Nestle SA needs to step up measures to combat child labor in the Ivory Coast cocoa industry, according to a study requested by the Swiss food company that found “numerous” violations of its internal work rules.
The maker of KitKat chocolate bars needs to improve internal monitoring to fight the practice as four-fifths of its cocoa comes from channels for which information on labor is opaque, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) said in a report. Nestle plans new monitoring programs in two cooperatives this year and in 30 by 2016, with the FLA assessing progress, the Switzerland-based company said in a response.
Nestle buys about one-tenth of global cocoa production and more than one-third of that comes from the Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest producer. About 20 percent of the cocoa the chocolate maker gets from that country can be traced as it comes from Nestle’s sustainable farming program, while the rest comes from the “standard” supply chain, which is not transparent, the report said.
“Child labor is a more persistent problem than anybody believed,” FLA president Auret van Heerden said on the telephone. “What we’re talking about is changing the way companies in the industry do business, and Nestle has taken the first step.”
Nestle said it aims to increase the amount of cocoa it obtains from its sustainable farming program globally to 15 percent next year from 10 percent this year. The root causes of child labor in the cocoa industry include poverty and a lack of schools, Van Heerden said.
The report also recommends that the Ivory Coast government take regulatory steps to tackle child labor, introduce a registration system for those working in agriculture and step up monitoring. The FLA said its suggestions for Nestle are applicable to other companies in the industry.
“The use of child labor in our cocoa supply goes against everything we stand for,” Jose Lopez, Nestle’s head of operations, said in a statement. “No company sourcing cocoa from Cote d’Ivoire can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but what we can promise is that tackling child labor is a top priority for our company.”
The group interviewed representatives from government and other bodies, as well as seven suppliers that provided Nestle with 79 percent of the beans and cocoa products the Swiss company bought from the Ivory Coast last year. The FLA talked to more than 500 people for the report.
“The complexity of child labor in the cocoa supply chain means solving the problem will take years,” Nestle said.