By Bama Athreya, Executive Director, and Tim Newman, Campaigns Director, International Labor Rights Forum
A recent program on the BBC revealed the continued use of child labor and trafficking in West Africa's cocoa industry.
Since 2001, major chocolate companies like Hershey, Mars and Nestlé have said that they would eliminate trafficking, forced labor and abusive child labor from their cocoa supply chains and yet, we know that thousands of children are still working under these conditions to produce the primary ingredient in these companies' chocolate. Yet, somehow the BBC failed to expose any of these companies in their investigation. Instead they focused on the few actors that have been transparent about the challenges of ending child labor: the Fair Trade Certified cooperatives.
For years, the world's major chocolate brands have hid behind "studies" and "monitoring" that claim that NO forced or trafficked labor is occurring in West Africa. As we have learned over the years, if the monitoring does not reveal problems then it is not working. BBC reporters should have realized that companies claiming a clean bill of health were probably the worst exploiters. Ironically, the fact that Fair Trade cooperatives and certifiers identified abuses is a signal that they are making a serious effort to monitor and address labor conditions among cocoa farmers.