Let's eliminate child labour from the world of chocolate for good

11 Jun 2021


Let's eliminate child labour from the world of chocolate for good

A 2019 report from NORC estimated that around 1.6 million children are still in child labour in the cocoa industry in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire alone. But the practices undoubtedly continue in other cocoa-producing countries in West-Africa as well. Unfortunately, there is still much room for improvement within the broader cocoa industry when it comes to eliminating child labour. For the World Day Against Child Labour, we focus on promising initiatives that fight for change and highlight the way Puratos' Cacao-Trace is eliminating child labour.

Initiatives fighting for change

Besides the Slave-free Chocolate (Harkin-Engel) Protocol, there are various other initiatives that are pressuring the cocoa industry to end child labour within its supply chains. First, there are several regulatory initiatives. The EU is working on mandatory corporate due diligence, which is expected in 2023. This will obligate businesses to identify, prevent, and account for negative environmental impact and human rights violations in supply chains, such as failure to comply with labour law or pay living wages. 

At a country level, there are a number of initiatives on sustainable cocoa as well, for instance the German GISCO, the Swiss SWISSCO, the Dutch DISCO and the Belgian platform Beyond Chocolate. They strive for a sustainable cocoa supply chain by addressing deforestation, child labour and farmers living conditions. 

Lawsuits can be very effective too. In the beginning of this year, eight former enslaved Malinese children have taken legal action against some of the world’s biggest chocolate producers. They claim the companies do not adhere to the 2001 Slave-free Chocolate (Harkin-Engel) Protocol.

Civil society initiatives can have a major impact as well. The annual Easter Egg Scorecard campaign by Mighty Earth, for instance, hands out ‘Rotten Egg’ and ‘Good Egg’ awards to chocolate companies for their handling of child labour and sustainability practices. Previous ‘winners’ of a Rotten Egg, have since substantially improved their environmental practices and living income policies.

Finally, consumer initiatives are a powerful driver of change. Consumers increasingly embrace social and environmental causes and they make purpose-driven choices for specific products or brands. Shoppers are demanding transparency from food producers and consider sustainability in their food purchasing decisions. They are willing to pay a premium for products that are sustainable. Research by Taste Tomorrow reveals that 56% of consumers look for items that are sustainably produced and 53% prefer products for which farmers receive a fair price.

How Cacao-Trace contributes to reducing child labour

At Cacao-Trace, we didn’t want to wait for the pressure to build up before implementing a highly proactive strategy to address the issues within the chocolate industry. Instead, we started making the necessary changes early on. “At Puratos and Belcolade, we believe a keyway of adressing child labour in the cocoa sector are on one hand increasing parents revenue, and on the other hand creating schools and facilities in their neighboorhoods”, says Puratos’ Sylvestre Awono. “What brings kids into child labour is not only, but mainly, lack of hope, lack of resources and lack parental income. That is why we deeply value all programmes that prioritise both farmer revenue increase and creation of school facilities for children, just like Cacao-Trace does.”

That is why the effective Cacao-Trace strategy for change is based on five pillars:

  1. Increase household income 
    by paying farmers a Quality Premium and Chocolate Bonus on top of the standard farmgate price. We also promote income diversification.
  2. Improve child rights & protection
    by implementing awareness, surveillance campaigns and a grievance mechanism along with a child labour monitoring & remediation system.
  3. Support child access to education
    thanks to building school infrastructures in the communities nearby and supporting quality education and the cost of education (teachers’ kits and scholarships).
  4. Promote child health and safety
    through increasing investment in clean water access and healthcare.
  5. Stay engaged
    with long-term commitment through post-harvest centres, volume engagement, community development projects and renovation projects to keep the investments at a high standard.

The Cacao-Trace programme addresses the chocolate supply chain issues by contributing positively to better lives, better health & education and a better planet. Our ultimate goal is to create an exceptional world of exceptional chocolate.

2020 results in the fight against child labour 

We operate with a five-pillar strategy for change in all countries where Cacao-Trace is active. In Côte d'Ivoire, the main sourcing country in West-Africa, the effectiveness of our programme was assessed last year by an independent research body. This annual surveillance audit gave the programme an excellent result of 86.5%

In addition, we had the following achievements in 2020:

  • Two educational infrastructures and sanitation units were built in Abdoulayekro and Zégréboué. A canteen was built in the primary school of Grand-Greleon.

  • Primary school teachers in Abdoulayekro, Grand-Greleon, Colonel, Zégréboué in Côte d'Ivoire received teachers’ education kits. 

  • 500 educational scholarships were granted to Cacao-Trace farmers’ children in Côte d'Ivoire.

  • A fully equipped maternity unit was constructed in the village of Gobroko, benefitting the nearby community (up to 20 kilometres away).

  • 4 clean water supply stations serving 2.000 people were set up.

  • The Local Quality Premium made the standard farmgate price rise.

  • The annual Chocolate Bonus was distributed to community projects in Côte d'Ivoire.