CBS News published a report stating it found children as young as 5 years old working on farms in Ghana harvesting the cocoa beans that Mars Inc. uses to make its popular candies — and claims that little is being done to eradicate the practice despite company promises to eradicate the practice by 2025.
A spokesperson for Mars responded in a statement to CBS News, twice saying that the company condemns the use of child labor, and also stating that Mars was not given details on the CBS News investigation ahead of time, leaving the company no time to investigate matters itself.
“We treat any claim of misconduct in our supply chain very seriously and we will thoroughly investigate once we have the necessary information and take appropriate action. Our cocoa suppliers in Ghana have agreed to adhere to our robust Supplier Code of Conduct and we have also been clear that they must have a Child Labor and Remediation System (CLMRS) in place by 2025 that complies with the industry leading International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) standard. Over 65% of our cocoa supply in West Africa is already covered by CLMRS which is implemented by our suppliers on the ground, with audits conducted by certification bodies as part of Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade certification requirements.”
CBS News also accused Mars of boasting about helping keep children off cocoa plantations and in schools, but not following up to ensure those children did not return to the fields, which had happened in some cases. Verification that the children remained in school and attended classes didn’t happen, CBS News’ sources said. And most students questioned by the news outlet said they still harvested cocoa before or after school.
One U.S. human rights lawyer has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against American chocolate companies, including Mars, alleging consumer fraud over the issue, after having gathered statements from Ghanaian children working for Mars suppliers.