The world’s largest food producer is to be sued over allegations that it used child slaves to harvest cocoa in the Ivory Coast in Africa.
Nestle SA has lost its bid to throw out a court case which has accused it of using child labourers for its chocolate products.
The US Supreme Court has rejected the appeal from Nestle and two other companies to dismiss the lawsuit which was left in place by the high court in December 2014 – according to Reuters.
The plaintiffs – originally from Mali – say that the companies aided and abetted human rights violations through the purchasing of cocoa from the Ivory Coast.
The companies were allegedly aware of the problem of child slavery in the region yet provided financial and technical assistance to local farmers to get the cheapest product.
Abby McGill campaign director from the International Labour Rights Forum which originally filed the lawsuit told The Independent: ‘We have fought for a long time to bring accountability to supply chains and to bring redress for the victims’.
Citing a US Department of Labor-sponsored report from July 2015 there are 2.12 million child labourers in the Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana employed in cocoa production – a vast increase from around 1 million the previous year.
In the early 1900s Lewis Hine left his job as a schoolteacher to work as a photographer for the National Child Labor Committee – investigating and documenting child labor in the United States.
As a sociologist Hine was an early believer in the power of photography to document work conditions and help bring about change.
He traveled the country – going to fields – factories – and mines—sometimes working undercover—to take pictures of kids as young as four years old being put to work.
Partly as a result of Hine’s work (as well as that of Mary Harris Jones, who Mother Jones is named after) Congress passed the Keating-Owens Child Labor Act in 1916.
It established child labor standards – including a a minimum age (14 years old for factories and 16 years old for mines) and an eight-hour workday.
It also barred kids under the age of 16 from working overnight.
Eight Kiwi companies – including six fashion brands – have joined a New Zealand-led campaign to eliminate child labour.
Popular labels Nom*D – Hailwood – Kate Sylvester – Ruby – Stolen Girlfriends Club and Zambesi – and home, personal and babycare company ecostore – have applied to have their supply chains independently certified by Child Labour Free.
The initiative was launched last month and companies that met its standards were able to display a mark of certification that their products are child labour free.
Kiwi furniture company Starex has already gained accreditation.
Child Labour Free is also talking with several ‘international brands’ about gaining certification.
ecostore co-founder Malcolm Rands said securing Child Labour Free status fitted the company’s founding principle of a healthier – more sustainable world. That desire included tackling important social issues he said.
‘Child labour deprives children of their childhood’ he said.
‘New Zealanders might think this is not an issue for us – but it deserves to demand attention globally. We’re proud to be taking the first steps on the journey to becoming accredited in an effort to positively impact the issue directly’.
Ecostore already refuses to stock items that have been tested on animals – and none of its plant-based products come from genetically engineered crops.
UNICEF estimates child labour affects 150 million children around the world – about half working in hazardous or harmful environments.