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Blogs and Opinion How can you ensure your chocolate is free from child labour?

How can you ensure your chocolate is free from child labour?

We eat chocolate for comfort, celebration, and indulgence. Yet without understanding the story behind your purchases, you could be unintentionally fuelling an industry that relies upon exploitation to bring these items to market.

Cocoa is the key ingredient in chocolate, but what is really going on with the sourcing of cocoa? In the production lines of some chocolates, there has been evidence of the use of child labour in cocoa farming. This child labour usually exists due to extreme poverty where families need their children to work to survive. This extreme poverty can be linked to the low prices that the chocolate industry places on cocoa.

So what can you do about it?

Now it’s even easier to be commercially aware, as the 5th edition of the Chocolate Scorecard is live!

Hope for Justice is an NGO Partner of BeSlaveryFree Australia, who surveyed the world’s biggest chocolate companies and retailers to create the Chocolate Scorecard, which illustrates how ethical their supply chains are.

“Consumer awareness and demand for ‘better’ chocolate is driving positive change in the industry. By educating ourselves about what goes into our chocolate and how ‘good’ a company is about ensuring ethical and sustainable production, we can make smarter purchasing choices and influence the market”.

Marc Stanton, Director of Slave-Free Alliance

The Chocolate Scorecard initiative, coordinated by BeSlaveryFree in collaboration with various stakeholders, aims to promote transparency, accountability, and responsible practices within the industry. By evaluating companies on social and environmental criteria, the Chocolate Scorecard provides valuable information for consumers to make ethical purchasing decisions and incentivizes companies to improve their performance in these areas. 

Key Updates in the 5th Edition of the Chocolate Scorecard:

Child Labour: 

  • 100% of companies have a policy for monitoring, reducing, or eliminating child labour but only an average of around 55% of the supply chain is being covered by a program.
  • 68% of respondents have evidence that these programs or schemes are reducing the prevalence of child labour – but verification is often lacking.
  • Reported cases of the worst forms of child labour are now at 26% of estimated children in hazardous (worst forms) labour by the US Department of Labor NORC Report .
  • 70% of respondent companies have a policy to monitor, reduce or eliminate the exposure of children to pesticides in their supply chains.
  • 70% of respondent companies have a policy or action plan that takes gender into account.  
  • Child labour responses are increasing in effectiveness but the road to elimination is still fraught mainly due to the lack of scale of programs.  Child labour interventions need to be scaled up and to eradicate it in all supply chains, there needs to be traceability and a focus on addressing the root causes such as poverty that lead to its prevalence.  

It is positive to see that all companies have policies in place to address child labour, although the percentage of the supply chain covered by these programs still needs improvement. The fact that nearly 70% of companies have evidence that their programs are reducing the prevalence of child labour is promising, however, verification processes need to be strengthened to ensure accurate reporting.  

It is concerning that reported cases of the worst forms of child labour remain high. Efforts to address these situations must be intensified, however, the research behind the scorecard shows that this increase is due to the increased efforts of more effective interventions like the International Cocoa Initiative’s Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS) which is making companies more aware of worst forms of child labour and pushes the need to scale and persist with such measures.

Companies should not be condemned for finding child labour but rather encouraged to increase efforts to prevent it.  Learn more about how Slave-Free Alliance can help secure your supply chains.

Addressing child labour and ensuring the safe use of pesticides in the supply chain are important steps in promoting ethical and sustainable practices.  

Considering gender in policies and action plans demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and diversity in the industry and will have ongoing positive effects on child labour rates. Scaling up of monitoring, evaluation, and collaboration among stakeholders will be key in driving progress and ensuring a fair and safe working environment for all individuals involved in cocoa production in the chocolate supply chain. 

Forced Labour and Living Wage:

  • 18% of respondent companies found and successfully remediated cases of forced labour and human trafficking in the past 12 months – a great increase in transparency and action.
  • Companies are increasingly aware of their responsibility to ensure farmers get a decent income from cocoa, but still too many farmers remain in poverty. Without additional financial support, this will continue.  Learn more about how low living wages can influence trafficking vulnerability.
  • Traceability has increased but still about 50% of supply chain is indirect (not traced).
  • 52 of the 63 companies that responded state that a living income is a basic human right. This is 83% of all companies surveyed. For big companies this was 76%, for small companies it was 89% and for retailers it was 94%.  
  • 6 companies are paying 100% of their farmers a Living Income Reference Price.  

Companies that have successfully identified and remediated cases of forced labour and human trafficking should serve as examples for others to follow. Transparency and action are crucial in combating these serious issues. Governments, NGOs, companies and consumers must work together to ensure that farmers are supported in meeting the necessary requirements for EUDR compliance and are compensated fairly for their efforts.  

Ultimately, achieving fair compensation for farmers and enabling them to attain a living income and decent standard of living will require a collective effort and commitment from all stakeholders.  

It will take a concerted effort from all stakeholders to achieve these goals, but the future of the industry and the planet depends on it.  The chocolate industry has the resources to address these challenges. Consumption of chocolate is around 1 kg for each person on the planet yearly – that is 7.7 billion people, so around 7.7 billion kg. Forecasted revenue growth in the chocolate industry stands at 5.6%, surpassing global economic growth estimates of 2.6%. In 2024, it is expected to generate around US$254 billion.

The chocolate industry is undergoing significant change, but certain aspects, such as farmer poverty, remain unchanged despite being a longstanding issue. It is essential that the chocolate industry continues to prioritise sustainability, fair labour practices, and environmental conservation. This includes ensuring fair compensation for farmers, promoting responsible sourcing practices, reducing pesticide use, safeguarding children, removing any forced labour and avoiding deforestation. 

Companies that have policies in place must effectively implement and monitor them to ensure compliance throughout their entire supply chain. Transparency, accountability, and continuous improvements are key in ensuring that cocoa production is environmentally responsible and contributes to a more sustainable and ethical industry.  

“This scorecard empowers consumers so they can choose to buy ethically and to make a contribution to fighting child exploitation. One more reason to feel good about eating chocolate!”

Patrick Proctor, Head of Programmes at Hope for Justice

Initiatives like the Chocolate Scorecard play a crucial role in fostering transparency and accountability. Continued collaboration and engagement across stakeholders will be vital in driving progress towards a more sustainable and ethical chocolate industry.

Learn more about how you as a consumer, can purchase your chocolate more ethically and sustainable. Explore the new Chocolate Scorecard at:  

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