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Child Labour and Chocolate

D 18 novembre 2021     H 05:00     A     C 0 messages

Nearly 20 years after the world’s major chocolate manufacturers pledged to abolish employment abuses, hazardous child labour remains rife in their supply chains, a new study finds. Back in 2001, big brands such as Nestlé, Mars and Hershey signed a cross-sector accord aimed at eliminating egregious child labour. Despite missing deadlines to deliver on their pledge in 2005, 2008 and 2010, they continue to insist that ending the illegal practice remains their top concern. The overall proportion of children working has gone up by 14 percentage points in the past decade.

Research from the University of Chicago finds that more than two-fifths (43%) of all children aged between five and 17 in cocoa-growing regions of Ghana and Ivory Coast – the world’s largest cocoa producers – are engaged in hazardous work.

In total, an estimated 1.5 million children work in cocoa production around the world, half of whom are found in these two west African nations alone. Hazardous work includes the use of sharp tools, working at night and exposure to agrochemical products, among other harmful activities.

Chocolate giant Mars reiterated that child labour has no place in cocoa production and said it had committed $1bn to help “fix a broken supply chain”. Campaign groups dismiss such comments as a duplicitous smokescreen. Indeed, a lawsuit stating that international chocolate manufacturers knowingly profit from abuses against children is currently being heard in the US supreme court.

Charity Ryerson, founder of US campaign group Corporate Accountability Lab, echoes a widespread feeling that the chocolate industry is guilty of “mind-boggling hypocrisy”. If it wished to, it could end child labour tomorrow, she said.

“In the past 20 years, the cocoa industry has invested enormous skill and resources in public relations around sustainability, but the increase in child labour demonstrates it has utterly failed to bring that same expertise and investment to create real sustainability.”

According to the Fairtrade Foundation, only around 6% of the chocolate industry’s total revenues makes its way back to farmers.