Cocoa farm

A report by the Washington-based Fair Labour Association (FLA) has found a number of violations involving Ivory Coast-based child labour farms that supply cocoa to Nestlé.

In response, the Swiss food company has announced measures to combat the practice.

Nestlé had commissioned the FLA to trace and assess its cocoa supply chain in the Ivory Coast, which provides 10% of the company’s cocoa.

The investigation found that despite asking its primary suppliers to comply with its supplier code that outlines rules regarding child labour, safety and working hours, Nestlé did not put further efforts to ensure that the rules were being followed.

According to the report, child labour was a widespread problem in the farms contracted by Nestlé. The report said that this has its roots in a combination of factors including poverty and the socio-economic situation of the farmers and their families.

Health and safety problems were prevalent, with 72% of the reported injuries caused due to the use of machetes. Additionally, even though Nestlé’s labour code limits hours of work to 60 hours per week, workers were often forced to work excessive hours during the harvest.

In response, Nestlé has announced that it will work more closely with its suppliers to eradicate child labour. It also plans to develop a clear, illustrated guide to its supplier code by October 2012, which will be distributed to over 20,000 farmers participating in the company’s sustainability initiative.

Nestlé also plans to provide training to all employees who deal directly with farms to check for violations and promote compliance with the labour code.

Nestlé’s Operations executive vice president, José Lopez, said the use of child labour in the cocoa supply chain goes against the company’s principles:"As the FLA report makes clear, no company sourcing cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but what we can say is that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company."

Image: Nestlé has announced measures to address child labour in response to the Fair Labor Association report on the company’s cocoa supply chain. Photo: courtesy of Nestlé.