Pressure mounts on ‘slow’ chocolate sectorJune 2008
A group of Fairtrade companies, faith groups and non-governmental organizations has produced basic principles on the sourcing of cocoa to spur the chocolate industry into doing more to improve workplace standards on cocoa farms.
The Commitment to Ethical Cocoa Sourcing, endorsed by more than 60 mainly US-based signatories, including Co-op America, Global Witness, Ithaca Fine Chocolates and Providence Coffee, is intended ‘to bring attention to the profound social and economic problems that persist in the global cocoa and chocolate industries’.
It states that companies sourcing cocoa should provide detailed information about the origins of their beans, make data available on payments to governments of producer countries, source exclusively from farms and co-operatives that respect internationally recognized labour standards, and agree to ‘pay a price adequate for producers to meet these standards’.
Criticism of chocolate manufacturers has grown steadily over the past year, with NGOs becoming frustrated at what they see as a lack of progress in curbing child labour among the two million family-owned west African cocoa farms (EP9, issue 1, p5).
In 2002 most of the big companies, including Cadbury Schweppes, Ferrero, Hershey Foods, Kraft Foods, Mars and Nestlé, jointly developed the Cocoa Protocol, which is an action plan to monitor and limit child labour on the farms.
However, despite pilot projects to improve conditions, work on creating a monitoring regime has been minimal, partly because of armed conflict in one of the main producing areas, Côte d’Ivoire.
Early this year an independent body, the Cocoa Verification Board, was set up by the US non-profit organization Verité with the support of the industry and west African governments to hire and train auditors to visit farms.
Mil Niepold, Verité’s senior policy adviser, conceded the industry had been ‘slow off the mark’ and that ‘quite a lot of energy and money was spent on public relations between 2001 and 2005, [while] sadly, not a single... attempt at supply chain tracking was undertaken on the ground in Côte d’Ivoire’. However, he said monitoring in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana was now ‘on track’ with the first results expected next month.
Bama Athreya, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum, which is behind the Commitment, said it was difficult to understand the lack of progress ‘given the tremendous resources the chocolate industry has at its disposal’. She said the Commitment stated ‘what we consider would bring best practice to the industry’, and hoped this would now prompt companies to act.
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