Cocoa Coalition confectionery companies back plans for EU forced labour legislation
The Cocoa Coalition of leading confectionery companies and key industry organisations including Fairtrade has put forward its latest position paper backing EU legislation designed to tackle ongoing issues of forced labour within cocoa supply chains serving the sector, reports Neill Barston.
Among the group of key players are Mondelez, Hershey, Mars Wrigley, Nestlé, Ferrero, Unilever, Rainforest Alliance, Tony’s Chocolonely, and the Voice Network group of NGOs, which have collectively called for mandatory legal frameworks to set enhanced legal standards for protection of human rights for workers across multiple market segments.
The paper, which was developed by Cocoa Coalition member the International Cocoa Initiative, covers strict definitions for enforcement and guidance, remediation, purchasing practices and state-imposed forced labour. Significantly, the group noted that the (likely significant cost), of implementing such breakthrough legislation, should not be met by agricultural workers (many of whom are reportedly still earning below UN-defined poverty levels at around under $1 a day).
As has previously been reported by Confectionery Production, while the issue of forced labour, as part of wider child labour concerns, has been addressed by governments in West Africa – which makes up two thirds of the cocoa supply chain, direct enforcement of policies has proved challenging, according to industry observers. While specific cases of forced labour in confectionery supply chains has remained low, there have in the past few years been several high profile global cases (which have failed to progress largely due to legal loopholes) in which individuals, or groups, have sought damages from the sector over allegations of being forced to work on cocoa plantations.
The Cocoa Coalition group welcomed the proposals devised by the Cocoa Initiative, which comes after delays to related legislation in the past year on deforestation and due diligence being brought forward to the EU parliament after reported industrial lobbying from a minority of companies concerned at the financial impact of such legislation.
In its statement, the Cocoa Coalition said: “The signatories to this position paper support the objectives of the proposed EU Regulation on Prohibiting Products Made With Forced Labour on the Union Market (COM(2022)453). We believe that the proposed Regulation, complemented by other EU legislation and by measures to develop an enabling environment in the countries of origin, has the potential to contribute to the transformation of the cocoa and chocolate sector towards a sector that fully respects human rights and environmental sustainability.
“We particularly endorse the position paper’s proposal for the EU to implement complementary measures to support the development of an enabling environment in the countries of origin, helping to address the root causes of forced labour – in line with the proposals on partnerships we published in 2021.
“In common with our comments on the EU Regulation on Deforestation and the proposed EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence, we also stress the importance of ensuring that the costs of compliance with the Regulation are shared fairly across the supply chain, and do not fall only on cocoa farmers. Similarly, it will be important to ensure that the Regulation promotes engagement with cocoa farmers in a genuine effort to eradicate forced labour, rather than incentivising disengagement by companies importing cocoa into the EU.”
The group added that it welcomed the significant potential of the new legislation and hoped that it would make a key difference once implemented alongside the related EU legislation relating to deforestation and wider due diligence, creating a set of standards that would considerably improve the rights of farming communities.