Nestle will start paying cocoa farmers cash if they send their children to school rather than out to tend crops as part of a push to purchase all of its cocoa through a fully traceable, directly sourced supply chain by 2025.
Chocolate makers are coming under mounting pressure from investors, consumers and governments to make sure the cocoa beans they source were not produced using child labour or in illegal cocoa plantations in protected forests, both of which are common in West Africa.
The food group behind KitKat chocolate bars and Smarties confectionery said it will triple its current annual spending on sustainable cocoa to give a total investment of 1.3 billion Swiss francs ($1.4bn) by 2030.
“Only by tackling the root causes, we will have an impact,” Nestle’s head of operations Magdi Batato told Reuters in an interview this week.
A recent survey by the University of Chicago found that among children in agricultural households in Ivory Coast and Ghana cocoa-growing areas 45% were engaged in child labour.
To qualify for the payments, farmers have to send their children to school, prune cocoa trees, plant shade trees and diversify their income with other crops or livestock.
To check that children really are attending school and farmers are following the rules, IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, will monitor the programme with other third parties. Children casually helping on family farms outside of school time do not fall under the International Labour Organisation’s definition of child labour.
The sustainability schemes chocolate makers have to date had limited success in tackling human rights and environmental issues in cocoa, and Western governments are now looking to legislate. Nestle said 51% of the cocoa it used in 2021 was directly sourced and traceable, versus 46% in 2020. By 2025, it wants to be able to trace 100% of its cocoa back to specific farms under its in-house sustainability scheme, the Nestle Cocoa Plan.
By Silke Koltrowitz and Maytaal Angel