Statement on Supreme Court Decision for Nestlé v. Doe – Child Labor

17 June 2021   |   Mary Linnell-Simmons, Director of Marketing & External Relations, Fairtrade America
cocoa beans in pod

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2021 – The Supreme Court of the United States has issued its decision regarding the case between Nestlé USA and Cargill and six plaintiffs purported to have been trafficked as children from Mali to work in Côte d’Ivoire on cocoa farms. While the decision fails to provide relief to the plaintiffs, the case has spotlighted the tragedies of child labor and endemic poverty that afflict millions of farmers and agricultural workers worldwide.

Fairtrade regards the exploitation of all workers, let alone children, as totally unacceptable and we stand alongside those who demand accountability for alleged abuses in supply chains, on farms, and elsewhere in the global food system.

“The scourge of child labor is deeply rooted in the systemic challenges faced by farmers and workers in developing countries, which also include endemic poverty and an unjust global economic order,” explains Peg Willingham, Executive Director at Fairtrade America. “Better incomes, quality schooling and work alternatives, awareness of child rights, legal interventions and community-based changes are all necessary factors to combatting child labor and forced labor in a holistic manner.”

160M children are involved in child labor globally.

According to recent estimates, 160 million children globally are still in child labor and, of these, 70 percent are working in agriculture. The prevalence of child labor in vulnerable farming communities is why the Fairtrade system works to confront its root causes through a holistic and multifaceted approach – from setting strict standards, strengthening audits, and engaging with governments at national and district levels to implementing its Youth-Inclusive Community-Based Monitoring and Remediation System on Child Labour (YICBMR) aimed at identifying and responding to issues concerning child and youth wellbeing, including child labor.

Through collaborations with producer organizations, Fairtrade works to strengthen programs and systems aimed at detecting, responding to, and preventing child labor, including ensuring that children safely withdrawn from child labor are not replaced by others.

Moreover, Fairtrade works to combat poverty – one of the significant root causes of child labor – head-on by supporting farmers to earn more from their crops through Fairtrade Minimum Prices (a floor price which accounts for sustainable production) and the Fairtrade Premium (an extra sum paid on top of the price to invest in community projects). The Fairtrade system also remains committed towards working alongside brands and companies in order to enable farmers and workers to earn a decent living and take key steps towards dismantling the structural causes that permit child labor.

“We firmly believe that when businesses see decent livelihoods and social justice as the norm, and not as a competitive disadvantage, it will fundamentally improve the situation of millions of small-scale farmers and workers, as well as that of their children and communities,” declared Dr. Argent Chuula, Executive Director at Fairtrade Africa. “It’s only by challenging child labor’s root causes that we stand any chance at being victorious in our goals.”

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