The chocolate supply chain and conditions on cocoa plantations are still not sufficiently transparent, Belgian television programme Factcheckers reports. A guarantee that no child labour takes place can still not be given.
Never fully certain
Child labour on cocoa plantations can almost never be ruled out, the programme on the Belgian national channel Eén concludes. In West Africa especially, cocoa growers are said to employ children in the production of chocolate due to poverty and a lack of awareness of the dangers. Indeed, undercover images from Ghana reveal children at work.
Industry organisation Choprabisco, which represents Belgian chocolate producers, admits that “no company buying cocoa beans from West Africa can guarantee that they completely exclude the possibility of child labour”. The chocolate producers do strive for this and make efforts to find solutions through partnerships, they say. For example, Choprabisco has been running the Beyond Chocolate Partnership since 2018, which currently involves half of the farmers in the sustainability programme – a total of 950,000 – and thus, have a child protection scheme in place.
As a structural solution, the organisation is calling for European legislation on human rights and more cooperation and agreements throughout the value chain, including governments and local communities. The production chain is still not very transparent, making it almost impossible for producers to know that child labour has not occurred.
Is 100 % traceability possible?
Early last year, Tony’s Chocolonely, producer of “slave-free” chocolate, also faced controversy: the Slave Free Chocolate organisation removed the chocolate producer from its list because the company collaborates with Barry Callebaut. The latter could not guarantee to be free of child or slave labour, as industry members have admitted.
Tony’s Chocolonely, however, refutes this and claims to be able to trace precisely in what circumstances the chocolate gets produced. This should be a hopeful sign for the industry: “We work with the same kinds of parties in the chain that many larger chocolate producers work with: domestic traders, governments on the Ivory Coast and in Ghana, international transporters. And we are showing: even within such a complex chain, you can have 100 % traceability. Our model is scalable.”