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Chocolate and child slaves

*Seriously* readers will be delighted to hear that Nestlé – the world’s most boycotted company – has been taking its corporate social responsibilities very ‘seriously’.

This is good news for those of you who’ve been concerned about recent revelations of child slavery and child labour being in widespread use in Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry (where 50 per cent of the world’s cocoa is produced). A recently announced legal action against Nestlé brought on behalf of children in Côte d’Ivoire had some commentators worried that the world’s largest food corporation’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitments were just a marketing ploy.

But thankfully the Swiss company has set the record straight, proving once again that it is an ethical, caring and child-friendly teddy bear of a transnational.

In response to the legal action brought by the International Labour Rights Fund using US legislation on ‘crimes against humanity’, Nestlé did not deny that child slavery was used to produce some of the raw materials for KitKats (which the kiddies just love!). In its legal defence it argued, rather, that child slavery is not a ‘crime against humanity’. It also responsibly decided not to attend an investigation into child slavery in the cocoa industry called by US Senator Horkins a few weeks ago. Nestlé opted instead to sponsor two fringe events at the Labour Party conference in Britain coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the country’s abolition of the slave trade.

CSR watchers around the world rejoiced.

New Internationalist issue 395 magazine cover This article is from the November 2006 issue of New Internationalist.
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