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Chocolate Makers Call For Oversight On Child Labor And Deforestation

cocoa beans

A 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Labor said that 2 million children still worked in dangerous conditions where cocoa is farmed. (Irene Scott/AusAID/flickr)

Chocolate-making giants Mars Wrigley, Mondelez, Barry Callebaut and others issued a statement calling for the European Union to bolster human rights and environmental protections in global cocoa supply chains after a string of failures in self-monitoring.

The statement said cocoa is a major driver of deforestation, and "most cocoa growers live in poverty, and the cocoa poverty trap has led to the widespread use of child labour.”

The group includes the VOICE Network, a cluster of organizations dedicated to sustainability in cocoa, as well as the groups Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade.

They called for the EU to pass laws that would require preventative measures, annual reports on human rights and environmental impacts, and third-party audits.

Many cocoa farmers in West Africa send their children to work on farms to help family income, taking them out of school to do so. 

Some use child labor trafficked from other areas. 

In 2001, chocolate companies pledged to crack down on child labor practices by 2005. 

The voluntary agreement, known as the Harkin-Engel Protocol, did not reach its goals despite several extended deadlines over the years. 

Some companies tried a certification process, using groups like Fairtrade, the Rainforest Alliance and the Dutch organization Utz to inspect farms and report child labor and harmful environmental practices.  

But a Washington Post investigation in October last year into the Utz operation, which covered certification for hundreds of thousands of cocoa farms, found that efforts from four audit firms they worked with were spotty and unreliable. 

The probe found that 4,900 Utz-certified farms were located inside protected forests in The Ivory Coast, which would violate the voluntary protocol on environmental degradation. 

Internal reports in 2013 and 2017 found that Utz-certified farms were even more likely to use child labor than other farms.

Utz stopped certifying farms in April and has joined forces with the Rainforest Alliance, pledging to improve oversight in West Africa.

Read More:

Chocolate Companies Ask For A Taste Of Government Regulation (Washington Post)

Chocolate makers like Hershey want U.S. and EU laws after failing to curb child labor for two decades (Philadelphia Inquirer)

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