Nestlé admits forced labour issue

Swedish Food Company Completes Internal Slavery Investigation

Jake Jasko
News Editor

Nestlé has come under fire in recent months for suspicions of forced labour and modern slavery in its production facilities and supply chains around the world. Several accusations have been made concerning the transnational food company’s supply chains in the Ivory Coast, Brazil and Thailand.
Strangely though, these accusations have come with evidence provided by none other than Nestlé themselves. The company has conducted investigations into the allegations and provided public results. It is incredibly bizarre that such a massive magnate would publicly reveal or admit to forced or slave labour.

Three months ago, Nestlé discovered that some of its workers in Thailand were lured into forced labour, catching fish to provide for the Geneva-based company’s supply chains. In a strange and unusual act of self-policing, Nestlé announced that it had discovered evidence of human rights abuse. It also made it clear that no other company or food production business could expect to completely avoid these kinds of situations; there is always risk (The Guardian).

The human rights abuses in Thailand are far from the end of it. Amidst a lawsuit involving child labourers in the Ivory Coast, and brand-new information involving slavery on Brazilian coffee plantations, Nestlé’s honesty and self-regulating seems like a stop-gap in an ever growing and increasingly public problem.

A coffee arabica plantation in Brazil. Source: Wikipedia
A coffee arabica plantation in Brazil. Source: Wikipedia

Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, a human rights organization, said that this could be “indicative […] of a growing tendency towards greater transparency in their [corporation’s] supply chain and more attention to human rights” (The Guardian).

Nestlé also released another statement concerning the cases of slave and child labour in Brazilian coffee plantations. Brazil, as one of the world’s biggest producers of coffee, has been plagued by human rights problems over the last 30 years, despite its government’s best efforts to protect it. Nestlé continued stating that “unfortunately, forced labour is an endemic problem in Brazil and no company sourcing coffee and other ingredients from the country can fully guarantee that it has completely removed forced labour practices or human rights abuses from its supply chain” (The Guardian).

On the other hand, some see these actions as an attempt by the Swedish company to deflect or redirect negative attention. Andrew Wallis, the chief of Unseen UK, thinks that “it’ll be a brave new world when companies are actually doing the real investigation to probe into part of their supply chains that have remained outside the public domain.”

Since then, Nestlé has claimed to strive for more transparency within its supply chains and production facilities, but concerns still remain. Nonetheless, the company is still in the middle of several legal suits. Some of these litigations can be sourced back to an alternative press investigation that discovered Nestlé, among other food giants like Walmart, Sysco and Kroger, was supplied with food produced using slave labour.

Nestlé has since promised to make yearly reports on their progress to eliminate human rights abuses within their supply lines.

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