Nestlé to investigate labour practices in cocoa supply chain

1 December 2011

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1 December 2011 | Adam Leach

Confectionary giant Nestlé is to join non-profit network the Fair Labor Association (FLA) to assess its cocoa supply chain in the Ivory Coast and investigate whether contractors are employing children.

Nestlé, which owns the Kit Kat and Milky Bar brands, is the first company in the food sector to apply for membership of the FLA, which is a collaborative effort of between companies, colleges, universities and civil society organisations to improve working conditions in factories around the world. The organisation evolved out of a task force set up by Bill Clinton in 1999 and it already works with Adidas, Nike and H&M. The FLA will provide expertise and support to the Swiss company in order to prevent any child labour in its supply chain.

José Lopez, executive vice-president of operations at Nestlé, said: “Child labour has no place in our supply chain. We cannot solve the problem on our own, but by working with a partner like the FLA we can make sure our efforts to address it are targeted where they are needed most.”

The FLA will evaluate the company’s supply chain in the West African country and look for evidence of infractions. Should evidence be found, it will then provide Nestlé with guidance on how to tackle the root causes. Auret van Heerden, president of the FLA, said: “Our approach shifts the emphasis from auditing and policing to finding out what the problem is. We can help build up the capacity on the ground in Côte d’Ivoire to deal with issues we find, and then measure whether the remedial efforts are working.”

Last year, Nestlé’s competitor Mars was rewarded for its efforts to improve the sustainability of its cocoa supply chain. The company, which is among the largest family-owned businesses in the world, worked with its Ghanaian suppliers to establish a certification scheme to set standards of working practice, conducted research to improve cultivation and worked with local government to grow and distribute high quality plant stock. As a result, it was awarded the Secretary of State’s award for Corporate Excellence by Hillary Clinton.

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