Mondelēz International says it has doubled coverage of systems designed to monitor child labour in West African cocoa-producing communities over the last 12 months in its latest sustainability report.
The owner of Dairy Milk and Oreo brands says its Child Labor Monitoring Systems (CLMRS) now cover 61% of cocoa producing communities in the region.
The company did not directly address criticisms raised earlier this year in a Dispatches documentary which accused it of having child labour in cocoa supply chains in Ghana. The documentary claimed children as young as 10 were found to be handling machetes on its cocoa farms.
However, Mondelēz said: “Preventing and addressing child labor across the West African cocoa sector requires cross-sector collaboration.
“In 2021, the umbrella International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) – composed of Mondelēz International and peer companies, suppliers and NGOs – reached 590,000 households across Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana with systems that help prevent and address child labour.”
The confectionary giant also said it was investing $3m in improving children’s access to education in cocoa-growing regions. The funding aims to address concerns that a lack of access to schooling is often cited as a major cause of child labour.
By partnering with the government of Cote d’Ivoire, the company says it aims to build 2,500 classrooms.
It said this would improve access to the quality of education for 5m children in 90% of rural primary schools in Côte d’Ivoire.
CLMRS programmes use community facilitators who visit households to raise awareness of the dangers of child labour and identify children engaged in hazardous work.
The facilitators record if a child in the household is believed to be engaged in such activities.
NGOs estimate the system can reduce the occurrence of child labour in cocoa supply chains by up to 50%.
In its report Mondelēz International said it was now partnering with almost 210,000 farmers in over 2,500 communities through its 10 year old cocoa sourcing program Cocoa Life. It said it had invested $400m to support farmers’ livelihoods and that its CLMRS systems now cover 1,548 communities around the world.
The company is calling for mandatory human rights due diligence legislation to force companies to identify and address supply chain human rights and environmental risks.
In its report it quoted Aidan McQuade, former Director of Anti-Slavery International, saying it was “significant” that Mondelēz was “was prepared to stick their head above the parapet”.
McQuade said the company’s attitude was to call for human rights due diligence to become mandatory to “level the playing field”.