New Dutch Law Combats Child Labor, Highlights Need for EU-Wide Standards on Cocoa

Sydney Jones

Press Secretary

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Carole Mitchell

Sr. Director Communications

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We are pleased to share excellent news from the Netherlands, where the Dutch Senate has approved a law that will combat the scourge of child labor by holding companies accountable for labor practices throughout their supply chains.

The new Dutch “due diligence” law will be especially important for the cocoa sector. Despite promises from the industry, 2.1 million kids still work in cocoa, 96% of whom are engaged in work considered hazardous.

The Netherlands is the #1 cocoa importing country in the world. Much of the world’s cocoa flows through Dutch ports. Amsterdam ranks as the largest cocoa port in the world. After decades of being a major source of problems, the Dutch have finally opted to be part of solutions.

Their law will likely have positive ramifications for the environment as well as human rights of children. One fundamental building block of ensuring zero child labor in any product – like chocolate for example – is full traceability in supply chains. That selfsame traceability is helpful in making sure cocoa didn’t come from inside a national park and wasn’t tied to destroying forests.

Due diligence laws like the one moving forward in the Netherlands can thus also help address deforestation, which, in tandem with the child labor problem, is cocoa’s other big dark secret. 

Thanks to the leadership of parliamentarians like Roelof van Laar and Attje Kuijken; the drive of NGOs like MVO Platform and SOMO; and the help of companies like Nestlé, Tony Chocolonely, Barry Callebaut, this law provides new hope to everyone working on problematic commodities that are traded through Holland like cocoa, palm oil, and soy.

Around the world, consumers are increasingly articulating higher expectations for the chocolate and other companies they buy from. There is an understanding that major corporations must be held accountable for the negative impacts that their sprawling supply chains have on communities and the environment. And if companies are unable to hold themselves to high enough standards, governments will step in and do it for them.

Major failures of the last few years have made it clear that voluntary corporate action has not effectively addressed child labor or environmental destruction in the cocoa sector. As a result, there are growing calls for an EU-wide due diligence regulation to address these issues. The new effort in the Netherlands echoes recent calls from member states of France, Germany, and Belgium for effective European regulation.

The time for piecemeal approaches is over. The EU should rise to the expectations of its citizens and move quickly to establish uniform due diligence requirements for cocoa.

17/Jun/2024
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