Cargill and Nestlé welcome US Supreme court ruling rejecting Ivory Coast child slavery case

Cargill and Nestlé have welcomed a landmark US Supreme Court ruling in favour of the two major companies, rejecting a claim of child slavery within Ivory Coast cocoa farms, reports Neill Barston.

According to Reuters, the decision was an 8-1 result in favour of the businesses in a high-profile case brought on behalf of former child slaves from Mali, who had reportedly originally put their case forward in 2005.

The hearing was told that their claim was not possible under the US legal frameworks that have enabled non citizens to bring legal action within American courts.

As previously covered by Confectionery Production, the strongly disputed court case had been brought on the basis of allegations that the two corporations had failed to take a duty of care to those working within the supply chain.

However, it has emerged that proceedings surrounding the court case have been met with protests from environmental organisation Mighty Earth, which rejected the hearing’s findings. It highlighted the fact that child labour remained within the supply chains of many major confectionery and cocoa processing groups.

As previously reported, recent research from NORC at the University of Chicago highlighted the fact 1.5 million children in core cocoa growing territories of Ivory Coast and Ghana are in fact exposed to hazardous forms of child labour according to its research over the past five years. The coronavirus crisis is believed to have impacted on the situation further, amid strain on farming communities where many workers are earning less than UN defined poverty levels.

Speaking following the court decision, a Nestlé spokesperson strongly refuted the case, and believed that the right verdict had been reached.

He said: “Child labour is unacceptable. That is why we are working so hard to prevent it. Today, all nine Supreme Court Justices unanimously agreed there is no basis for this lawsuit to proceed against Nestlé. Nestlé never engaged in the egregious child labor alleged in this suit, and we remain unwavering in our dedication to ending child labour in the cocoa industry and to our ongoing work with partners in government, NGOs and industry to tackle this complex, global issue.

“Access to education, modernising farming methods, and improving livelihoods are crucial to combatting child labor in cocoa production. Addressing the root causes of child labor is part of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan and will continue to be the focus of our efforts in the future.”

Similarly, Cargill was also firm in its belief that the case reached the correct decision, but added that there remained significant work to be done on the issue.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling today affirms Cargill’s analysis of the law and confirms this suit has no basis to proceed. Regardless, Cargill’s work to keep child labor out of the cocoa supply chain is unwavering. We do not tolerate the use of child labor in our operations or supply chains and we are working every day to prevent it. We will continue to focus on the root causes, including poverty and lack of education access. Our mission is to drive long-lasting change in cocoa communities and to lift up the families that rely on cocoa for their income. This is part of Cargill’s Cocoa Promise, which guides all of our work and reinforces our commitment to a sustainable cocoa sector into the future.


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