The US Supreme Court has rejected a bid by Nestle SA to dismiss charges of child slavery in the cocoa farms of Africa, on January 11.
Nestlé SA, Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Cargill Inc appealed the Supreme Court to have the case, Nestle Inc. v. John Doe, filed by former victims of slavery, thrown out after a court ruled in favor of not dismissing it in 2014. They cited a 2013 ruling in which the court unanimously threw out an allegation by 12 Nigerians who accused Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. of aiding and abetting murder and torture.
The lawsuit charges Nestle of intentionally working with farmers in Ivory Coast who use underage children for unpaid labor, in order to source chocolate products like cocoa at the cheapest price possible. The plaintiffs, originally from Mali, claimed they were also forced to work as slaves in the cocoa fields of West Africa for grueling hours with no prospects of pay. The food giant has denied these accusations and has reported in its website.
“We’re committed to acting responsibly and transparently. Where we have evidence that we’re making a difference, we’ll seek to scale up efforts in these areas. We’ll continue to work with the government and our partners to improve standards across the industry.”
In 2001, Nestle signed the Harkin-Engel protocol, a voluntary agreement by politicians and members of the cocoa industry to aid in the abolishment of child labor and slavery. Children younger than 15 years of age have been forced to continue working for the company even after the agreement.
Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa beans, the prime ingredient in all chocolate and the chocolate industry is estimated to be worth $90 billion a year.
Patti Rundall, the policy director for International Baby Food Action Network who has always questioned Nestlé’s practices for years, has quoted:
“Every time you eat their chocolate you are benefitting from child slavery. There is very little cocoa production that isn’t sourced in a bad way and it will take a long time to change that due to the nature of large corporations.“