IVORY COAST – Cocoa-farming communities face immense challenges including widespread rural poverty, increasing climate risks and a lack of access to financial services and basic infrastructure like water, health care and education.
These complex factors contribute to the risk of child labor on family farms.
To this end global food and beverage giant, Nestle, has unveiled a new plan, sharpening its focus on these root causes of child labor.
At the center is an innovative income accelerator program which aims to improve the livelihoods of cocoa-farming families, while also advancing regenerative agriculture practices and gender equality through awarding certain practices.
To this end Nestlé will be incentivizing enrolment of children in school, implementation of good agricultural practices such as pruning, performing agroforestry activities to increase climate resilience, and generation of diversified incomes through growing crops, among others.
With this approach, Nestle seeks to not only reward cocoa-farming families for the quantity and quality of cocoa beans they produce but also for the benefits they provide to the environment and local communities.
The incentives will encourage behaviour and agricultural practices that are designed to steadily build social and economic resilience over time.
These incentives are on top of the premium introduced by the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana that Nestlé pays and the premiums Nestlé offers for certified cocoa.
In a departure from normal practice, the program also offers financial incentives for the farmer’s spouse, who is typically responsible for household expenses and childcare, empowering women and improving gender equality.
“Our goal is to have an additional tangible, positive impact on a growing number of cocoa-farming families, especially in areas where poverty is widespread and resources are scarce, and to help close the living income gap they face over time.
“We believe that, together with governments, NGOs and others in the cocoa industry, we can help improve the lives of cocoa-farming families and give children the chance to learn and grow in the safe and healthy environment they deserve,” said Mark Schneider, Nestlé CEO.
Today’s announcement builds on Nestle’s longstanding efforts to tackle child labor risks in cocoa production under the Nestlé Cocoa Plan since 2009.
Through a robust monitoring and remediation system instituted since 2012, 149,443 children have been assisted to protect them against the risk of child labor, and 53 schools have been built or refurbished.
The new initiative is independently audited against the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard, promoting the social, economic and environmental well-being of farmers and local communities.
Nestle heightens commitment to achieving full traceability
Nestlé’s new plan also supports the company’s work to transform its global sourcing of cocoa to achieve full traceability and segregation for its cocoa products from origin to factory.
The company will introduce a range of products with cocoa sourced from this innovative program, offering consumers the opportunity to support the improvement of the families’ livelihoods and the protection of children. This will start with a selection of KitKat products in 2023.
“Our actions can help catalyse change on an important topic that is so close to our hearts. They will drive accountability and transparency across the industry, at a time when customers, employees and communities increasingly expect companies to deliver on their shared values.
“By increasing traceability at scale, we will help build consumer trust in our products and respond to the growing demand for responsibly and sustainably sourced cocoa,” said Magdi Batato, Executive Vice President and Head of Operations.
The new plan builds on the positive results of an initial pilot undertaken by the company in 2020 with 1,000 farmers in Côte d’Ivoire.
This year, the food manufacturer will expand the program to include 10,000 families in the country, before extending it to Ghana in 2024.
It will then assess the results of that test phase and adapt where necessary, before moving to reach all cocoa-farming families in its global cocoa supply chain by 2030.
As Nestlé continues to expand its cocoa sustainability efforts, the company plans to invest a total of CHF 1.3 billion (US$1.4 billion) by 2030, more than tripling its current annual investment.