Hershey, Mars, and Nestlé still cannot guarantee that their products were not produced by children in West Africa, 18 years after the world’s largest chocolatiers vowed to crack down on child labor, according to the Washington Post.
The companies said they would reduce the use of child labor on their products by 70 percent next year, but they have missed similar deadlines to eliminate child labor from their supply chains in 2005, 2008 and 2010.
There is a “substantial” possibility that chocolate bars in the US are the result of child labor in West Africa, where close to 2 million children work dangerous jobs in cocoa-growing regions, according to U.S. Labor Department figures cited by the Washington Post.
Industry insiders claim the previous commitments have been stalled due to indecision and a lack of knowledge and financial commitment.
Chocolate companies, which generate an estimated $103 billion per year, have spent only close to $150 million addressing the issue since they first pledged to eliminate it in 2001.
Antonie Fountain, managing director of child labor-focused group Voice Network, says the lack of consequences is also to blame. “We haven’t eradicated child labor because no one has been forced to,” Fountain said. “What has been the consequence . . . for not meeting the goals? How many fines did they face? How many prison sentences? None. There has been zero consequence.”