I started this blog the day I learned that the chocolate industry has been flagged as having problems with forced labour and human trafficking. It was the day I called Nestlé to ask whether or not any of their products were made using traffik free cocoa. I haven’t heard back from Nestlé yet, but I found a response they’d sent to someone else.
On 24 March 2010, the BBC aired an episode of Panorama which had investigated child labour in the chocolate industry. According to the BBC website, “Panorama met a farmer who relies on his eight-year-old brother and 11-year-old son to help harvest the cocoa that goes to the co-operative supplying Nestle as part of its recent Fairtrade initiative.” Several other organisations were also mentioned as having experienced problems with child labour in their supply chain.
Before I continue, I’d like to mention that Fairtrade issued a statement which explains very well how they took appropriate corrective action. It is also clear from the statement that they are aware of child labour and trafficking issues in the chocolate industry and have policies in place to ensure that such practices are not tolerated.
Nestlé UK also issued a response, though I felt it was somewhat more combative. I’m quite comfortable with that kind of tone because it made me feel that they’re taking the matter to heart. One paragraph in particular caught my attention:
As a signatory of the Harkin-Engel Protocol 2001, for nearly 10 years Nestlé has been working together with others in industry, governments, NGOs and international organisations including the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to address labour practices on cocoa farms and we will continue to do so.
They also pointed out that they’ve invested £35 million in various initiatives in the Ivory Coast alone over the previous 15 years and had committed a further £65 million over the next 10 years (worldwide?) to address issues faced by cocoa farming communities. Anyway, the reason the above paragraph caught my eye was because they appeared to try and gain leverage by mentioning the Harkin-Engel Protocol.
Time to get my shovel and go digging…