Situation with Child Labour in West Africa: Analytical Essay

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Corporate Social Responsibility Issues
  3. Recommendations
  4. Conclusion

The conceptualization of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is essential for business and in good light with the environment in the modern-day world; due to globalization. The dynamic changes in the global market have an impact on the perception of firms towards society. The present work is an attempt to examine CSR practices of Nestle West Africa and how some of the practices have not been in line with the portrayed CSR of the multinational firm and how it has failed in the aspect of social behavior and not taking responsibility for its wrongfulness. Finally, this begs the question, does Nestlé clearly understand and implement CSR or is it only interested in profit-making?

Introduction

With highly technological and progressive societies aiming to be concurrent in all fields, firms are at the basis of such societies that deal with production and which are highly responsible for success. The roots which make the firms successful beyond doubt is knowledge sharing which allows all partners to orchestrate the supply chain in the most efficient manner (Elmuti 2002, Welker, van der Vaart and van Donk 2008). However, it has been noted that lack of knowledge sharing can lead to critical failure in firms and consequently, leading to socio-political and economic damage (Husted, 2002). Lack of knowledge sharing in firms brings the boomerang effect and this coursework intends to study how the activities of Nestlé in West Africa in line with its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies fail to address ethical issues such as knowledge sharing and the failure to take appropriate action after certain dark realities were revealed about its chains of production and supplies. While Nestlé has branches in about 90 countries, Nestlé West Africa is responsible for the management and operations of its activities in West Africa and the manufactures products in nine factories and operates from their main headquarters in Accra, Ghana (Nestlé, 2018). Knowledge is the guiding light for production and can be regarded as the asset fundamentally responsible for organizational success.

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Furthermore, this coursework will show how many actions and activities of Nestlé are ironically not in compliance with its so glorified ethical and moral obligations and what definition this company gives to CSR. On one hand, corporate social responsibility is defined as “a business system that enables the production and distribution of wealth for the betterment of its stakeholders through the implementation and integration of ethical systems and sustainable management practices” (Smith, 2011). However, the question we ask ourselves is whether it in compliance with ethics and moral obligations towards the consumers that is, the public in general?

The above can clearly be seen in the publications of Nestlé’s CSR annual reports that are all available on their official website (Nestlé, 2015; 2016). In these reports, Nestlé shows how it is actively involved in a combination of activities linked to the social, environmental and economic spheres, which seem to be in favour of the planet as well as going green and its consumers. However, there is yet another facet to this beautiful picture that has been painted by Nestlé in terms of attractive adverts which tend to be deceptive. The dark reality is the unseen truth of some Nestlé farms in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, West Africa where children under fifteen years of age are used for child labour for production activities, there are also cases of minors being forced to work without pay which is highly unethical and prohibited by the law, and considered cruel on humanitarian grounds and human rights (Isern, 2006). Moreover, it is also against Nestlé’s ideals and principles where they claim that ‘Over 50 million children eat better and exercise better more thanks to Nestlé’s Children’s programmes’ (Nestlé, 2016). But, what about those children who are forced to work?

Corporate Social Responsibility Issues

The CSR stories of child labour are widespread in developing countries including Nestlé’s cocoa farms. It also reaffirms the unethical issues of employing children in its cocoa plantation and factory (Yusnaidi, 2018). Children are always exposed to risk in every phase of the cocoa farm, and its production, which includes injury that can result from machetes during the preparation of land, conservation of the farm and gathering of the cocoa beans; injury from physical strain during the nursing and planting of seedlings and injury that can also result from carrying heavy loads; and exposure to harmful chemicals when handling and using fertilizers and pesticides in the Nestlé farms. Even after Nestlé promised to end its use of child labour years ago, there are still cases in which children younger than 15 years of age continue to work on cocoa farms associated with Nestlé and some of these children are trafficked from neighboring African countries (Lawrence, 2019).

As reported by the Fair Labour Association (FLA), under Nestlé, many findings were appalling in that 56 of their workers were under 18, out of which 27 were 15 (FLA, 2014). The FLA also found that the Divo district of the country nurtures nonpayment of services for some young workers which highlights their position as perpetrators of an old inhumane system where they are in fact deceiving people with fancy commercials while the truth is the hidden stories of children being forced to work as slaves (FLA, 2014).

The 2010 documentary about the other aspect of chocolate that is hidden from the public termed “The Dark Side of Chocolate” brought people’s attention to the purchases of cocoa beans from Ivorian plantations that use child labour in its production, and supply chain. Although these practices are known to Nestlé, child labour remains a reality in Nestlé organizations. The use of child labour for supply chain activities is not a new thing to most of the companies sourcing cocoa for chocolate. Nestlé has made tackling of child labour a top priority for its company campaign but looks easier said than done. On the issue of using child labour and trafficking children, Nestlé clarified that both child labour and trafficking of children would not take place in the cocoa industry by the end of 2008 (Griek, Pennikett & Hougee 2010).

Nonetheless, now in 2019, their practice does not seem to corroborate the pledge to what is happening at one of its cocoa farms near Bonon, Ivory Coast which is part of the two-thirds of the world’s cocoa supply which comes from West Africa (OECD, 2007). Most of the recent children involved are child immigrants from neighboring countries of Burkina Faso and Mali, which is due to the open border agreement by the trio countries of Ivory Coast, Mali and Burkina Faso (Whoriskey and Siegel, 2019). Nestlé, however, declined any association with how the production of cocoa goes on as they are only the buyers and they have no direct control over the happenings at cocoa farms regarding child labour practices. This showed that Nestlé did not take responsibility for the accusations of child labour (Griek, Pennikett & Hougee 2010). Moreover, this responsibility on behalf of Nestle continues to remain in a stagnant position as for more than 20 years now, the promises made on ethics concerning child labour continue to be highlighted in the news. This ‘modern-day slavery’ is definitely food for thought and considered to be the Worst Form of Child labour under International Labour Organization Convention 182. (1999).

Nevertheless, the root causes of child labour in West Africa are not limited to poverty only, there is also increased cocoa production due to a large number of new cocoa farms that are established in safe forests over the past five years. An occurrence of child labour is a symptom of poverty itself as can be seen in Ivory Coast and Ghana. This is because families in poor homes are bound to send out their children to work in order for them to survive rather than sending them to school as they have no source of funding thereby reducing the time children stay in school, which indirectly contributes to poverty making economic independence difficult for households as they rely on their children for support. ILO 2019 defines child labour as: 'The work that deprives kids of their childhood, potential, dignity, which is harmful to their physical and mental development. It refers to work that: is emotionally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school too early, or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with overly long and heavy work.' In light of this comment, many kids have gone from shirking classes to being failures as a result of the former mentioned point. In the same way, child labour victims (when they combine education with work) put more focus on work than their studies which affect their performance in school making them leave school at an early stage thereby creating a vicious cycle of poverty. The worst part of all is that these children are forced to grow mature before their ages where they miss out on their childhood.

Consequently, this resulted in the loss of consumer confidence from cocoa bought from Ivory Coast in different parts of the world because of the awareness being raised about child labour which exposes the reality about the production of chocolate rather than focusing on the end product. Notwithstanding, child labour issues continue to be a pestilence to Nestlé, the rise in legal commitments, and a decline in consumer expectation. These issues made Nestlé purchase less cocoa from supplies in 2015, which is equal to 30% that was certified to be slave free according to Euromonitor international. (2016).

Recommendations

Conversely, getting rid of child labour, needs lots of cooperation from the farms, private sectors, government, and involves long term efforts of sustainability. Similarly, Nestle’s case study (Lawrence, 2016) also recommended monitoring and taking the initiative of the above objectives from the grassroots levels. The grassroots approach will be preferable in dealing with the issues of child labour (Berlan, 2013), as it will help in contributing, educating and ways of finding new methods in the supply chain so that the use of child labor can be reduced to the strict minimum to allow them to be in school.

To do so, it’s the responsibility of Nestlé to crosscheck, to know all the farms from which they get their cocoa which will help in knowing who is producing it and the ethical mechanism behind the production. Moreover, the Ivory Coast has the reputation of being the provident for work for children especially and this expectation leads a lot of parents to send their kids there in the pursuit of employment probabilities. However, this claim should be re-examined for both parents and children who live in the myth of Ivory Coast as being greener (O’Keefe, 2016).

Furthermore, apart from giving funds to set up the social environment of the society which needs more transparency, training, and education of farmers in their cocoa farms in ways of harvesting, planting, and supply of modern farm equipment will go a long way. Public institutions like the government can also work with the companies and participants to create new means and rules with effective measures as the basis in which accountability can be accessed.

In addition, there should be a key performance indicator or a yardstick in which defiance on labour standards can be reported among the farmers that is their cocoa suppliers to collaborate together to reduce child labour to the strict minimum. For all these reasons, Nestlé must put specific measures in place to checkmate the farms from which its cocoa supplies are sourced. The main topics should address child labour issues ranging from supplying proof of age before job application or acceptance. Likewise, making sure that schools and classes are in good working condition with enough staff and regular attendance by students. (FLA, 2012).

Conclusion

Finally, as much as there is no easy way to exterminating child labour from cocoa farms, it should be the continuous task for the stakeholders involved to swiftly take issues that concern child labor seriously. The use of child labour in West Africa, where up to 1,800,000 children in cocoa farms are involved, should be the core ethical issue at the centre of a big company like Nestlé (O’Keefe, 2016). However, even though we are in a highly technological era where every day new discoveries are being made in the fields of science and technology, the failure to respect human rights remains one of the areas in which humans fail and it is even more shocking when these dark realities are perpetuated by leading industries like Nestle alongside others. Therefore, under such dark realities as the roots and pillars of our modern society, is the world as a utopia where every child is able to live his childhood irrespective of being poor or rich even possible or will our society continue to dissect, divide, exclude, label among others?

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