits are not fully effective at picking up on social issues such as child labour and that it is better to have continuous monitoring by local people. UTZ has now modified its standard and now requires this type of CLMRS where there is a risk of child labour. This is why we welcome dialogue, engagement and collective action with all those global and local stakeholders committed to make sustained progress in tackling it.
What kind of help (or ‘remediation’) are you delivering?
Each remediation case is different as the help we provide depends on the particular situation of the child. So far, we have helped identified children by getting them to school, giving school kits at the start of the school year, and helping them get birth certificates, as children without these documents are excluded from secondary school. We have also sought to increase the level of household income by helping women group together to start an income generating activity, such as growing food crops for sale or first stage crop processing. In addition, we have helped young adults create service groups that provide a labour force to carry out activities that are hazardous to children.
Over the course of 2017, we will be analysing the success rates of these different activities to help target our remediation in the future. These remediation activities are in addition to other Nestlé Cocoa Plan activities tackling the root causes of child labour such as helping to increase farm yield and profitability, and paying a premium for cocoa.
How many children has the FLA found working in farms that are part of your cocoa supply chain in Côte d’Ivoire?
FLA independent external monitoring visits and assessments show a decrease in the rate of child labour identified in the Côte d’Ivoire. From September to December of 2014, during the peak cocoa-harvesting season, the FLA conducted 13 independent external monitoring visits to 13 cocoa-producing communities in that country. Assessors visiting 260 farms in four co-operatives in four different regions found 25 child workers under the age of 15 as well as 31 young workers between the ages of 15 and 18 working in the cocoa fields. We immediately investigated the cases raised and began remediation efforts. From September 2015 to January 2016, FLA’s visits to 303 farms in 16 communities under six cooperatives supplying to Nestlé found 6 child workers and 6 young workers. This decrease in the rate of child labour from 3 % to 1% is publicly reported in the FLA’s independent external monitoring of our cocoa supply chain in Côte d’Ivoire.
How does the child labour monitoring and remediation system (CLMRS) actually work?
The initial step of the CLMRS is to actively work with the communities where cocoa farmers live. By the end of 2016, Nestlé had recruited 1,056 Community Liaison People (CLP) whose role is to engage with local households to gather the data required for us to better understand the environment in which they live and to identify issues related to child labour risks. This data is collected through specific templates that the CLPs can access via cell phones provided by Nestlé and ICI. Once gathered, this information is consolidated by our 69 Co-op Child Labour Agent, community members appointed by farming co-operatives, and used to propose and follow through child labour prevention and remediation efforts. Moreover, the Community Liaison People also deliver awareness raising sessions on child labour that have so far reached 193,424 farmers and community members, and surveyed 36,740 children. The CLMRS is headed by a child labour manager at Nestlé, and assisted at all levels by the Swiss non-profit Foundation International Cocoa Initiative (ICI).
Are other companies following your lead in using CLMRS?
Yes, other companies are starting to adopt this system, especially as a result of the change in the UTZ standard and it becoming integral to the CocoaAction’s industry strategy for cocoa sustainability.
Shouldn’t governments be doing this work?
We welcome government efforts to set up national systems for the detection and remediation of child labour. However, these are currently not extensive enough so we are putting in place a supply chain based system. We will work with, and complement any, government efforts once they extend to communities which supply our cocoa.
What is Nestlé doing to address sustainability issues in its cocoa supply chain?
As one of the world’s biggest buyers of cocoa, Nestlé takes very seriously its responsibility to ensure that the cocoa it buys is produced in a sustainable manner. In 2009, we launched the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, which aims to improve the lives of farmers and their communities, and has three pillars of activities: better farming, better lives and better cocoa. We train farmers in better agricultural practices, distribute higher-yielding cocoa trees, promote gender equality, address the child labour issue and develop long-term relationships with farmer groups.
What is the lawsuit against Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill in the US District Court in California about?
On 14 July 2005, U.S. class action lawyers brought a lawsuit against Nestlé, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill in the US District Court in California, purportedly on behalf of three alleged former child slaves of Malian origin who claim they were forced to work in Côte d’Ivoire. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants aided and abetted the forced labour. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2010 and subsequently re-instated by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Thereafter, ADM settled out of the litigation. The lawsuit was recently dismissed a second time on 10 March 2017. Plaintiffs’ class action lawyers are expected to again file an appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
We believe that class action lawsuits are not the way to solve a serious and complex social challenge like child labour. The underlying causes behind it are complex and its eradication a shared responsibility. We believe all actors, industry, NGOs, governments, local authorities and communities must work together to reduce and ultimately eliminate the number of children affected by this unacceptable practice.
Is Nestlé contravening consumer protection laws in California by failing to disclose that your products may have been made with cocoa beans from suppliers in the Côte D’Ivoire who used forced child labour?
On 28 September 2015, a completely separate class action lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in California against Nestlé USA. It alleges that Nestlé USA violates California consumer protection laws by failing to disclose to consumers that our chocolate products may have been made with cocoa beans from suppliers in the Côte D’Ivoire who used forced child labour. Similar suits were filed by the same class action lawyers against Hershey and Mars. On 29 March 2016, the Court dismissed the suit filed against Nestlé USA. The suits against Hershey and Mars were also dismissed. On 27 April 2016, the plaintiff appealed the dismissal decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal is fully briefed and the parties await a hearing date.