Nestlé Taps Fair Labor Association to Map Cocoa Supply Chain

Nestlé, the largest food company in the world, has partnered with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) to assess its cocoa supply chain in West Africa and to identify whether children are working on the farms. With the cocoa harvest fast approaching, this project will launch in December as Nestlé prepares its application to join the FLA as a Participating Company.

Beginning in January, the FLA will send a team of independent assessors to Côte d’Ivoire to map the cocoa supply chain. With approximately 800,000 cocoa farms in the country, companies have struggled to establish where their cocoa comes from and under what conditions it was farmed. The FLA’s methodology will bring consistency and transparency to the process, providing Nestlé with the information needed to eliminate instances of child labor in its supply chain. As part of the project, the FLA will publish an assessment report along with Nestlé’s corrective action plan to address any labor-related issues identified during the investigation. The FLA will then track the company’s progress in implementing the plan and verify remediation.

The FLA has been active in the agricultural sector since 2004, and has helped greatly reduce the risks of child labor and other labor rights violations on farms in several countries, including India, Pakistan, Mali and Romania. Read the FLA’s statement about the project and watch the BBC report.


Discussing the challenges and benefits of ethical consumption

Boston Review recently published its Citizen Consumer forum, featuring responses by labor experts, advocates and academics to an article by Dara O’Rourke on ethical consumption. O’Rourke, co-founder of Good Guide and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, weighs the impact of ethical consumerism on the marketplace and discusses some of the tools available to help consumers make smart decisions. Labor advocates – including FLA’s Auret van Heerden, Scott Nova of the Worker Rights Consortium, Juliet Schor of Boston College and others – responded to the article and offered their own perspectives on ethical consumption.

From Auret’s response:

As consumers, we face hundreds of choices each day: What kind of shampoo should I use? Where should I buy a cup of coffee? What brand of shoe is best for my workout?

For most consumers, the choice is automatic; many will select the cheapest option, while others will make their decisions on the basis of habit or social cues. Each of these factors poses barriers to ethical consumption, and NGOs and campaigns have focused on asking consumers to change in order to overcome those barriers.

Of course, NGOs have created some innovative tools to help consumers make ethical purchasing decisions more easily. These types of tools are essential, and many are Web-based so they can be consulted on smart phones. But there is still the problem of how to inform decision making at the point of sale. Activists have tried to guide shoppers by creating labels that should be instantly recognizable. Unfortunately, there is now a proliferation of labels, rankings, scorecards, guidelines, and phone apps that add further complication. And by asking consumers to consider so many issues—environmental health, resource conservation, ethical trade, workers’ rights, human rights, animal rights—we risk making them feel guilty if one of their favorite products falls short. This atmosphere of anxiety and judgment may be part of the reason why only a small percentage of consumers act on their convictions.

If you play out each scenario for making an ethical choice, you quickly realize the difficulties. One option is to research online the products you intend to buy before you go to the store. Possible, but not very practical, and of no help when it comes to the “impulse buy.” A little more likely is that you check labels to see if products have been certified by one of the initiatives that works on the issues that matter to you. Fair trade and organic products are easily identified, as are those that protect endangered species and certain scarce resources, such as ethically harvested woods. Those labels are generally reliable, especially when they deal with one standard, but the consumer can easily zone out when there are competing labels.

Click here to read the rest of the article and access the forum.

Addressing root causes of excessive overtime

This is a guest post from Korhan Tinaztepe, Assessment Manager for the Fair Labor Association based in Istanbul.

On October 19 and 20, the FLA and Business Social Compliance Initiative hosted a joint workshop in Istanbul, Turkey. The workshop – titled “Working Toward Improving Social Compliance” – brought together brands and suppliers to discuss excessive overtime, which is a chronic problem for workers in the garment sector and is especially prominent in Turkey. Over 60 participants joined the conference each day to discuss the root causes of Hours of Work compliance violations during factory assessments.

BSCI/FLA Training

FLA & BSCI staff conduct workshop on Hours of Work in Istanbul, Turkey

Root causes for excessive overtime can be traced back to a lack of policies and procedures related to hours of work, and poor planning and time management at the brand and/or factory level. Evidence from assessments and field reports over the years have shown that excessive overtime is hazardous to workers and can limit productivity at the factory level. Unfortunately, however, solutions to limiting hours of work tend to be only temporary because the root causes are not being addressed. Read the rest of this entry »

Common Ground: Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative and the FLA

This is a guest post from FLA Participating Company, Patagonia.  It was written by Vincent Stanley, co-author with Yvon Chouinard of The Responsible Company, to be published August 2012.

Bill McKibben made an interesting point a few years back when he compared the yields of factory farming and organic or low-input farming. Factory farming (with subsidies) yields more dollars per acre but an organic field yields more food.

Factory farming requires industrial simplicity and heavy engineering: a few hundred acres of straight-rowed crops of the same variety, requiring vehicles as expensive as Ferraris and copious amounts of oil. A farmer of ten acres really has to know and walk the land, to rely on intimate knowledge of the land to tease out more of its fecundity and value. He or she has to know where one plant thrives in another’s shade, where to intercrop plants with roots of different lengths, note whether the earthworms are thriving. One type of farming exhausts the land, the other takes advantage of – takes its part in – the natural world.

The Common Threads Initiative asks consumers to recycle Patagonia products

We would argue that the second type of farming, low-input, small-scale, more than the factory field, represents good, sound business for now and the future. This is counterintuitive for those of us who grew up to do business in the industrial age, with its emphasis on streamlining and scalability. But the time has come for business people to understand ourselves as deeply a part of nature and to walk our fields – to change our practices so that they become less exhaustive and more intensive and productively alive, to enable our grandchildren to inherit a world we would care to live in.

To walk our fields, we also have to come to know the ground of our suppliers and customers – and we have to work in partnership with everyone who makes up a part of our business community.

Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative grew out of a simple recycling program: our aim over a five-year period was to make all Patagonia products recyclable at the end of their life, in the spirit of Bill McDonough’s cradle-to-cradle idea: make every used-up product into a new one, preferably of equal value. About halfway in, we began to realize we were working backwards. We shouldn’t have to recycle what should never have been made. Read the rest of this entry »

FLA, U.S. Advocates Call for Protection of Children in Uzbekistan

On Wednesday, the FLA joined other labor and human rights groups, American trade unions, investors, brands and retailers in appealing to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the eve of her trip to Central Asia.  With as many as 1.5 million children being removed from school and forced to work in the cotton harvest, the group called on Secretary Clinton to raise with Uzbek President Islam Karimov the need to permit the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to enter Uzbekistan to inspect conditions in the cotton fields. Read the full article from the Cotton Campaign, and see the full text of our letter to Secretary Clinton, below. Read the rest of this entry »

Migration, Modern-day Slavery and the CA Transparency in Supply Chains Act

Across the globe, millions of men and women migrate in order to find jobs. Many of them provide for their families by working in factories to manufacture clothing and footwear for some of the largest international brands. While some of these workers are successful in finding suitable employment, many others face difficulties ranging from homesickness to bad working conditions, and may even be forced into trafficking – otherwise known as modern-day slavery.


Notre Dame students attend the FLA forum to learn more about labor conditions in apparel supply chains

The FLA hosted a forum for affiliates, students and faculty at the University of Notre Dame on October 3, to discuss migration and modern-day slavery in supply chains. The event included a panel on the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, and Mufaddal Ezzy, Policy Advisor for the California State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, joined Marsha Dickson (Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Fashion & Apparel Studies, University of Delaware, and President of Educators for Socially Responsible Apparel Business), Marcela Manubens (Senior Vice-President, Global Human Rights and Social Responsibility, Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation), and Lejo Sibbel (FLA) to discuss the implications of the Act on workers, businesses and the state of California. Read the rest of this entry »

Department of Labor Grants Funds to Eliminate International Child Labor


Sen. Harkin (left) and Labor Sec. Hilda Solis (right) at the event on Oct. 3

On October 3, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor launched its annual Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The report contains more than 140 country profiles, focusing on hazardous work performed by children. The report includes major findings on each central government’s efforts to address the worst forms of child labor; gaps in legislation, enforcement, policies, and programs; and proposed actions for each government to consider in addressing those gaps.

The DOL hosted a special event in support of the report launch, with Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, Senator Tom Harkin, Ambassador of the Philippines Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., International Labor Organization – International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC) and others.  The DOL announced grants totaling $32.5 million to organizations focused on eliminating child labor internationally.

The FLA commends the Labor Department for its ongoing efforts to combat child labor. All FLA company affiliates have agreed, as stated in the FLA Workplace Code, that “no person shall be employed under the age of 15 or under the age for completion of compulsory education, whichever is higher,” and FLA affiliated universities, NGOs and companies will continue working together toward the elimination of child labor in global supply chains.