Nestlé announced last week that CRUNCH bars, the company's 75-year-old flagship brand, will be made entirely from ethically-certified cocoa beans by year's end. The beans will be certified by UTZ Certified, one of the world's largest and most respected independent labeling organizations.
The announcement represents an acceleration of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, the company's $120 million global initiative to improve the lives of cocoa farmers while also assuring a first-rate, sustainable cocoa supply for years to come.
“Recent surveys have shown that a growing number of consumers are seeking foods made with responsibly-sourced ingredients,” said Robert Kilmer, president of confections and snacks at Nestlé USA.
“Actions taken under the Nestlé Cocoa Plan help socially-aware consumers feel good about benefitting people and communities in other parts of the world,” he added.
Nestlé has taken a proactive approach to stemming the human rights abuses that have long plagued chocolate companies' byzantine cocoa supply chains. Of the four million tons of cocoa produced annually, an estimated 73 percent comes from some 2 million farms spread across West Africa.
In Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire alone, cocoa-related agriculture employs more than 1.8 million children, according to a 2011 study funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Most of the children employed in West African cocoa farming are not paid for their work.
“Children working in cocoa agriculture [in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire] are frequently involved in hazardous child labor and there is evidence of individual cases of children exposed to... child trafficking, forced labor, etc.," the report states.
Certified cocoa – produced without labor and environmental abuses – represents just five percent of the world's total cocoa volume, and every major chocolate company – Cargill, Hershey, Mars, and, yes, Nestlé – has been charged with sourcing cocoa from farms engaged in appalling exploitation.
In an independent audit last year, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) found "multiple serious violations" of Nestlé's own labor code at farms from which the company sources cocoa. Still, the FLA noted that "Nestle is taking direct responsibility for decreasing the risks," and the company's commissioning of an independent audit demonstrates a commitment to transparency that outpaces many competitors.
"The use of child labor in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for," said Jose Lopez, Nestlé's executive vice president for operations. "As the FLA report makes clear, no company sourcing cocoa from the Ivory Coast can guarantee that it doesn't happen, but we can say that tackling child labor is a top priority for our company."
Nestlé announced its plan to produce CRUNCH bars from certified cocoa at the National Confectioners Association's Sweet & Snacks Expo in Chicago. The company also used the event to announce a commitment to increase the quantity of Nestlé Cocoa Plan beans purchased each year for its U.S. confections brands.
Nestlé established the Cocoa Plan in 2009 and works with UTZ, Fairtrade International, and the Fair Labor Association to monitor and certify its supply chain. In addition to eliminating child labor, the Nestlé Cocoa Plan provides education and training to farmers and their families; distributes millions of higher-yielding plants; improves infrastructure in farming communities; and builds and refurbishes schools.
“Nestlé’s responsibility is not only to provide consumers with high-quality, nutritious products, but also to create value along our value chains,” said Arshad Chaudhry, who leads Nestlé’s operations in Indonesia.
This year, Nestlé will train some 20,000 cocoa farmers on superior and sustainable farming practices and source an estimated 60,000 tons of cocoa through the Nestlé Cocoa Plan. The company’s ultimate goal is to produce its entire confectionery line with Nestlé Cocoa Plan cocoa.
More information about the Nestlé Cocoa Plan can be found at www.nestlecocoaplan.com.
Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, TriplePundit, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens