Nestle, the world’s largest food company, said it would do more to eradicate child labor and other worker violations in its Ivory Coast cocoa supply chain after an outside report pointed out a range of problems.
The West African country provides 10% of Nestle’s cocoa, which is used to make chocolate products such as Kit Kat candies, according to an investigation by the Fair Labor Assn. But the company’s worker code is often flouted there, causing children to work under dangerous farm conditions instead of going to school, according to a Friday report from the association.
Nestle cooperated with the group, marking “the first time a multinational chocolate producer has allowed its procurement system to be completely traced and assessed,” according to the association.
“For too long child labor in cocoa production has been everybody’s problem and therefore nobody’s responsibility,” Auret van Heerden, president of the group, said in a statement.
Maintaining the labor code in the Ivory Coast, which is still recovering from a divisive civil war and poverty, faces “systemic and cultural challenges,” the group said.
Local laws governing workers rights are rare and “too few participants down the chain are aware of, or trained to apply” the code, it said.
Health and safety problems abound, with 72% of reported injuries being caused by machete use. Discrimination is widespread, as is unauthorized overtime work, the association said.
In response to the findings, Nestle said it would implement an action plan focused on scaling back child labor, using training, guides and a monitoring system.
“The use of child labor in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for,” Jose Lopez, Nestle’s executive vice president for operations, said in a statement. “As the FLA report makes clear, no company sourcing cocoa from Cote d’Ivoire can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but what we can say is that tackling child labor is a top priority for our company.”