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Nestlé's anti-forced labor program reaches 78,580 children in Ivory Coast

Nestlé SA on Dec. 10 provided an update on its efforts to combat child labor in the cocoa industry, an issue that affects more than 2 million children.

The Swiss company said its Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System, or CLMRS, now covers 78,580 children across 1,751 communities in the west African country of Ivory Coast. That is up from 40,728 children in 2017, the last time Nestlé reported.

The company has identified 18,283 children as being involved in child labor in its system, representing a child labor rate of 23%. It said 15,740 children have received at least one form of remediation, which includes school supplies, tutoring and vocational training.

Nestlé said its progress in Ghana has been "slower than expected." As of August, the system has reached 2,430 children in Ghana, where the company plans to further expand the CLMRS through a partnership with the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

Forced labor is widespread across the cocoa farms of Ivory Coast and Ghana, which supply about 65% of the world's chocolate supply. Farmers often employ their own children, preventing them from going to school, because they cannot afford to pay adults. Activities considered to be forms of forced child labor include carrying heavy loads, working with sharp tools, clearing land and being exposed to agrochemicals.

Nestlé and the International Cocoa Initiative developed the CLMRS to identify, track and address child labor in the food giant's chocolate supply chain. It uses a network of farmers with smartphones and a database to identify child laborers and persuade them to stop.

Other companies are also using the CLMRS, including The Hershey Co., Cargill Inc., Olam International Ltd. and Barry Callebaut AG, to monitor their supply chains.

The system is part of the Swiss manufacturer's sustainability initiative, the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, which aims to make cocoa farming more sustainable by 2025. It has invested CHF224 million in the plan to date.

The CLMRS was the subject of an episode of "ESG Insider," an S&P Global Market Intelligence podcast. Click below to listen.