Cocoa coalition looks to EU Commission to deliver after further delays to human rights due diligence

This past week saw key action of support from of one of the most notable new joint ventures from industry with a formation of a cocoa coalition of chocolate companies including Ferrero, Hershey, Mars Wrigley, Mondelēz International, Nestle, and Tony’s Chocolonely, alongside Fairtrade International and Rainforest Alliance.

While the group noted and indeed welcomed EU progress on deforestation regulations, which it is hoped will have a key impact on how businesses examine their development policies across a number of sectors, there were also significant additional concerns voiced.

The alliance of key confectionery sector businesses, which have teamed up with other major stakeholders including Fairtrade, Solidaridad, VOICE Network and the International Cocoa Initiative, have been alarmed that another major parallel set of regulations relating to human rights due diligence surrounding child labour and other associated issues.

As previously reported by Confectionery Production, the EU Commission was supposed to be bringing forward legislation on this major topic which continues to impact on the cocoa sector in Ghana and the Ivory Coast in particular, yet there have now been successive delays in this being considered.

According to observers’ reports, the lack of progress on this vital issue has been down to corporate lobbying groups eager not to add to the cost of business transactions around the world if they are to face greater levels of scrutiny in terms of monitoring systems to ensure traceability and transparency of operating.

For those striving to make long-desired improvements to human rights governing supply chains, this comes as a particularly unwelcome delay, especially as the EU Commission has not committed as to when the much touted legislation will now be brought forward. There has as yet been no formal explanation as to the reasons for the delay, but every week, month and year that passes with inaction on the issue places the lives of children being used illegally within the labour market at further risk.

It’s of course a hugely challenging and politically sensitive issue, against the backdrop of poverty-hit families often requiring the assistance of younger family members within agricultural activities, but as we’ve reported, an alarming total of well over 1.5 million children remain affected by labour issues in Ghana and Ivory Coast, which has to be addressed collectively through legislation if true large-scale progress is to be made.

From speaking to industry insiders, it seems there are hopes that there may be some movement from the EU on this shortly, but leaving the issue somewhat in limbo is an unacceptable state of affairs. With the Christmas season in full swing, the attention of many may be elsewhere after what has proved another immensely challenging year for many communities around the world. However, now is not the time for complacency on this most significant of matters and the eyes of the cocoa coalition, and many others will be keenly trained on European authorities as to when they intend to deliver on the promised action.

Neill Barston, editor, Confectionery Production

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