Child protection.

HALBA pledges to safeguard human rights along its value chains. In particular, this also entails protecting children’s rights (see the Policy and Action Plan for the Protection of Children). In accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, HALBA promotes compliance with human rights by conducting a due diligence check. When meeting its due diligence obligations (see the Due Diligence Policy), HALBA takes the Due Diligence Guidance and process published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as a basis. 

 

What is classed as child labour? And when is it deemed to be abusive?

Easy household or agricultural tasks appropriate to the child’s age and abilities are not classed as child labour as long as they do not negatively impact the child’s health, safety or education.

Conversely, the International Labor Organization (ILO) defines abusive child labour as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development. In other words, it is work that endangers the health and well-being of the child and deprives them of/restricts the opportunity to attend school.

According to ILO Convention No. 138, the minimum age for full-time work may not be lower than the age at which compulsory schooling ends. Under no circumstances should it be less than 15. National legislation can set the minimum age at which children can be employed, with most countries stipulating a minimum age of 14 to 16 by law.

In its Agenda 2030, the United Nations laid down the goal of fully eradicating abusive child labour by 2025.

Why does child labour exist at all?

Poverty is one of the main reasons behind child labour. Lots of cocoa-growing families operating on a small scale, particularly in West Africa, live below the poverty line set by the World Bank. They have limited access to education and insufficient knowledge of sustainable cultivation methods, agricultural equipment or financing opportunities. This has resulted in a lack of diversification on cocoa cultivation areas and soil of limited fertility, leading to cocoa trees with low productivity. In addition, farmers are often unable to pay workers – which means they have to rely on the work undertaken by their family members. As a result, they are forced to involve their children in work on the farm, rather than sending them to school.

Commitment and long-term goals.

Traceability is a necessary prerequisite for combating human rights risks such as child labour. HALBA performs an annual risk analysis as part of a comprehensive due diligence check to identify potential human rights risks in the supply chain. As a result, HALBA strives to ensure total transparency in all its supply chains, right through to primary production.

HALBA pledges to implement sustainability standards, such as Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance, in its supply chains. These standards prohibit abusive child labour and promote child protection. Both standards monitor and review compliance with their guidelines via regular on-site audits.

The goal is to focus the efforts on areas where children’s rights are most at risk and where HALBA can have the most valuable impact – such as cocoa cultivation in West Africa, where the risk of children’s rights being violated is particularly high. As a result, HALBA obtains its West African cocoa beans only from a single cooperative and works very closely for more than 15 years with this cooperative on all the key areas associated with preventing child labour. HALBA launched a project in 2022 in collaboration with its partner cooperatives Kuapa Kokoo and Fairtrade Africa with the goal of introducing CLMRS (child labour monitoring and remediation systems). By 2026, functioning CLMRS monitoring is to be rolled out across 40 farming communities where HALBA sources cocoa. The project is financed by HALBA, Fairtrade Max Havelaar Switzerland and Fairtrade Finland.

Reducing poverty is a key factor in the fight against child labour. HALBA has set itself tangible goals for providing living incomes and living wages in its own supply chains (see the Living Income and Living Wage Policy) to increase smallholders’ income and combat poverty. HALBA also works with partner cooperatives on various projects to help increase smallholders’ income. In the process, HALBA pursues a comprehensive approach that aims to promote sustainable cultivation within dynamic agroforestry systems (DAF). The highly diversified cultivation improves soil fertility and the productivity of the cocoa trees and at the same time contributes to food security by growing food on the DAF's cocoa plots. In addition, smallholders have the opportunity to diversify and increase their income by selling additional products.