The European Commission is being urged to draft mandatory rules to tackle child labour and deforestation in the cocoa sector.
Potential legislation is being drafted by that could form the basis of EU regulation that would place a due diligence obligation on importers to ensure that they do not import cocoa linked to child labour or illegal deforestation.
Proposals seen by C&CI suggest the use of a combination of demand-side and supply-side measures to prevent companies importing cocoa and other commodities such as coffee known to have been produced using child labour.
Renewed calls for mandatory legislation came a matter of months after the final declaration at the fourth World Cocoa Conference recognised that ‘voluntary compliance has not led to sufficient impact’, and that ‘stakeholders should strengthen human rights due diligence across the supply chain, including through potential regulatory measures by governments.’
The proposed legislation, due to be discussed again by EU parliamentarians later this year, follows a European Union parliamentary hearing held in Brussels on 11 July, ‘Cocoa and Coffee – devastating rainforests and driving child labour: the role of EU consumption and how the EU could help.’
This first-ever hearing on the subject has been hailed as a significant step in the right direction to ‘clean up’ the chocolate industry. The hearing was well attended by MEPs, their staff, Commission staff, a number of Directorates including DG-Trade, DG-DEVCO, and DG-Environment, and also by a senior representative of Unicef and several ambassadors.
MEPs and Commission staff acknowledged that the EU is the world’s leading importer, manufacturer, and consumer of cocoa and that the EU has a responsibility for child labour and other problems associated with it.
Politicians from a number of political parties, including the MEPs Linda McAvan (chair of the Parliament’s Development Committee), Heidi Hautala (Vice President of the European Parliament), Ignazio Corrao, David Martin, and Lola Sanchez, called for binding legislation to stop cocoa from coming into the EU if it is linked to child labour and deforestation. They expressed a strong determination to get an EU law passed soon.
One MEP after another hammered home the fact that voluntary industry action on cocoa has failed. Likewise, NGOs speaking made a unified call for the introduction of mandatory due diligence legislation.
Representatives of the largest chocolate manufacturers, who attended the hearing, agreed that a law would be ‘welcome’, and a government of Ghana representative suggested an EU law would be ‘desirable.’
Linda McAvan, who hosted the event, said there was a “near-consensus” at the meeting that EU regulation is needed.
The hearing also raised criticism of EU trade agreements with Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, highlighting the need for trade agreements to include better protection against deforestation and child labour.
For more information see the forthcoming September 2018 issue of Coffee & Cocoa International.