Bloomberg picks up story about Hershey Investors Suing over Child Labor

Last fall two law suits came out with decisions that went in favor of the cocoa kids and not in favor of the chocolate companies.  We are happy to see that Bloomberg picked up the following story!  --SFC

Hershey Investors Suing Over Child Labor Can Pursue Files by Jeff Feeley  Bloomberg News

March 19 (Bloomberg) -- Hershey Co., the largest chocolate maker in the U.S., was ordered to face a lawsuit by investors seeking to force it to turn over records about cocoa from African farms that may use illegal child labor. 

A Louisiana pension fund raised legitimate questions about Hershey executives’ knowledge of how much of the company’s cocoa, grown in West Africa, may have been produced by child slaves, Delaware Chancery Court Judge Travis Laster said yesterday. He overruled a master’s recommendation that the shareholders’ request to see cocoa-supply chain records be denied. 

West Africa, including top growers Ghana and Ivory Coast, accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s cocoa-bean production. Pressure to manufacture chocolate without harming children may grow as global sales of sweets head toward a record in 2014 and candy makers process more beans, according to data by Euromonitor International Ltd.  

The suit’s allegations create “a reasonable inference about the possibility” some cocoa Hershey officials bought from Ghana and Ivory Coast suppliers may be tainted by the use of illegal child labor, Laster said at a hearing in Wilmington, Delaware. Those questions may be “sufficient to warrant further investigation,” he said. 

See rest of the article at Bloomberg News

Response From Inquiry to Mars Inc. 2008

In response to your email regarding MARS SNACKFOOD US. 

Thank you for sharing with us your thoughts regarding working conditions on cocoa farms. Mars takes very seriously our responsibility to the cocoa farming families who provide us with this important ingredient. Our privately owned company's heritage is based on a genuine commitment to the communities that are touched by our business. 

At Mars, Incorporated we invest significant resources in both manpower and funding to help ensure the sustainability of the cocoa supply chain. Our support is designed to ensure future supplies of cocoa and promote a responsible approach to its production so that the communities and the environment in which cocoa is grown can thrive. 

Since 2001 Mars has played a leadership role in the global cocoa and chocolate industry's efforts to address allegations of child abuse on the cocoa farms of West Africa. Mars is working with the national governments of Cote d'lvoire and Ghana (the world's largest cocoa growing countries), labor experts and community-based organizations to support the establishment of a certification process to ensure that cocoa is farmed free from the worst forms of child labor. 

We recognize that achieving real change requires working in partnership with others who have skills complementary to our own. To support that approach the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), an independent voice dedicated to eradicating abusive child and forced labor in cocoa production worldwide, was established in 2002. As a registered charity, the ICI's Board of Directors represents a wide range of stakeholders: human rights and child labor organizations, trades unions, local groups in the cocoa growing countries, and the cocoa and chocolate industry. We are proud that one of our senior Mars executives had been chosen to serve as co-president of the ICI. The ICI is making great strides towards improving labor conditions in the cocoa growing regions of Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire. For more detailed information on the programs of the ICI, please visit www.cocoainitiative.org. 

We are also working to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their families through our participation in the Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP), a public-private partnership between the cocoa and chocolate industry and government supporters. This program, operating in West Africa, has successfully promoted farmers' organizations and co-operatives leading to improvements designed to help farmers achieve better prices for their cocoa. Through its Farmer Field Schools Program, the STCP also helps farmers gain increased yields by improving farming techniques. For more information on the STCP, please visit www.treecrops.org. 

In addition, Mars is a member of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), a global organization of cocoa and chocolate companies, processors, traders and others who are dedicated to improving the conditions of cocoa farmers and the communities in which they live. WCF programs raise farmer incomes, encourage responsible, sustainable cocoa farming and help strengthen cocoa farming communities. Members provide financial contributions as well as technical expertise and guidance to partners in West Africa and other program locations. 

Education is key to the sustainability of rural livelihoods. Working alongside Winrock International - an organization skilled in implementing rurual education programs - and others, Mars is helping children from cocoa farming communities as they learn to become the farmers of tomorrow. Programs offer access to vocational skills that will be relevant for the children and their communities now and in the years ahead. 

These steps to address cococa growing conditions in West Africa are the continuation of a long-term commitment Mars began in 1998 to improve the well-being of millions of small farmers who grow cocoa. To learn more, visit www.cocoasustainability.mars.com. 

Our response to their letter.

Thank you for responding to my email.  I am a little confused.  If you've been working on this problem since 2002 with 2005 milestones to be met, why then  did the US Congress write you a letter urging you to get your act in gear?  Why does  the ICI Conference recommendations list have URGENT in front of every action item?  How do you account for the fact that in the last 10 years slavery  has risen 49% in West Africa but has decreased 10% in the rest of the world?  Where is the evidence that anything has changed?  Certainly not from any media visits to the area.  Your letter resonates "trying".  I know this is a complicated and difficult situation.  But so is running a huge corporation.  You don't tell your stock holders that you are "trying" to put together an annual statement.  You just do it.  Please prove to me that I am wrong.  I'm sorry but so far  your previous communication didn't cut the mustard.

Sincerely,  Ayn Riggs, Slave Free Chocolate

Response from Hershey's 2008

Thank you for sharing your concerns about cocoa farming practices in West Africa. The Hershey Company has made a long-term commitment to responsible cocoa growing and is a leader in driving meaningful change for the millions of families that depend upon this important export crop. 

As you probably are aware, West Africa is the leading source of cocoa, producing 70 percent of the world's supply. This cocoa is grown on approximately two million small family farms, many located in remote areas. An independent survey conducted in 2002 by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, in cooperation with the International Labor Organization of the United Nations (ILO), found that the vast majority of farmers in the region grow cocoa responsibly. No instances of slavery or forced labor were found on the more than 4,500 farms surveyed. The survey did identify areas where change is needed, including improving access to education and safety issues involving machete use and pesticide application. 

To help ensure that cocoa is grown responsibly, Hershey has taken a leading role in developing international standards of certification. Along with other industry members, Hershey is a party to the "Protocol" agreement, developed in partnership with Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY). The industry has made progress in this effort, building a partnership that includes governments, farming communities, international agencies and non-profit organizations. Tests of a certification system have been conducted and efforts are underway to expand implementation in the region. 

Beyond certification, Hershey actively is working to improve the lives of West African cocoa farming families and their communities. Hershey and its industry partners have worked in association with the World Cocoa Foundation to provide training and education to thousands of farmers in the region.  This educational effort is focused on improving farm family incomes, promoting safe labor practices and stressing the importance of schooling for farm children. In 2005, The Hershey Company and the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help (IFESH) announced a program to enhance educational opportunity in West Africa through teacher training and skills building. The two-year program is expected to train 2,000 teachers and teachers-in-training and benefit up to 40,000 young people in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. 

The teacher training program is just one element of the Initiative for African Cocoa Communities (IACC), a public-private partnership focused on increasing farm family incomes; improving the health, safety and well-being of cocoa farmers and their families; supporting improved access to quality, relevant education; strengthening biodiversity and wildlife conservation; and building stronger, more prosperous cocoa-farming communities. 

The IACC is operated by the World Cocoa Foundation, and I encourage you to visit www.worldcocoafoundation.org for more information on the industry's efforts in the world's cocoa-growing regions. 

You may also visit http://www.thehersheycompany.com/making/  to find out more about what The Hershey Company is doing to improve the lives of farm families in the world’s cocoa-growing regions. 

This is a long-term effort, and Hershey remains committed to improving the lives of the millions of people who depend on cocoa growing for a living and to assuring consumers that the cocoa they enjoy has been grown responsibly. 

Your interest in our company is appreciated.

The Cocoa Protocol (Harkin-Engel Protocol)

What is it?

In 2001  Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced legislative admendment to fund the development of a "No child slavery" label for chocolate products sold in the U.S.  Tom Harkin (D-IA) became involved and essentially the admendment was watered down to create the "Protocol for the growing and processing of cocoa beans and their derivative products in a manner that complies with ILO Convention 182 concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor" and adult forced labor on cocoa farms in West Africa.

It was signed by the 8 largest companies, two US Senators, one US congressman, the Ambassador to the Ivory Coast, and a few NGO and industry alliance representatives.

The industry groups World Cocoa Foundation and the  Chocolate Manufactors Assciation committed  to develop and implement voluntary standards to certify cocoa produced without the "worst forms of child labor," (defined according to the International Labor Organization's Convention 182) by July 2005.

see the whole protocol.

....From the outset, the Protocol has suffered from some serious design flaws.  While industry has specifically addressed the worst forms of child labor under ILO Convention No. 182 and forced labor under ILO Convention 29, it has not addressed other core labor rights in the agreement or in its activities, such as minimum age of employment under ILO Convention No. 138.  Further, the industry-led initiative fails to call for concrete steps to ensure that farmers are getting a fair price for their product, which significantly impacts the use of child labor, as farmers are forced to reduce production costs and rely on the cheap labor of children....Read more of ILRF's paper on protocol

Current Lawsuits (continued)

LOUISIANA  MUNICIPAL POLICE EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM (LAMPERS) VS The Hershey Company

In 2012 after Hershey denied a request of LAMPERS to examine internal documents LAMPERS filed a 220 complaint which would give them access. LAMPERS was seeking details about Hershey's cocoa suppliers.  LAMPERS had two reasons to be concerned.  First, on ethical and moral grounds and secondly, if former cocoa slaves are allowed to sue (See about court case) then they wouldn't want to tie their money up in a company what could be facing thousands of lawsuits.

Hershey's fought to dismiss the complaint on lack of evidence of mismanagement.  But, the ruling Judge, Vice Chancellor Laster said that suspicion is enough to let the complaint go through.

References:

The Court Document

Law 360 article about the case

Current Lawsuits

Currently there are two law suits against US Candy companies for their participation in aiding and abetting child slavery.

Nestlé, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland Lawsuit

How could anyone enjoy chocolate knowing their indulgences are supporting child slavery? In a nutshell, on 14 July 2005, three former slaves from The Ivory Coast sued Nestle USA, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland for aiding and abetting slavery. The court case was thrown out but the plaintiffs appealed and won their appeal in 2014. 

What winning the appeal means:  By winning the appeal, the court that originally threw out the case has to reassess the lawsuit with additional parameters. It was granted that the former slaves were allowed to sue the candy companies under a statute called the Alien Tort Statute. ATS, written in 1798 allows foreign citizens to seek remedies in the United States courts for human-rights violations for conduct committed outside the U.S. So now the original US Court has to reexamine the laws suit under this framework.

What does this means in reference to the children still enslaved on the plantations:  We can assume that this court case will take numerous years to see a ruling. In the interim, creating awareness around this lawsuit is very powerful. The defendants in the case, (Nestle USA, Cargill and ADM) are not denying the use of forced labor on the coco plantations. Yet, the defendants argue that they are not liable for it. The fact that this lawsuit is in existence proves that they are well aware of the human-rights violation, yet they insist on finding the cheapest source of cocoa to maximize their profits.  

The more publicity on this lawsuit, the more apt the companies will be to remedy the situation as they once promised in 2001 under the Harkin-Engel Protocol. Our mission is not to boycott cocoa or chocolate, but to put pressure on the powers involved to implement what is already in place. 

References:

Court Document of the US Ninth District Court of Appeals  Doe vs. Nestle USA

Article by Bob Egelko in SF Gate 

Wikipedia:  Alien Tort Statute

 

Stateless and crying for help from the beloved country by: UNHCR

DUÉKOUÉ, Côte d'Ivoire, November 27 (UNHCR)  When asked about his past, Ousmane* hesitates, clearly reluctant to talk about it. He has suffered a great deal in his life, and it pains him to recount bad memories.

Once he realizes that his UNHCR visitors are friends, he begins to open up and tell his harrowing tale of life without a nationality. His recollections of childhood are hazy he knows only that he was born in a small village in south-east Côte d'Ivoire, across the border from Ghana, that his mother was a citizen of Burkina Faso, or Burkinabé, and that his father disappeared when he was young.

But when asked what nationality he has, Ousmane cannot answer. Like many other children born in rural areas of Côte d'Ivoire, the 33-year-old was not registered at birth. He was born out of wedlock, but his mother died shortly after his birth and Ousmane's father was never identified. He was raised in the Burkinabé community.

To make matters worse, he cannot produce any documents that confirm his parents' identity or prove his own nationality. Neither the Ivorian nor the Burkina Faso authorities recognize him as a national of their country. Like more than 10 million other people in the world, he is stateless.

But rather than accepting his legal limbo, Ousmane is trying to do something about it. And he has the support of UNHCR, which is lobbying the authorities to resolve his status, either through the recognition of Burkinabé citizenship or as a stateless person in Côte d'Ivoire entitled to rights, including the right to an ID.

UNHCR earlier this month launched a campaign to end statelessness by 2024, urging governments to change their laws and recognize stateless people. Without legal recognition, many stateless people lack access to basic rights, including travel, education and employment.

The government of Côte d'Ivoire in April launched a special programme to enable certain groups who have been living on Ivorian soil for generations to acquire nationality by declaration. This new temporary procedure is intended to resolve the problem of historical migrants who were legally entitled to acquire Ivorian nationality, but failed to do so in time.

Ousmane discovered how difficult life without a nationality could be, when he tried to escape a life of exploitation. In 1987, aged just six years, he was taken from his village by a woman who claimed to be an aunt and sold him to a landowner in Gbapleu, about 650 kilometres north-west of the Côte d'Ivoire capital Abidjan.

Over the next eight years, he was forced to work in the cocoa plantations of an abusive landowner. He had to clear brush, plant and pick cocoa beans and plough fields, and was severely beaten if he complained or was too slow. "They would hit me across the face, across the chest, over and over again," he says.

Being stateless made him more vulnerable; without legal status it was difficult for him to make a formal complaint. But one day, when he was about 14, Ousmane escaped and made his way to his birth village in search of relatives. Since he had no documents, he did what many stateless people desperate for some kind of legal identity do.

He obtained the consular card of a young Burkinabé man who had recently died and used it to cross the country and get past checkpoints. The card is issued by the Burkina Faso authorities to Burkinabés living in Côte d'Ivoire to confirm their citizenship. There was no sign of his elusive father, so Ousmane had little choice but to return to Gbapleu, where he at least knew people.

He realized more and more over the ensuing years that his lack of documentation was a serious problem if he was caught using someone else's identity card, he could face criminal charges. So he eventually decided to apply for a consular card from the Burkinabé mission in Duékoué, one of the main towns in western Côte d'Ivoire.

With this document, he would be able to prove that he was recognized by the authorities as a Burkinabé citizen and receive assistance from the Burkina Faso authorities. But, with no documents to confirm his identity other than a stolen ID card, his application was immediately rejected.

To avoid further abuse and stigma, he contacted staff at a local social services centre and they put him in touch with UNHCR. At the time, he was planning to leave Gbapleu the next day, in search of assistance but mostly to escape further forced labour or beatings. He hopes that, with UNHCR support, his case will be successful, but he remains stateless and will continue to live on the margins of society, vulnerable, poor and easy to ignore.

* Name changed for protection reasons.

By Nora Sturm in Duékoué, Côte d'Ivoire