Nestlé and child slavery in Ivory Coast
18 September 2006
Nestlé is sponsoring a fringe meeting at UK Labour Party to present its action against forced labour (click here) - but has apparently refused to attend a US Senator's meeting on child slavery in the Ivory Coast planned for today (see The Independent, 18 September 2006).
The International Labour Rights Fund (ILRF), is pursuing Nestlé and other companies through the US legal system for 'crimes against humanity'. ILRF's Director, Bama Athreya, spoke to Baby Milk Action about the case.
You can listed to the interview using Realplayer. Click here to visit the Realplayer website to install the free software if needed (look for the 'free player' button on the page).
While companies claim it is difficult to monitor their supply chains, the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation has certified farms in Ivory Coast as complying with its strict criteria. Unfortunately, the cooperative is unable to sell all the coffee it produces to Fairtrade chocolate companies and the transnational corporations are not supporting the Fairtrade initiative. As a result the cooperative has to sell some of its cocoa at normal world market rates. One of the buyers is Nestlé. So while it could deal with the farmers paying a fair price and fulfilling Fairtrade criteria, such as long-term contracts, it chooses not too. At the same time Nestlé uses its one and only Fairtrade product, Partners' Blend coffee, in its public relations campaigns to counter criticisms of its trading practices (click here for details).
According to ILRF, Nestlé is not denying child slavery is taking place. Nor is it denying it is complicit in this. Its defence to the legal action is that child slavery is not a 'crime against humanity' and so not covered by the US legislation.