The chocolate industry has made good progress on eliminating child labour from the supply chain but must make further gains on establishing a liveable income for farmers, according to a new report.
The publication, called A Matter of Taste, was published by anti-trafficing campaign group Stop the Traffik. It compared self-reported data from some of the world’s largest confectionery companies, including Nestlé, Mars, Hershey and Mondelēz.
It measured their efforts towards eradicating child labour, increasing access to education and empowering women and young people to become involved in cocoa farming. Lindt scored the highest with only one demerit – its performance in helping ensure a living wage for farmers, which was a consistent area to improve across all the businesses surveyed.
The report also measured the companies’ commitment to traceability, as well as increasing yield for their farmer-suppliers.
“There is a lot of be positive about in the chocolate industry,” the report’s authors said. “Addressing child labour is firmly on the agenda. Furthermore, the chocolate companies are moving beyond best practice to incorporate investment at community level. As child labour is a product of the structural poverty experienced by farmers, investing in local communities is far more likely to tackle the underlying causes of rural West African poverty than an annual audit against international labour standards. At Stop the Traffik we are impressed by the recent developments and sincerely support the continuity of the current efforts. Nevertheless, there remain improvements to strive for.
Many of the companies involved operate their own sustainability programmes – but it was Mondelēz and Nestlé, who operate two of the most high-profile sustainability schemes, that sourced the lowest proportion of sustainable cocoa of any of the six companies assessed.
Hershey, Mars and Lindt all sourced at least 50% of their beans through their own sustainable programme or mark.
The report focused solely on the companies’ activities in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
The companies should improve their performance by paying a fair price to farmers for their cocoa, as ‘no amount of income diversification or increased cocoa productivity will lift all West African cocoa farmers out of poverty’. Stop the Traffik urged the chocolate industry to agree upon a ‘living income calculation’ which would set a sector-wide standard for paying cocoa farmers.
Stop the Traffik said: “Consumers in the end will need to be prepared to pay more for their chocolate and in doing so know that they too are part of growing a supply chain which is sustainable and free from child labour and human trafficking.”
Many of the companies in the report acknowledged the challenge of establishing a viable living wage for farmers.
“It is not rocket science. Farmers simply need to be paid more,” said Antonie Fountain, managing director of the Voice Network, which brings together NGOs and trade unions on the issue of sustainability in cocoa farming.
And Barry Parkin, chief sustainability officer for Mars, conceded: “To get to sustainable, we’ve got to triple or quadruple the income [for our farmers]. That’s the harsh reality of what is needed to get to a living income.”
Stop the Traffik also encouraged the companies to expand their own sustainability programmes, saying that they worked as intended. But such schemes are only reaching about 300,000 farmers in total, or 5% of all cocoa producers worldwide.
“In order to truly combat child labour and human trafficking, corporate programmes need to reach all cocoa-farming communities, not just a select few that can be brandished across corporate social responsibility reports,” it said.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019