Stop buying Kit Kats and Yorkie bars and start demanding improved ethical standards from the company that produces them.
That’s the challenge from Stop The Traffik, an international movement that has stepped up its pressure on confectionary giant Nestle to ensure it uses cocoa that’s free from child trafficking and forced child labor.
Stop The Traffik, chaired by Baptist minister Rev. Steve Chalke, has targeted the company following encouraging moves earlier this year from multi-million pound chocolate conglomerates Cadbury and Mars Inc.
It has been prompting supporters to write to Nestle to ask what it intends to do about ensuring a traffic-free supply chain of cocoa beans.
Recently, Stop The Traffik coordinated a series of phone calls to the company’s headquarters in Croydon, south of London, to demand answers about its links to the Ivory Coast, which produces more than 35 percent of the world’s cocoa crop.
In September, Stop The Traffik will ask supporters to purchase a new Cadbury Dairy Milk Fairtrade bar and send the wrapper to Nestle, whose best-selling products include Kit Kat and Yorkie, with more questions about its cocoa supply.
In 2001 reports confirmed widespread child labor on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, and thousands of children being trafficked from nearby Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo.
The conditions these children were working in were characterized as dangerous and they were forced to work long hours.
More recently an Interpol-led operation in July resulted in the rescue of more than 50 child workers from cocoa and palm plantations in the Ivory Coast.
The operation was the first of its kind to target child trafficking in West Africa. Eight people were arrested in connection with the illegal recruitment of children.
Since Stop The Traffik was founded by Chalke in 2006, it has encouraged people to refrain from buying chocolate that cannot guarantee to have been made without trafficked children.
Stop The Traffik is hoping its pressure will end in a similar result to previous campaigns.
Two years ago, representatives, including Chalke, met Cadbury executives and were told that it was “naive and unrealistic” to expect the company to seriously adopt fair trade standards.
But Cadbury was the first major confectioner to announce a fair trade link to its supply.
Its new Fairtrade Dairy Milk – the most popular chocolate bar in the United Kingdom – hit the shelves in August.
Earlier this year, Stop The Traffik launched a campaign against Mars. Six weeks later, Mars announced that all the cocoa in its chocolate would be made under Rainforest Certification by 2020.
“After the Mars announcement we decided Nestle would be the next one to target,” United Kingdom team manager Bex Keer told The Baptist Times.
“Nestle is one of the biggest global players in the chocolate industry with global sales of approximately $11.4 billion for chocolate, confectionary and biscuits. As a company that sources cocoa from Ivory Coast, it could have a major influence on the ethics of sourcing from that country.”
She added, “Unless industry can assure us that our chocolate is not made from beans picked by trafficked children, then no real progress has been made. This should be the standard by which they are judged.”
Sam Fulton, head of public affairs at Nestle, confirmed the company sources the majority of its cocoa from farms in the Ivory Coast, but said the whole industry was working toward certifying its cocoa.
“We agree with Stop The Traffik,” she told The Baptist Times.
“But with two million farms in the Ivory Coast nobody can guarantee that their cocoa will be free from these unacceptable practices.
“We want to see it changed and are working towards that, but it takes time.”
For many years, Nestle has encouraged better farming practices, she said, provided agricultural assistance and worked to improve labor practices and traceability in the supply chain.
The company is committed to buying UTZ certified cocoa beans in 2010 from three Ivory Coast cooperatives it is funding a pilot with.
UTZ is an organization exploring the possibilities of a cocoa code of conduct and has previously helped companies sign up to a code of conduct for coffee growers.
Nestle numbers Fairtrade coffee among its products. Fulton added the company remains in talks with the Fairtrade Foundation, but that there were no new announcements to make at this time. “We continue to explore the role certification should play in future plans,” she said.
This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.