The industry has pledged $10m in new funds since 2010 to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, but a newly released report says the job is far from over.
The Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG), comprising the governments of the US, Ivory Coast and Ghana along with industry players, produced its annual report on Tuesday.
Report: job is not done
The report detailed progress towards a goal set in 2010 to reduce the worst forms of child labor in Ghana and the Ivory Coast by 70% by 2020 under the Harkin-Engel Protocol.
It reviewed project proposals from Hershey, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, Barry Callebaut, Ferrero, and Mars and found the industry had pledged $10m.
“While important progress has been made, the job is not done. There are still children working in hazardous conditions or unable to attend school in cocoa communities,” said the report.
NGOs question Callebaut and Hershey pledges
Non-profit groups behind the Raise The Bar, Hershey campaign (Global Exchange, Green America, the International Labor Rights Forum, and Oasis USA) said in a statement:
“..While many companies have increased their commitments to reducing child labor in the communities they source from, others lag behind, notably Hershey and Barry Callebaut.”
They said that Hershey’s commitment was just 17% of its largest US competitor’s pledge Mars, and said its only program to fall under the CLCCG was Cocoa Link, a project that sends cell phone messages with agricultural tips to farmers.
“CocoaLink has reached less than 1% of cocoa farmers in Ghana, and no farmers in Cote D'Ivoire,” said the NGO consortium.
Hershey was contacted, but did not respond to the allegations.
The NGOs added that Barry Callebaut's pledge was only 11% of Mars' commitment and said the chocolate makers aim to build two schools in two cocoa growing communities appeared irrelevant compared to the 36,000 plus schoolrooms needed in these regions.
Raphael Wermuth, external communications manager for Barry Calleabut, said it was undecided whether the project would involve just two schools and said it would be discussed internally.
“This [$300,000] is actually a fraction of what we do,” he said. Barry Callebaut also has a CHF 40m ($42m) Cocoa Horizons project over 10 years that was not reported to the CLCCG.
“You have to put it into perspective in terms of the turnover of each company,” added Wermuth.
Barry Callebaut recorded $376m operating profit in 2012, while Nestlé posted $11.55bn over the same period.
“As two of the biggest chocolate companies in the world, Barry Callebaut and Hershey are just as responsible as their counterparts for the atrocious labor conditions of the cocoa sector. And yet, both have been miserly when it comes to the fight to remove children from the cocoa fields of West Africa,” said the NGOs.
US Senator Tom Harkin said that in 2013 and 2014 the CLCCG would have surveys assessing the extent of child labor in cocoa communities that will hold companies to account.
“These surveys will not only tell us about the efficacy of our work to date but also help identify where we need to target any further actions to reach children who are facing the worst forms of child labor.”
Almost 820,000 children in the Ivory Coast and over 997,000 kids in Ghana were found to be working on cocoa-related activities in 2007/2008, according to Tulane University.
That study found that 15% of children surveyed reported forced or involuntary work in the 12 months prior to the release of their publication. In addition, they found that nearly 50% of children working in cocoa farming in West Africa reported injuries from their work in the past year.