What exactly is ‘child labour’?
The International Labor Organization defines child labour 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 labour exist ?
Child labour 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 labour 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 labour in Côte d’Ivoire?
In 2012 we began a pilot monitoring and remediation system in two cocoa cooperatives to raise awareness about child labour and to identify children at risk.
Today, this monitoring and remediation scheme has begun in 16 of the 57 farmer cooperatives that supply us with cocoa in the country, of which it is fully operational in 10. It will cover them all 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 appointed monitoring and remediation agents in 10 cocoa cooperatives so far, as well as liaison people in each community selling cocoa to one of these cooperatives.
The community liaison people and child labour agents are trained to raise awareness about child labour, 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 labour 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 organisations is important, in order to address the root causes of child labour 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 organisation 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 labour conditions generally, including the child labour 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.
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 labour, by helping cocoa farmers to increase their income, to enhance their agricultural techniques, and to improve their understanding of child labour issues.
As part of the plan we have committed to build a total of 40 schools in Côte d’Ivoire by 2015. Find out more about the Cocoa Plan.
How quickly can child labour 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.
Read more about the Nestlé Cocoa Plan
Download the Cocoa Plan infographic (pdf, 3.3Mb)
Still have a question? Please get in touch