Photo: Cocoa beans and cocoa powder. Credit @ Hans Geel

2022 also saw continued leadership by Verité on the private sector side on the issue of forced labor in the cocoa industry in the West Africa region. We have advanced this work for several years now in collaboration with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), in which Verité participates as a civil society board member, and with support from Mars Incorporated, with which Verité has a multi-year strategic partnership.

In 2019, we published research and recommendations for addressing forced labor indicators in Côte d’Ivoire; in 2020 we conducted a training on the issue for ICI members; and in 2021 we carried out trainings for sustainability leads as well as trainings of trainers (ToTs) for lead trainers at a dozen major cocoa suppliers. These trainings have built capacity of key actors in the cocoa sector to understand and develop programs to monitor, address, and prevent forced labor risk in their supply chains, and strengthen their internal capacity to train field teams to identify and address forced labor indicators if they are encountered in the field.

This year, Verité developed and deployed a new ToT for cocoa suppliers focused on the issue of forced labor root cause analysis (RCA), helping lead trainers at supplier companies learn to identify the underlying drivers and structural issues leading to forced labor vulnerability, and to train their field staff to drill down to the root causes of forced labor indicators to develop effective solutions at the field level.

In addition, Verité collaborated with Mars to develop a guidance document to help cocoa companies develop response protocols to structure their responses to findings of forced labor risk in their supply chains, in the event that indicators are turned up through monitoring, worker grievances, or other channels.

Our work with cocoa suppliers is gaining momentum, as some companies have reached out to us independently for help to develop and implement their forced labor response protocols, and to train staff in their country teams. In an engagement with one supplier this summer, for example, we carried out ToTs for more than 50 managers and trainers in four cocoa origin countries, preparing them to deploy step-down trainings on monitoring and addressing forced labor indicators that will ultimately reach more than 1,500 child labor monitors, extension agents, and other field personnel.