Swiss food giant, Nestlé (PINK:NSRGY), may put a smile on the faces of millions of children who love chocolate, but it also has put many children in harms way, according to a study from the Fair Labor Association.
The study found numerous child labor code violations among Nestlé’s cocoa supply chain from its Vevey, Switzerland headquarters to the farms in Ivory Coast. The investigation results have prompted the company to take steps to clean up its act.
“The use of child labor in our cocoa supply goes against everything we stand for,” Nestlé Executive Vice President, Operations Jose Lopez said in a statement, Bloomberg reports. “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 FLA said Nestlé has developed an action plan outlining three phases of improvement activities to be completed by the end of 2012, 2013 and 2016.
Phase I: By October 2012, Nestlé will develop a clear, illustrated guide encouraging compliance with the labor code. The guide will be distributed to more than 20,000 farmers participating in Nestlé’s sustainability initiative.The company also will invest in various training programs to help employees identify and take steps to prevent code violations.
Phase II: By the end of its 2012/2013 harvesting season, the company will conduct a baseline survey of child labor at two cooperatives.
Phase III: If Phase II goes according to plan, by the start of 2016 Nestlé will establish a baseline measurement of compliance at all its cocoa cooperatives.
FLA President Auret van Heerden thinks that Nestlé’s efforts will make a substantial difference for families who work for the company’s cocoa farms.
“Our investigation of Nestlé’s cocoa supply chain represents the first time a multinational chocolate producer has allowed its procurement system to be completely traced and assessed,” van Heerden said in a press release. “For too long child labor in cocoa production has been everybody’s problem and therefore nobody’s responsibility. Nestlé is taking direct responsibility for decreasing the risks in its supply chain especially when it concerns the persistent challenges of ending child labor.”
van Heerden also referred to ending the total existence child labor violations is a “long journey.”
“The only way to really address a problem as systemic as child labor is to work from the bottom up, understand the reality of the farmers, workers and their families, and show the value of compliance at the ground level,” he said.