An independent investigation into Nestlé's cocoa supply chain has found numerous child labor violations and kickstarted an ambitious plan to eventually eradicate forced labor and child labor in its production cycle.
The study was carried out by the Fair Labor Association with Nestlé's support.
"Our investigation of Nestlé's cocoa supply chain represents the first time a multinational chocolate producer has allowed its procurement system to be completely traced and assessed. For too long child labor in cocoa production has been everybody's problem and therefore nobody's responsibility," said FLA President Auret van Heerden.
It means Nestlé is the first chocolate-maker to comprehensively map its cocoa supply chain – and can work on identifying problems areas, training and educating workers and taking action against child labor violations.
The FLA investigation found violations of Nestlé's own supplier code, including excessive hours and unpaid workers. It also found 72 percent of injuries were from workers using machetes.
But child labor remained the primary concern for the FLA which said there were systemic and cultural challenges to overcome in Ivory Coast.
Jose Lopez, Nestlé vice president of operations, told CNN: "There is no way, that long term, a company like ours can accept a situation like this. So it's a matter of how fast, how well, and how many people have to participate in getting these sorts of problems behind us.
"We are determined to make real impact and hopefully also to be used as a lighthouse to show others that it's just a matter of getting started."
He added: "My sense is that what we want to do here is to prove that it can happen. We will work with the World Cocoa Foundation and be in schools, we will work with International Cocoa Initiative and gather the cooperatives and put people there ... to give training on the farmers. We will work with the government on the action plan, we will work with the certifiers.
"It is true that what is new is purely an expression of the will to assemble everybody, to break down these silos and to get the action moving, instead of each one of us trying to give his own interpretation and his own answer."
The FLA recommended Nestlé tell every person in its supply chain about the company's code of practice which bans child labor, and make sure people are trained and expected to uphold the code.
The FLA also said Nestlé has developed a strategy to improve practices by its Ivorian workers, including producing an illustrated guide to the supplier code by October and, in the longer term, train key suppliers to try to create a workforce dedicated to protecting children.
Van Heerden said: "By inviting FLA to completely map and document its cocoa supply chain, consumers will have the complete picture they need to hold Nestlé, the largest food company in the world, accountable for where its cocoa comes from ...
"Now that its supply chain has been mapped, Nestlé will be held accountable for the kind of sustainable and comprehensive changes that ensure a future of responsibly-sourced, code-compliant cocoa."