American company Cargill, the world’s largest commodity trader, has been ordered by a Brazilian court to pay 600,000 reais ($120,185) fine for buying cocoa from farms that exploit workers under slave-like conditions and use forced child labor. Cargill said on 26 September that it disagreed with the complaints and fine, and would appeal the ruling to a higher court, reports Reuters.
Cargill has been involved in several cases of child labor or forced labor in its cocoa supply chain, both in Brazil and in other countries. Despite the fact that the company has stated it does not tolerate these practices and is working to address them through various initiatives, such as the Child Labor Monitoring and Remediating System (CLMRS).
The old corporate trick of accountability deflection
In the lawsuit, the company said it buys cocoa from hundreds of sources and “has no way of knowing whether child labor was used in any stage of that supply chain.” This excuse is all too common for corporations who get caught in unethical practices and displace the responsibility, even though they have the financial ability to carry out thorough due diligence checks throughout their supply chains. We will not accept this.
Not only is this a classic case of corporate deflection of accountability, but Cargill is also demonstrating their careless lack of action to fulfil the “Cargill Cocoa Promise” that they agreed to in 2012. The promise was launched as an in-house commitment to cocoa sustainability that aligned with the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SGDs) intended to make its supply chain fully transparent. If only they had genuinely taken the measures to commit to their promise, they would be able to counter such allegations.
Cargill stated that:
“We take this commitment seriously and demand our suppliers are partners join us in prioritizing the safety, well-being and dignity of individuals.”
Just because a company says they are ethical, does not mean that their practices automatically become ethical. Cargill needs to put their money where their mouth is and effectively trace their cocoa supply chains to eradicate all forms of modern slavery.