A report released this week reinforces the strength of certification systems such as Fairtrade as robust mechanisms to help end exploitation, especially child and forced labour in the chocolate supply chain. Among all certification schemes operating in the cocoa supply chain, the report ‘A Matter of Taste’ scored Fairtrade the highest overall.
The report acknowledged the significant impact of certifiers and businesses in addressing critical issues such as unacceptable labour practices of children in the sector. However, we consider that its limited scope, brevity and methodology do not fully reflect the extent of Fairtrade’s work into building a robust, comprehensive and proactive approach to address and prevent child and forced labour, including human trafficking.
As a leading global sustainability scheme, transparency is at the centre of all our work and we appreciate the need to hold companies and certifiers, including Fairtrade, to account with regard to addressing and correcting human rights violations, such as child and forced labour. Throughout Fairtrade’s 29-year history we have consistently focused on implementing measures to increase farmers’ income, improve working conditions and mitigate child labour and human trafficking.
In 2015–16, Fairtrade cocoa producer organisations received more than €14.8 million (AUD$22.57 million) in Fairtrade Premium, a 38% increase from the previous year. These funds, which are invested following a democratic process as required by our Standards, enable the empowerment of producers working in and around their communities to combat, among other things, poverty and take more control of their own lives. For cocoa producers in particular we see a focus on investment in business development, with 37% of the Premium invested into improving quality and productivity.
The Fairtrade Standards prohibit child labour as defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions. Our independent certification body, FLOCERT, conducts regular announced and unannounced audits of Fairtrade certified producer organisations to check that these Standards are followed. In the case of cocoa, and particularly in West Africa, most producer organisations have been classified as high risk and receive an announced or unannounced audit each year, and if necessary additional follow-up audits. These onsite audits include assessments of child labour and ongoing remedial action where child labour, including its worst forms, has been previously identified by the Fairtrade certifier. In Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire 91 audits of 108 cocoa producing organisations were conducted in 2015.
We are deeply aware of the fact that certification and auditing, while important tools, are not on their own sufficient to tackle human rights abuses on a continuous and improving basis. Each year Fairtrade undertakes extensive research with producers to understand the challenges they face and to assess how effectively Fairtrade is working to address these matters.
At the heart of our rights based approach (titled Youth Inclusive Community Based Monitoring and Remediation System) to address labour violations, farmers, communities, children and young people themselves are at the centre, taking responsibility for identifying and responding to child labour and increasing the wellbeing of girls and boys and youth in and around their organisations.
Last year we increased our focus on addressing forced labour issues with a program that assists cooperatives in the establishment of self-governing, inclusive, community-based systems to tackle child and forced labour and enable protection of vulnerable persons. When labour violations are identified, producer organisations must demonstrate that they have undertaken rights based remediation and establish projects for continuous monitoring and response to keep their certification and continue to trade under Fairtrade terms.
Fairtrade is continuously learning from impacted persons found in child and/or forced labour, independent research, other schemes, civil society organisations, campaigners, consumers, government, industry and best-class Fairtrade producer organisations on how to improve our rights based approach to tackle unacceptable labour practices. The report ‘A Matter of Taste’ provides valuable learning in this regard and we will certainly consider the findings to ensure that we act to enable the protection of children and vulnerable adults in and around cocoa producer organisations in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. The problem of child and forced labour has plagued this sector for far too long and we are committed to working with stakeholders, including chocolate companies and governments, to increase their efforts to address these human rights violations.
The reality is that many cocoa farmers around the world live and work in unacceptable conditions. We need widespread industry change and the support of everyone to positively shape the lives of millions.