The Child Labor Guidance Document
by Aidan McQuade, Director, Anti-Slavery International - 10/09/13
The publication of the Child Labor Guidance Document by Mondelēz International marks a historic milestone, not just for Mondelēz International, but for the entire business sector. It marks a paradigm shift in terms of business engagement in human rights issues in the supply chain.
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I am not aware of any other company, across any other sectors, taking this approach.
The way that Mondelēz International is taking on this sensitive issue is innovative and groundbreaking because they are forthright about acknowledging the issue, proactive about seeking it out, transparent about what they find, and are committed to working diligently to understand the nuances so they can address problems effectively.
The fact that a company the size of Mondelēz International is taking this kind of approach will, I believe, help thousands of vulnerable children. While we have yet to see the impact, I hope this will be an inspiration to other companies in how they address this issue, and issues like these, in the future.
The principles that define this work, and are outlined in the Child Labor Guidance Document, are as follows:
1. BE PRO-ACTIVE
Many companies across various industries such agriculture and construction wait until someone has blown a whistle on something like child labor or poor working conditions before thinking about addressing it. Conversely, this document says we're specifically committed to searching for the problem, rather than waiting for the problem to reveal itself.
2. BE TRANSPARENT
The admission in this document that these issues occur is essential because it enables Mondelēz International to work toward addressing the problem. The commitment to transparency makes this approach completely distinct from others and revolutionary.
3. BE LOCAL
In the past, it seems people have made the mistake of trying to understand and address child labor from afar. Being local is critical to understanding the issue, both why it exists and what can be done.
4. BE ADAPTABLE
This is a living document. We understand that it will grow and change as we learn more and try new things. For example, there is a huge distinction between child labor that occurs when parents who are farmers feel it’s in their child's best interest to learn the trade of farming, as opposed to people who are keeping children against their will to work in cocoa production. The former seems to respond to educating parents about the rights of children, whereas the latter must be approached with child protection services, rehabilitation and law enforcement.
5. BE COLLABORATIVE
Some people believe that for every complex problem there is a simple solution, but I disagree. I think that for complex problems, you need sophisticated solutions. This is our attempt to have a sophisticated process towards the problem that includes NGOs and Government officials. It's a collaborative process. We will work together to keep the conversation going.
This document represents Mondelēz International's commitment to addressing child labor. It reflects their ideals, their aspirations and their principles. It also ushers in a paradigm shift for how businesses deal with issues of human rights. It will take a lot of work to transform the company's commitment into a reality.
For people like myself who are committed to this kind of work, we are grateful when we can partner with and advise a company like Mondelēz International because they have access to levers of change that can transform the issue of child labor along the cocoa supply chain, helping many children, as well as, hopefully providing a model for businesses around the world to do the same with their supply chains.
Anti-Slavery International, founded in 1839, is the world's oldest international human rights organisation and the only charity in the United Kingdom to work exclusively against slavery.