July 18, 2024

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Mars accused of using child labor in cocoa supply chain

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Detail of a recently opened cocoa pod in Asikasu on Dec. 19, 2020.

Cristina Aldehuela | Afp | Getty Images

Candy giant Mars said it aims to end the use of child labor in its supply chain after CBS News reported that children in Ghana are harvesting the cocoa that finds its way into the company’s M&M’s and Snickers.

For more than two decades, the world’s largest chocolate makers have been pledging to eliminate — or at least reduce their reliance on — child labor. But those same companies have blown past industry-imposed deadlines to clean up their supply chains.

For its part, Mars’ latest deadline to end child labor in its supply chain is 2025. The company said more than 65% of its West African cocoa supply chain has already achieved compliance.

However, CBS News reported that Mars is further away from reaching that goal than it publicly projects. The news outlet said field supervisors from small subsistence farms regularly lied on their paperwork, saying children were attending school rather than working in cocoa fields, and alleged the companies never tried to verify that information.

“Mars unequivocally condemns the use of child labor. It has no place in our supply chain, and we are fully committed to helping to eradicate it,” the candy maker said in a statement to CNBC.

The company also said it is “urgently investigating” the claims made by CBS and is prepared to take “appropriate action” against any supplier not in compliance with its code of conduct.

The report compounds the issues Mars faces related to child labor. A lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of the District of Washington on Wednesday targets Mars, agricultural giant Cargill and Toblerone maker Mondelez, accusing the companies and their leaders of negligent supervision and consumer fraud tied to child labor in their supply chains.

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a similar lawsuit in 2021 that aimed to hold Nestle USA and Cargill responsible for child slavery on African farms that supplied their…

2023-11-30 15:09:02

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