Trillium News

Chocolate Manufacturers Take Steps to End Child Slavery(Archive)

On October 1, 2001, the international chocolate and cocoa industry announced it will accept responsibility for labor standards on cocoa farms in a global effort to end the use of child slavery by its suppliers. The “Harkin-Engel” Protocol* represents the first time an agricultural industry has taken responsibility for its product from harvesting to market.
Earlier this year, the industry reported it had been unaware that cocoa farmers were enslaving children in Ivory Coast, a West African nation that supplies 43% of U.S. cocoa. Public outcry and scrutiny from Washington prompted the industry to reevaluate its practices.
The agreement has been signed by major chocolate producers and cocoa processors, including Hershey’s, the largest US chocolate manufacturer, and Archer Daniels Midland, the world’s largest processor of cocoa. It has also been endorsed by members of Congress, the International Labor Organization (ILO), anti-child slavery advocacy groups, and cocoa-growing nations, including Ivory Coast.
The plan’s first step is to determine, by the end of December 2001, how widespread child slavery is in the industry, with a survey of 3,000 farms across West Africa. The Protocol sets a four-year timetable for the industry to comply with standards set by the ILO. An independent monitoring system will also be established in Ivory Coast to ensure cocoa is not harvested by child slaves. The chocolate industry will establish a foundation to sustain efforts to eliminate the use of child slavery, and to develop non-abusive alternatives for children removed from slave conditions.
When asked to comment in June on child slavery in Ivory Coast, neither Sara Lee Corp., General Mills, Kraft Foods Inc. (a division of Philip Morris), Quaker Oats (acquired by Pepsi), nor Ben & Jerry’s (a division of Unilever) could determine if cocoa from Ivory Coast was used in their products. Other signatories of the “Harkin-Engel” Protocol include M&M Mars Inc., Nestle USA, World’s Finest Chocolate, Barry Callebaut of Montreal, Blommer Chocolate Co., and Guitard Chocolates.
*So called to the contributions of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Congressman Eliot Engel of New York.
(Sources: Boston Globe, 10/1/01; Anti-Slavery International; Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, 6/25/01.)