Nestlé’s trying, but I’m still not buying. I think it’s a start, but read the child labor report for yourself.

Posted: August 8, 2012 in child labor, chocolate, Fair Trade, forced labor, human trafficking, modern slavery
Tags: , , , , , ,

CNN Freedom Project reports that mega-chocolate maker Nestlé is attempting to address child labor in the Nestlé supply chain.

  • Good for CNN for diving into the fight against slavery with the CNN Freedom Project.
  • Good for Nestlé for joining the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and supporting the FLA study on Nestlé’s labor problems in its chocolate supply chain.

CNN calls the FLA report an “independent study,” but there are significant questions about the independence of the Fair Labor Association.  According to Chris O’Brien at Silicon Beat, the FLA audit of Apple’s supply chain issues is of dubious value if the FLA is primarily funded by dues from its members.  O’Brien suggests that if Apple, Nestlé, and other big corporations pay dues which make up the bulk of FLA revenue, isn’t having the FLA conduct an investigation of members’ supply chains a little like “asking the fox to guard the henhouse?”  Are these companies serious about addressing child and forced labor in their supply chains and taking substantial steps?  Or are they dragging their feet and whitewashing poor corporate behavior behind a veil of FLA legitimacy?

I think Nestlé is moving in the right direction, and I applaud Nestlé’s decision to join the FLA, cooperate with the FLA child labor investigation, and move toward transparency in their supply chain.  At least they are admitting they have a problem.  In my opinion, it’s a huge step forward.  But… read this quote from the report, and tell me if you think Nestlé has taken full responsibility for selling chocolate made with forced labor and child labor.

“[O]ne company alone cannot solve the problems of labor standards that prevail in the cocoa sector of the Ivory Coast. The current state of working conditions—and specifically child labor, which regrettably is still a reality in the cocoa sector—has its roots in a combination of factors, including the socio-economic situation of the farmers and their families, the cultural perceptions of the workers, métayers and growers, and migration issues. These conditions have been compounded by the recent civil war in the country. Any realistic strategy to eliminate child labor in the Ivory Coast would have to start with the attitudes and perceptions of the various participants in the supply chain and communities at large, something that will take a considerable amount of time to achieve.

Since I became aware of forced and child labor problems in the chocolate industry, I stopped buying chocolate from Hershey, Mars, and Nestlé.  This report has not changed my mind.  I’m still not buying Nestlé chocolate, because it’s made with child and forced labor (in part).  However, at least Nestlé has given me hope that they are attempting to address the issue, so I will watch them to see if they deliver.  If independent groups can verify in the future that Nestlé’s supply chain is free of forced and child labor, I’ll start buying their products again.  Until then, I buy Fair Trade and other sustainably sourced chocolate.

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