Anti-slavery chocolate brand Tony’s Chocolonely has admitted that 1,700 child labourers were involved in its supply chain last year.
The chocolate maker, which campaigns to end modern day slavery in the cocoa industry and has been promoted by actor Idris Elba, sells ethical chocolate using the slogan “let’s make chocolate 100% slavery free.” In the year to April 2021, Tony’s Chocolonely found 1,701 new cases of child labour in its supply chain, a jump from 387 the previous year, the Times first reported.
“While we’ve never found any cases of modern slavery in our supply chain, we do find cases of child labor. But before your alarm bells go off, know this: finding cases of child labor in the supply chain means change is happening,” wrote Tony’s Chocolonely. “We want to find the children performing illegal labor. Only then can we work with the families to address the problem.”
In the cocao industry children are forced to undertake hazardous tasks such as using machetes and spraying harmful pesticides. Children who legally engage in light work are not included in the statistics.
The company’s annual Fair Report revealed that the majority of cases were identified at two new partner co-ops which had a child labour prevalence rate of 50.5 per cent between them. Among the company’s five existing partners the prevalence rate was far lower at just 3.9 per cent.
According to the Global Slavery Index in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire where Tony’s sources its cocoa beans there are around 30,000 victims of modern slavery working in the industry. It uses Swiss firm Barry Callebaut to turn the beans into liquid chocolate on a production line separated from the rest of the factory to make it traceable. In its latest report Barry Callebaut identified 21,258 cases of child labour in its supply chain according to the Times.
In comments to the Times Ayn Riggs, the founder of Slave Free Chocolate, accused Tony’s of “pitching virtue to consumers” when the company is “completely dependent on its relationship with Barry Callebaut to make and sell chocolate which is in fact tainted by child labourers.”
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