Mohave County
May 2024
Volume 24 Issue 3

Dec 2023 | December 2023 | 0 comments

Mars, Inc. faces allegations of child labor in cocoa supply chain

December 2023 | 0 comments

December 2023

MOHAVE — A recent CBS News investigation has brought to light alarming allegations against Mars, Inc., the famed American candy manufacturer known for producing M&Ms and Snickers. The report alleges that Mars is complicit in the use of child labor in its cocoa supply chain in Ghana, West Africa. Children as young as five years old were reportedly found harvesting cocoa beans in grueling conditions, using tools like machetes that are nearly as big as themselves.
These shocking revelations have led to a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, implicating Mars, Inc., along with other major food companies, for their alleged involvement in child labor practices. The lawsuit, spearheaded by activists, accuses these companies of doing little to address the ongoing and pervasive use of child workers performing the worst forms of child labor on their sourcing plantations. Notably, this legal action targets multiple companies in the chocolate industry, including Cargill and Mondelez, alongside Mars, Inc.
The lawsuit details the plight of seven children, some as young as six years old, working on cocoa plantations in Ghana. According to the legal documents, these children are exposed to hazardous work conditions, including the use of sharp machetes and the application of pesticides without protective gear, leading to severe health issues like feeling sick and dizzy. Such practices starkly contrast the narratives of remediation and sustainability often touted by these corporations in their marketing materials.
A University of Chicago study, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, underscores the magnitude of this problem. The study found that approximately 1.5 million children in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which together account for about 60% of the global cocoa supply, worked in cocoa production in 2018 and 2019. In cocoa-growing families, the study reveals that more than a third of children in Côte d’Ivoire and just over half in Ghana were involved in cocoa cultivation, with a significant majority engaged in dangerous tasks.
In response to these allegations and the subsequent lawsuit, Mars, Inc. has not outright denied the claims made in the CBS News report. Instead, the company acknowledged that more needs to be done in addressing child labor in their supply chain. Mars highlighted its commitment to eradicating child labor by 2025 and boasted about its efforts in rescuing thousands of children through what it calls a robust monitoring system. However, the CBS News investigation has cast doubt on the effectiveness of these measures. The report revealed that some of the children listed as beneficiaries of Mars’ monitoring system were still found working in the fields.
The CBS News team, during their investigation, encountered children at every farm they visited in Ghana’s remote cocoa belt. These farms are known suppliers to Mars, Inc. The story of Munira, a 15-year-old girl working in the cocoa fields since she was 5, exemplifies the harrowing reality. Despite receiving a backpack and schoolbooks from field supervisors contracted by Mars, Munira and her 12-year-old brother Gafalo, who also works in the fields, have not seen any substantial change in their situation. The family’s plight is further aggravated by the meager earnings from cocoa harvest, underscoring the economic hardships that perpetuate child labor.
Alarmingly, a cocoa field supervisor, speaking on condition of anonymity to CBS News, admitted that much of the data used to compile the lists of children supposedly rescued from cocoa harvesting were either inaccurate or fabricated. This raises serious questions about the integrity of the monitoring systems claimed by Mars and other companies involved. CBS News’ findings indicated that nearly all the children whose names appeared on these lists were not in school and had not been regularly monitored.
The gravity of the situation is further illuminated by the discovery of outright fabrications in the lists of children supposedly removed from cocoa harvesting. CBS News uncovered instances where children, claimed to be out of the fields, were still laboring in cocoa production. In one case, a child mentioned on the list did not even exist. This discrepancy highlights the lack of follow-up and verification in Mars’ monitoring system.
Compounding the issue is the broader context of education and child labor in cocoa-producing regions. CBS News visited a local school where only a third of the 300 registered students actually attended classes, with the rest engaged in cocoa harvesting either before or after school. This situation is indicative of a systemic problem where economic constraints and insufficient oversight allow child labor to persist, despite corporate promises of reform.
In conclusion, the allegations against Mars, Inc. and the findings of the CBS News investigation underscore a critical and ongoing issue in the chocolate industry. The use of child labor in cocoa production, particularly in West Africa, raises serious ethical concerns. Despite corporate commitments to eliminate such practices, the reality on the ground paints a different picture, one where children continue to toil in dangerous conditions with little to no educational opportunities. This scandal not only calls for increased scrutiny and action from companies like Mars but also demands a broader industry-wide and global response to eradicate child labor in cocoa supply chains.

Jeremy Webb

Based in Mohave Valley, Arizona, Jeremy Webb is a dedicated website designer and developer with a keen eye for detail. Transitioning from a background in retail sporting goods management, he now crafts digital spaces that resonate with audiences. Beyond the screen, Jeremy is a passionate writer, delving into topics ranging from business innovations and Arizona’s unique landscapes to the latest tech trends and compelling local narratives. Visit his website at JeremyWebb.Dev

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