Cadbury owner Mondelez International has been accused of using child labour in its supply chains, with children as young as 10 found handling machetes on its cocoa farms.
Mondelez International has been paying workers on its cocoa farms less than £2 a day, meaning farmers are unable to afford adult labour, an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches claimed.
Footage shows children in Ghana who had suffered various injuries as a result of handling machetes, which are needed in the cocoa industry to ensure trees get enough water. None of the children were seen wearing protective clothing.
It is illegal in Ghana for children under the age of 13 to work on cocoa farms, and illegal for those aged 18 and under to work in “hazardous” environments.
The farms in question had all been given “Cocoa Life” life certification by Mondelez. Cocoa Life was introduced by Mondelez in 2012 to ensure fair pay for farmers, and to prevent child labour. Most Cadbury chocolate has Coca Life labelling on it, which is meant to reassure customers the chocolate has been ethically sourced.
Cocoa Life claims it is investing $400m by 2022 to support over 200,000 cocoa farmers and one million community members.
The programme explains: “We believe the work of children is education and play. No amount of child labour in the cocoa supply chain should be acceptable.”
Joanna Ewart-James, executive director of Freedom United, told Supply Management: “Cadbury's is far from alone in benefiting from illegal child labour in its goods. Whilst cocoa farmers continue to receive such little pay for their beans, for many chocolate bars this means there is a high risk the cocoa has been farmed using child labour.
“Profits cannot be made at the expense of children. Paying a fair price for cocoa so that farmers receive a living wage will help prevent cocoa farms from turning to cheap and exploitable child labour, which in some cases constitutes child slavery.”
Ayn Riggs, director of campaign group Slave Free Chocolate, agreed that Mondelez could begin to tackle child labour in its supply chains by establishing a living wage for farmers. She said the company made $4bn in profit last year alone and had the financial power to do so.
Riggs said: “Since the number of exploited children has only risen in the last 20 years, I think it safe to say that everything tried to date has failed. It's time to overturn the apple cart and try something not yet tried before which is a true commitment to pay a living wage for these beans.”
She said self regulation had failed and independent monitoring was needed to eradicate child labour from supply chains.
“These companies have chosen to protect their brand instead of these children. But I believe there can be a scenario in which if these companies come together to fix this, humanity will stand by them while they make the necessary changes. We all love chocolate and children,” she said.
Mondelez denied the allegations.
A Mondelez spokesperson said: “We are deeply concerned by the incidents documented in the Dispatches programme. We explicitly prohibit child labour in our operations and have been working relentlessly to take a stand against this, making significant efforts through our Cocoa Life programme to improve the protection of children in the communities where we source cocoa, including in Ghana.
“The welfare of the children and families featured is our primary concern and we commit to investigating further so we can provide any support needed.”
The company claimed it had introduced child labour monitoring and remediation systems and in which community members were trained to provide assistance to vulnerable children.
Rival chocolate maker Tony’s Chocolonely received backlash after calling out Cadbury’s alleged use of slave labour, despite the company admitting to finding child labour in its own supply chains in February.
Tony’s Chocolonely found 1,700 incidents of child labour in its supply chain in 2020-21, up from 387 in 2019-20.
The company said on LinkedIn: “Come on, Cadbury, Mondelez International. It’s time for less talk, more action.”
Christian Tyler, president and founder of Cacao Consulting, responded: “You and Cadbury both got caught. Don’t try to post blame on your competitor who is found doing exactly the same thing as you.”
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