NGOsfrom the U.S., Europe, U.K., and Australia working towards a more sustainable chocolate industry are calling for a better future in combating two major related issues in the supply of cocoa from West Africa: child labor and environmental devastation. The NGOs (Mighty Earth, Be Slavery Free, Green America, Freedom United, and Fair World Project) question a forthcoming, watered-down report that is based on obsolete pre-COVID data, and demand urgent solutions for the unacceptably massive number of children in abusive and illegal labor conditions in cocoa, as well as forests being destroyed.
For close to 20 years the issue of child labor and slavery has been on the radar of the industry who source from West Africa which produces around 66% of the world’s cocoa. In that time the development of the cocoa industry and the world clamoring for chocolate and cocoa products has resulted in the devastation of forests and the widespread use of dangerous chemicals. Not enough has been done by industry to effectively change the situation -in fact, it is now evident it may have gotten worse because of the current pandemic.
The NGOs’ call for action comes in advance of the release of a new report by NORC at the University of Chicago examining the prevalence of child labor in cocoa in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The elephant in the room is a leaked earlier version of the report which broke in April, and found that despite decades of hype and voluntary corporate efforts, child labor had increased to 2 million children. The leaked NORC report also revealed the number of child laborers being exposed to harmful pesticides had increased. Since the earlier draft report was leaked, the final report release was delayed for NORC to rework the methodology, which may result in lowering the estimated number of child laborers. “No amount of tweaking or reworking the methodology can obscure that significant findings of children in hazardous, exploitative, or slavery-like conditions in cocoa demonstrates the twenty-year failure of industry and government to effectively act on the problem,” said Todd Larsen, Executive Co-Director of Green America.
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