The cultivation of cocoa beans often involves the use of child slavery and child labor. Kyodo news reports two companies in Japan recently decided to eliminate this form of modern slavery from their chocolate supply chains.
The sweet taste of chocolate made without child labor
Japanese chocolate company Yuraku Confectionary Co.’s Black Thunder chocolate bars are now free of ingredients linked to child labor. Approximately 96 percent of ingredients with child labor links have been removed from the company’s other products. In addition, Fuji Oil, who supplies some of those ingredients to Yuraku has set the goal of removing child labor from its supply chain by 2030 as well as finding all its ingredients in a more environmentally sustainable way.
Yuraku Company President, Tatsunobu Kawai said:
“I’ve always wanted to bring smiles to our customers’ faces through our products, but I felt it would be a contradiction if I was exploiting someone else’s smile in the process.”
Children, some as young as six, working on cocoa plantations are forced to spray dangerous pesticides, clear forests using sharp machetes, and carry sacks of cocoa weighing 100 pounds or more. Children on the farms report being forced to work up to 14 hours a day, given only scraps of food to eat, and were severely beaten or tortured if they tried to escape. As of this new commitment by the Japanese chocolate companies, the demand for the raw ingredients that fuel these atrocities will no longer be in their demand of supply.
A new partnership and a new understanding
When Yuraku first began trying to source their ingredients only from suppliers who were child labor free, some suppliers said it was too hard or that costs would go up. However, by talking with them about the reasons for the company’s stance on child labor, the Japanese suppliers Yuraku works with saw the importance of their commitment and began selling child labor-free cocoa and other ingredients.
A senior executive at Fuji Oil, one of those suppliers said,
“At the root of child labor is poverty. The only way we can eliminate child labor is by enriching the livelihoods of individual farmers.”
Towards this, Fuji Oil is also running a program to help farmers in West Africa, where much of the cocoa is grown, boost their yields and income by growing cocoa beans more resilient to climate change. The company also boosts earning potential by employing local staff to monitor the prevalence of child labor practices in the region.
Help root out poverty for cocoa farmers and children in West Africa
Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana produce 60% of the world’s cocoa but child slavery and child labor plague their cocoa industry. The world’s largest chocolate companies have made promises to eradicate the problem, but evidence reveals that they are falling far short of this goal. We need to hold them accountable!
Freedom United is part of a campaign calling on 10 of the world’s top chocolate companies to take the concrete steps needed to address poverty and all the underlying causes of child slavery and child labor in the cocoa sector. We have joined our voice with those of Fair World Project, Mighty Earth, and Be Slavery Free in our call to action. You can join the call to action too!
As Hitoshi Shindachi from Fuji Oil said above, in order to end child labor in the cocoa industry, cocoa farmers need a living income in addition to scaling up measures to monitor and remediate child labor when it’s found and protect the environment from harmful pesticides and deforestation. Join our collective call to make chocolate even sweeter! Sign our petition and demand that the world’s top chocolate companies step up to fully tackle child exploitation in West African cocoa once and for all!