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Order in the court, equality in the supply chain

30 November 2020

At Tony’s Chocolonely we believe chocolate should be made differently. Without modern slavery and illegal child labor. 
Sounds obvious, right? Well, until now social abuses are still business as usual in the chocolate industry. The reality is that over 30.000 victims of modern slavery and more than 1,56 million children are working illegally in the cocoa supply chain in Ghana and Ivory Coast. We believe it’s time for laws to hold companies accountable for labor abuse in their supply chains.

On December 1, a case is going to appear before the US Supreme Court that will determine whether companies active in the US can be held accountable for labor abuse at the beginning of their supply chains abroad. We recently submitted an ‘amicus curiae brief’ in 100% support of the case.

Way, way back in 2005.. (or actually 1789?!) ​​​​​​​
What’s this case about? In 2005, 6 men from Mali filed a lawsuit against Nestlé and Cargill in the state of California. They’d been trafficked and forced to work as children on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. They allege that – through their way of sourcing cocoa, the 2 companies “aided and abetted” violations of international and US law. The 2 Big Choco argue they cannot be held responsible in the US for something that happened so far away.

The prosecution is citing an incredibly old law from 1789 called the Alien Tort Statute that makes forced labor punishable in American courts, even if it occurred outside the US. After filing, the case bounced around the courts for 15 years. Now the US Supreme Court needs to decide whether victims of human rights violations can come to US courts to hold US corporates accountable for abuses in their supply chain.

That’s not the only reason the case resonates with our mission at Tony’s. In the same year the case was filed, Tony’s Chocolonely was born as a side project of 3 Dutch journalists that investigated labor abuse in the chocolate industry. They were in the midst of a lawsuit they had initiated to get one of the journalists – Teun van de Keuken – convicted for being a chocolate criminal. They argued that he aided and abetted by eating chocolate, while knowing that the chocolate industry relies on modern slavery and illegal child labor.

A friendly letter, a massive mission 
Since day 1 Tony’s has aimed to disrupt the chocolate industry by showing that chocolate can be made differently. We exist to make the entire chocolate industry 100% slave free. This is why the lawyers of the 6 victims asked us to submit an ‘amicus curiae brief’, which literally means a letter of a friend to the court. Amicus briefs are sent to the US court and can contribute to a case’s outcome in court, by sharing industry experiences or expert opinions. We argue that companies have a clear responsibility in solving the problems in their supply chains. And as long as companies look for and remediate labor abuse in their supply chain, they have nothing to fear in the eyes of the law. We’ve also outlined how we do it: say hello to Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles

Big change, big deal 
Companies need to find and remediate illegal child labor and modern slavery in their entire supply chain. Implementing Tony’s 5 Sourcing Principles makes cocoa traceable, addresses poverty as the root cause of labor abuse, and actively remediates illegal child labor. Via Tony’s Open Chain platform, we invite other chocolate companies to join us and change the way they do business.

We believe this US case could provide the basis for corporate accountability for illegal child labor and modern slavery in their supply chains. And inspires other countries and the EU to follow suit. This is why we’ve started a petition to demand that governments hold companies accountable by law for illegal child labor and modern slavery in their supply chains. Sign the petition now!

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