We love chocolate. But for over 10 years now, we’ve been part of a growing movement to end child labour in the chocolate industry.  There is still work to be done and this year, 2021, is the International Year of the Elimination of Child Labour. So how can we keep up that pressure on all segments of the industry?

Every Easter, we join our friends at Be Slavery Free and call on major chocolate companies to eradicate child labour from their supply chains and work towards a better world for all. We’ve asked chocolate companies to take steps to certify their cocoa, invest in strong monitoring and remediation systems, and ensure farmers receive a living wage so they don’t have to use child labour.

It’s working. As part of a growing, vocal movement, many of us have made ethical choices around the chocolate we consume, signed postcards, sent emails, had conversations with store managers, and raised awareness in our churches. Significant progress has been made but what else needs to happen to eradicate child labour?

Child labour in the cocoa industry

Most of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, a region notorious for the use of child labour on cocoa farms. The 2020 Cocoa Barometer Report found that approximately 1.5 million children are working on cocoa plantations in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, alone. On some cocoa farms, children as young as eight are trafficked to harvest cocoa beans in extremely dangerous conditions. And instead of attending school, some children work up to 12 hours a day.

Last year, as schools were closed during COVID, there was an increased risk of child labour, even if it was temporary. Farming communities have also been hit by increases in the costs of daily living, farming inputs and health care services.

Poverty, cultural norms, a changing climate, and the low-price farmers receive for their cocoa are just some of the key drivers associated with the use of child labour.  A 2020 Living Income Report in Ghana indicated that on average cocoa farmers are paid $2 a day. This is below what’s needed to provide for themselves and their families (a “living wage”); and below the cost of hiring adult labour.

Some very good news: progress in the industry

We are seeing strong commitments across the board when it comes to strengthening systems to minimise the use of child labour in the cocoa supply chain. Highlights include:

  • Commitments from a number of major chocolate companies (including Mondelez International, Nestle and Mars) to pay farmers a living wage, as well as commitments to support the Cote d’Ivoire and Ghanese governments’ new Living Income Differential ensuring farmers receive a fair price for their cocoa – first implemented at the end of 2020. The Living Income Differential is focused on enabling smallholder farmers to achieve a decent standard of living (one of which is having the capacity to hire labourers and sending their children to school). The implementation of the Living Income Differential means that cocoa prices will go up 28% this 2020/2021 buying season.
  • Three out of the six major chocolate companies, Nestle, Mondolez and soon, Mars, have timebound and solid commitments to have Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Schemes across 100% of their sourced cocoa farms.
  • Many companies including Mars, Lindt, Ferrero and Hershey have reached, or almost reached a goal of sourcing 100% certified cocoa. 100% certified cocoa regulates fairer cocoa prices potentially lowering the need for child labour. It is an important step but, as audits only take place once a year, it’s not built to address the issue of child labour.
  • During COVID some companies used their supply chain communication to inform farming communities of important public health announcements while the sector provided emergency relief both in kind (soap, buckets, water, food) and in cash through relief funds.
So, what’s next?

Direct action needs to be taken to tackle the root causes of child labour. Though current best-practice interventions might make an impact, the root causes – such as inadequate infrastructure, poverty, and lack of access to good schools, need to be addressed. Antonie Fountain, co-author of the Cocoa Barometer said,

It is time to move forward and put in place ambitious, holistic and mandatory change, so that we can finally tackle poverty, child labour and deforestation in cocoa.

The industry has recognised it will take a consolidated effort from governments, businesses, and broader society to see lasting change. Child labour monitoring and remediation schemes, auditing, traceability, transparency, community development and the provision of a living income, will all be required to eradicate child labour in the cocoa supply chain.

So, businesses have acknowledged the steps they need to take and have made strong commitments towards them. Now, what can you do?

We all have a part to play

Brands like Nestle, Haighs, and Darrell Lea have all told us that your voice and public campaigns (including some of our Easter campaigns!) have been a key driver in prompting them to improve their supply chain practices. Your voice matters.

We’ll be sharing more information soon on how you can be involved in this year’s campaign and in advocating for a better world for all. In the meantime, you can order your postcards on our website urging the six major chocolate brands to commit to ending child labour.

And remember to follow and like our Facebook page for more resources. Together, let’s work toward a more ethical Easter in 2021 and take an active role in the International Year of the Elimination of Child Labour.

*If you’d like to read more about the implementation of the Living Income Differential, click here.