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Governments: progress is slow

On governments, well.. we can keep it brief. Tony’s has launched successful campaigns in the Netherlands together with other chocolate companies and also with its Serious Friends (thanks!). But, so far, we haven’t managed to spur the Dutch government into action.

Why do governments play an important role in the fight against child labour and exploitation of farmers in rural Ghana and the Ivory Coast ? First of all, because governments – both those in consumer countries such as the Netherlands and those in production countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast – are responsible for introducing and enforcing effective laws and regulations. And, second, because governments can improve living conditions by providing good education, decent roads and clean drinking water. This alleviates poverty and reduces the risk of child labour and exploitation.

Enough support, but still no legislation
In Europe, Britain is leading the way with the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which requires companies to investigate the risk of modern slavery in their production chains. And, last year, the Netherlands was not far behind, with a bill for a new Child Labour Due Diligence Act, which introduced a duty of care to solve and prevent child labour. The bill was passed by the Dutch Lower House and “only” needed to be approved by the Upper House (the Senate). In October 2017, the Upper House organized an expert meeting on child labour. Tony’s was invited. So, Paul, our Head of Impact, polished his shoes and headed for The Hague. One of the main concerns was that “the Act imposed an excessive burden on businesses.” Nope! The Act doesn’t ask the impossible. It requires companies to declare that they are taking all necessary measures to solve and prevent child labour, investigating the risks of child labour in their supply chain and addressing these risks to the best of their ability. Self-regulation is not solving the problem.

#samengaathetsneller

We put out a call under the hashtag #samengaathetsneller (“together we can do it faster”), mobilized our network and wrote a letter to the Upper House expressing our point of view. The letter was co-signed by 42 (!) companies and organizations, including Nestlé Netherlands, Verkade, Barry Callebaut, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, Rabobank, ASN Bank, Triodos Bank, Bavaria, Heineken, Brouwerij De Prael, PLUS Retail and Wessanen. This had to be reported in the newspapers! And, though we don’t pay to advertise, we felt so strongly about it that, just before the Upper House vote, we published the following statements in the Financieele Dagblad and Volkskrant newspapers. Our Serious Friends also stepped up and signed our petition. We put on our Tony’s suits and delivered the more than 13,000 votes to the Upper House in person, together with the Children’s Council organized by UNICEF.

All to no effect. The act was put in a drawer, where it remains to this day. There still hasn’t been a vote. The act needs to be retrieved from the drawer, amended and introduced! To put it politely, consumers and chocolate companies are in favour. Politicians in The Hague.. It’s up to you to make a difference. And what about us? What do we do when our efforts fail? We cut our losses, accept it and try again.

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