Chocolate maker Ferrero has pledged to eradicate slavery from farms where it sources its cocoa by 2020, as part of a growing movement by the multi-billion dollar industry to clean up its supply chains.
The Italian company, which produces Ferrero Rocher chocolates, Nutella spread and Kinder eggs, follows Nestle and Hershey as the third major chocolate manufacturer to announce new anti-slavery moves since September.
It says it will eradicate child labor and forced adult labor from cocoa plantations it uses by 2020, verified by “independent and credible” third parties. Also, it says it will publish a more detailed progress report this summer and promises improved communication to customers.
Up to 75% of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in small farms in West Africa. In the Ivory Coast alone, there are an estimated 200,000 children working the fields, many against their will, to create chocolate enjoyed around the world. Many of the children don’t even know what chocolate is.
In January, CNN highlighted the plight of the child labor in the Ivory Coast in a documentary, “Chocolate’s Child Slaves”, by correspondent David McKenzie.
A statement from Ferrero said its new goals were made “in the light of the need for transparency in the cocoa sector.”
The industry’s regulation over cocoa farms is largely self-regulated. Critics say progress is too slow.
NGO Stop the Traffik, which worked with CNN on its documentary, welcomed Ferrero’s move as a “sweet deal” for children doing “back-breaking work”.
“Ferrero is the first global chocolate company to explicitly state they will fulfill the promise the chocolate industry made collectively in 2001 to eliminate the trafficking of children in their supply chain. Together with Mars, who have promised 100% certified chocolate by 2020, Ferrero is the only other chocolate company to have made comprehensive commitments towards their entiry cocoa supply chain.
“This individual acceptance of responsibility, coupled with a commitment to report on progress each year, should be an example to the other major chocolate companies, such as Nestlé, Kraft/Cadbury, and Hershey’s, to follow suit.”
The London-based NGO called on Ferrero to put labels on wrappers of its products so customers would know they were untainted by slavery.
A statement added: “2020 is still a long way away, and Stop the Traffik will be monitoring Ferrero’s progress.”
More than 10 years ago, two U.S. lawmakers took action to stop child labor in the industry. The Harkin-Engel Protocol, also known as the Cocoa Protocol, was signed into law on September 19, 2001.
But manufacturers raised concerns and a compromise was reached that required chocolate companies to voluntarily certify they were stopping the practice of child labor. The certification process would not involve labeling products "child-labor-free," as initially proposed.