Child labor is unacceptable and heartbreaking. Children deserve the chance to learn, to grow in a safe and healthy environment and to be happy. Companies like ours play an important role, especially in communities where poverty is widespread and resources are scarce.
Unfortunately, child labor is still a reality in many countries, in particular in agricultural communities. There, the majority of child labor involves children supporting their parents on farms. While every case must be considered individually, there are some common root causes and indicators. These include poverty, lack of access to education and basic needs such as clean water and good nutrition, and little awareness about the risks of young children carrying heavy loads and performing other difficult tasks.
We aim to address these root causes through our cocoa sustainability program, the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, and have committed to sourcing 100% of our cocoa through the Nestlé Cocoa Plan by 2025.
What we're doing
A system built from the ground up
As soon as child labor issues or potential issues are detected, we take action to deal with those cases. For the cases where we can intervene, we try to understand the root cause and then work with the family and/or the community to develop a tailored solution. For instance, if a child is not going to school because s/he does not have a birth certificate, which is common in many places in rural communities in West Africa, we help their parents obtain one for their child.
Through the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, we keep contact with the families of over 86,000 children in Côte d’Ivoire through 1,640 community liaisons – all local people who themselves come from cocoa-growing communities.
And we follow up. We visit families at least twice to make sure the measures we have taken are working and that the concerned child or children have not fallen back into child labor.
Approximately 128 000 children have been protected against the risk of child labor since 2012, of which more than 40 000 children increased their access to education. This is a good start, but as long as child labor still exists, we know that there is still work to do.
A stable economy and healthy society are key to overcoming poverty
Poverty is one of the root causes of child labor. It is therefore important that farmers earn an income that allows them and their families to live a decent life.
We improve farmers' income and livelihoods through measures such as training in good agricultural practices to improve productivity and quality, promoting income diversification to reduce dependency on one crop, or empowering women and creating local savings and loans associations. In addition, we pay a premium for quality cocoa on top of the measures taken by the governments to improve farmers' income.
In Côte d'Ivoire, we are also piloting a cash incentive project to encourage farmers to protect the forests around their farms, to plant shade trees around their cocoa trees to promote biodiversity, and to send their kids to school.
Education is fundamental to the future of children
We know that there is a clear connection between better education and lower levels of child labor.
With our partner, the Jacobs Foundation, we've set up 131 'bridging classes' to help kids who have missed out on schooling and need to catch up. These schools deliver two years' worth of the national curriculum in small classes in just nine months.
Collaboration is key to create more impact
Given the scale and complexity of the child labor problem, we need far-reaching changes in society, industry and policy. We work with national governments, local authorities, non-governmental organizations as well as other companies that source cocoa in those countries.
Transparency on this issue is critical and something that should be encouraged. It is only by being open about the problem that we can raise awareness and engage with others to find solutions that work on the ground.
Our second report on 'Tackling Child Labor' in our cocoa supply chain also demonstrated the impact of our system to tackle child labor risks.
Independent third-party organizations, such as Rainforest Alliance or the Fair Labor Association, run regular audits helping to drive continuous improvements.
Progress made so far