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Chocolate and child labour

Ethical Consumer finds 20 household chocolate brands ‘failing on cocoa sourcing policies’
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Chocolate and child labour

New research by Ethical Consumer reveals that 50% of the companies covered in its chocolate study don’t have an adequate policy on child labour and cocoa sourcing.

Supermarkets make up over a third of those given its ‘worst’ Cocoa Sourcing rating, including Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Aldi, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s.

Ethical Consumer accused companies of ‘turning a blind eye’ to the extreme poverty of farmers – the cause of child labour.

Action on cocoa sourcing

High-profile chocolate brands have left a bitter taste with Ethical Consumer researchers after ‘simply not doing enough’ to end child labour (and the poverty that drives it) in the booming chocolate industry.

The study’s authors contacted 40 companies to establish if they had sufficient cocoa sourcing policies. They also looked into what they were doing to tackle poverty and child labour on the ground.

Researchers felt that the absence of a policy meant that abuses such as forced or child labour, that are usually the result of dire poverty, were more likely.

Ethical Consumer concluded that the following companies had insufficient policies in place:

  • Ferrero
  • Mondelez (Cadbury, Green & Blacks)
  • Mars
  • Biona
  • Tesco
  • Marks & Spencer
  • Waitrose
  • Nestlé
  • Aldi
  • Hershey’s
  • ASDA
  • Morrisons
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Hotel Chocolat
  • Guylian
  • Godiva
  • Plamil
  • Booja Booja
  • Seed and Bean
  • Montezuma

Josie Wexler, researcher at Ethical Consumer, is calling for industry-wide action on cocoa sourcing and the endemic poverty that underlies the child labour.

‘Shockingly, child labour in cocoa has increased by 14% in the last decade’, Josie said. ‘Children are often engaged in hazardous use of machetes and toxic chemicals and carry excessive loads.’

Poverty and child labour

Companies with sufficient cocoa sourcing policies in place were given the ‘best’ score for Ethical Consumer’s Cocoa Sourcing rating.

In some cases, brands dealt directly with the farmer, had traceable supply chain measures in place and were able to confirm they were 100% Fairtrade Foundation certified, which gives the farmers a premium over the market price.

‘Governments have started making some efforts to tackle the low prices at the root of the issue, and companies need to be much more on board with that and helping to push it forwards.

‘Fairtrade gives a premium, so the farmers get a bit more money. Other models that help include having the farmers more involved by partially owning the company (Divine) or making the finished chocolate locally can make a big difference but ultimately governments and companies must do more to eliminate poverty among those supplying the industry.

‘Cocoa is produced by millions of dispersed small farmers. The child labour used by nearly all farmers is from their own family and is the result their extreme poverty which in turn is caused by low cocoa prices with only about 6% of the price of a chocolate bar goes to the cocoa farmer.

‘Companies have now been pledging to tackle child labour in the cocoa industry for twenty years and still very little progress has been made. They need to be showing much more appetite to address it, as it still looks like they are largely turning a blind eye.’

Researcher at Ethical Consumer

Top of the chocs

Brands with sufficient cocoa sourcing policies were named as: Cocoa Loco, Lindt, Traidcraft, iChoc, Vivani, Ritter Sport, Lidl, Divine, Tony’s Chocolonely, Fairafric, Vego, Beyond Good, Chocolate Madagascar, Pacari, Co-op, Moo Free, Willies, Ombar, Mia.

Overall Best Buys for chocolate were named as Pacari, Beyond Good, Mia, Fairafric, Chocolate Madagascar and Divine.

They were chosen as companies ‘going beyond’ to tackle the poverty at the heart of the problem, including going beyond certification by making the finished product at source, or being partially owned by cocoa farmers themselves

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