Does Nestlé have child labour in its cocoa supply chain?

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

No company sourcing cocoa in Cote d’Ivoire can guarantee that they’ve completely removed the risk of children working on small farms. Nestlé is no different, but we’re determined to tackle the problem.

Child labour is unacceptable. It goes against everything we stand for. That’s why we’ve set ourselves the goal of ending it in our cocoa supply chain, through this dedicated action plan (pdf, 451Kb).

We’ve made important progress using this plan, but we’re aware that as long as children still work on cocoa farms, there will always be more to do.

Sadly, radical change won’t happen overnight. Nestlé is committed to responsible action, and we’ll continue to do all we can to help end child labour, working with the government and our partners.

What about reports of child trafficking and slavery in Côte d’Ivoire?

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

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 harms their physical and mental development.

This doesn’t mean that children can’t perform light, non-hazardous work on family farms. But this work must not harm then mentally or physically. It should be limited to daylight hours and should not deprive them of access to education.

Why does child labour exist ?

Child labour is usually the result of a combination of a lack of access to education, poverty and a lack of community awareness about the dangers of children working on cocoa plantations.

A realistic strategy to end child labour depends upon improving living standards in cocoa-growing communities. It also involves working with people across our supply chain to change attitudes towards child labour, and with national and local authorities to improve access to education.

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

We’ve set up a monitoring system to cover the co-operatives where we source under the Nestlé Cocoa Plan. This helps us identify and help children at risk of child labour and raise awareness of the problem.

We were the first cocoa purchaser to establish such a system, which now covers more than 37,000 farmers working on 69 cooperatives. Since 2012, the system has helped us identify over 5,000 children who we’ve given, or are giving ‘remediation’ – help to ensure they stop illegal work.

We’re constantly working to improve the system, which gives us essential information on living and working conditions in farming communities, and allows us to help children and farming families directly.

How does the monitoring and remediation system work?

The system uses ‘community liaison people’ and ‘child labour agents’. They work to raise awareness of child labour, identify children at risk, and report their findings to us, and to our suppliers.

We’ve recruited and trained over 1,100 people locally to fill these roles. The system helps us identify the root causes of child labour in cocoa communities, and what we need to do to end it.

What is ‘remediation’?

‘Remediation’ refers to the work we do with our partners when a child, or children, are seen as being at risk of child labour. 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. This is why we are piloting projects that enable women to generate their own incomes, such as growing or selling cassava. This can help families cover schooling costs.

We’re looking at creating apprenticeships and vocational training and literacy courses for children above school age. We’re also setting up groups of adults who villages can employ for high-risk work like cutting trees and spraying crops, to reduce the risk of children performing such tasks.

In other cases, more costly steps are needed, such as building new schools or recruiting additional teachers. This is why we collaborate directly with local authorities and civil society organisations, to address the root causes of child labour.

How do you support this monitoring and remediation system?

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

FLA is a non-profit organisation that works with major companies to improve working conditions in their supply chains. . We first invited FLA 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. In September 2015, a second report, summarised findings from assessments made in 2014, and our response to them.

A third, September 2016 report shows our progress in areas such as awareness among farmers, child labour remediation, and health and safety policy development.

We continue working with the FLA to help ensure a sustainable, transparent cocoa supply in Côte d’Ivoire.

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

Our work on tackling child labour builds on the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, which we launched in 2009.The programme is designed to improve cocoa farmers’ lives, by helping them increase their incomes. We help farmers by training them in good agricultural practices, providing them with new plants and creating long-term relationships with them as suppliers.

As part of the plan we’ve built 46 schools in Côte d’Ivoire.

Read more about the Nestlé Cocoa Plan

Download the infographic: Tackling child labour in our cocoa supply chain (pdf, 900Kb)

Still have a question? Please get in touch

In pictures: Meeting our Cocoa Plan commitments