American company Cargill, the world’s largest commodity trader, has been ordered by a Brazilian court to pay a 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, Judge Naiara Lage Pereira, who ruled on the case, argued:
“there is no doubt about the perpetration of unlawful practices on the farms, as well as the association between the suppliers caught and Cargill. In her opinion, ‘by favoring hiring through transfer agents, the defendant [Cargill] increasingly fosters the material outsourcing system, facilitating the aggravation precarious labor relations.’”
By supplying through middlemen, Cargill effectively displaces direct accountability for unethical practises in its supply chains. Further, Cargill demonstrated a 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.
The source of the problem
Much of the problem is linked to companies paying extremely low prices for cocoa. Poverty is one of the root causes of child labor and forced labor. Unable to earn a living income for themselves, cocoa farmers may resort to exploiting children for cheap or free labor.
While many companies have turned to certification schemes and their own corporate social responsibility programs, as seen by Cargill’s “Child Labor Monitoring and Remediating System” and their “Cargill cocoa promise,” these efforts have no significant impact on the issue.
The issue of cocoa transparency and traceability within cocoa supply chains, particularly among major companies such as Mars, Hershey, Nestle, Cargill, and big corporations like Starbucks that supply massive amounts of cocoa, stresses a conspicuous challenge. We cannot let companies put their product on the market unless it is produced ethically and free from modern slavery.
Sign the petition to tell chocolate companies to clean up their cocoa supply chain!