* Nestle responds to Fair Labor Association criticism
* FLA: Labour violations in sourcing cocoa from Ivory Coast
* Nestle pledges action with Ivory Coast supplies
By Emma Thomasson
ZURICH, June 29 Child labour is still widespread
on Ivory Coast cocoa farms supplying Nestle, an
investigation by a workers' rights group has found, prompting
the world's biggest food group to pledge a redoubling of efforts
to stamp out the practice.
The Fair Labor Association (FLA), a Washington-based civil
society organisation, said its investigation was the first time
a multinational chocolate producer had allowed its procurement
system to be completely traced and assessed.
"The investigation by FLA found that child labor persists
despite industry efforts to discourage the employment of
children," it said in a statement.
Nestle, which makes chocolate brands like KitKat, Aero and
Smarties, said it would act upon all the FLA's recommendations,
focusing on raising awareness of the problem on the ground and
tackling the attitudes of people who work in the industry.
"The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes
against everything we stand for. As the FLA report makes clear,
no company sourcing cocoa from Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) can
guarantee that it doesn't happen, but what we can say is that
tackling child labour is a top priority for our company," said
Jose Lopez, Nestle's Executive Vice President for Operations.
The FLA said it had found multiple serious violations of
Nestle's supplier code, often because there are no local laws to
provide fair and safe working conditions.
The organisation said health and safety problems are
rampant, with most injuries due to workers' use of machetes,
adding that workers often work excessive hours beyond the 60
hours per week laid down in Nestle's code.
It said there were major challenges to eliminating child
labour given that Ivory Coast was still recovering from a civil
war, which left infrastructure in rural areas devastated and few
alternatives for Ivorian children.
The FLA said action was also needed from farmers,
cooperatives, the Ivory Coast government and other companies
which source cocoa in the country, but said Nestle could have a
profound impact as it buys around 10 percent of the country's
"For too long child labor in cocoa production has been
everybody's problem and therefore nobody's responsibility," FLA
President Auret van Heerden said.
"Nestle is taking direct responsibility for decreasing the
risks in its supply chain especially when it concerns the
persistent challenges of ending child labor."
Nestle said it would build upon its existing efforts to
develop a more sustainable cocoa supply and work more closely
with its suppliers to make sure they were better trained on the
child labour problem and how to address it.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Mark Potter)