Lindt & Sprüngli: child labor in the chocolate supply chain

As part of its special assistance program, Lindt & Sprüngli states that it is "implementing measures to reduce the risk of child labor, fight deforestation, and protect biodiversity". This is exactly what the Swiss chocolate maker promises on its website.

But when SRF's Rundschau program took a closer look at the cocoa plantations around the town of Tepa in Ghana, it found a very different story.

It uncovered several cases of children working in the Swiss company's supply chain. In the village of Mfenibu, 6-year-old Kennedy and his 8-year-old brother, Ebenezer, transport cocoa pods. Their mother, Lucy, has resigned. She explains that she has already had to borrow money - "I have to rely on my children."

Lindt & Sprüngli did not want to respond on camera, but wrote that it is very difficult to influence the systemic factors that lead to child labor. "The fight against child labor requires the efforts of the government, Ngo, companies, local institutions, schools, and farmers," the company noted.

Inadequate Monitoring

Lindt & Sprüngli supplies cocoa to some 80 000 farmers in Ghana, making it one of the main buyers of cocoa in the country. Since 2016, the company has been conducting inspections to prevent child labor.

To do this, a team based in Kilchberg (ZH) conducts unannounced inspections of cocoa farmers. Out of 8 491 visits in 2021, the Swiss company found 87 cases of child labor. That's incredibly low," says Ghanaian journalist Kwetey Nartey. Monitoring by chocolate companies is inadequate," he adds.

By comparison, Barry Callebaut, a major Swiss manufacturer of cocoa products, recorded 250 000 cases of child labor among 53 839 farmers in West Africa last year.

Lindt & Sprüngli noted that "the methods used to identify child labor vary from chocolate producer to chocolate producer. The company adds that it is attempting to "continuously improve its identification system."

Prevention Programs

To reduce the risk of child labor, Lindt & Sprüngli has developed its own "agricultural program," a producer assistance program. However, an investigation by SRF journalists revealed that the company has no branches or employees in Ghana.

The company outsourced the program to Swiss commodities group Ecom. Ecom is one of the world's largest cocoa traders and the official supplier of beans from Ghana to Lint & Springeri.

We constantly monitor our agricultural programs," says the Zurich-based chocolate maker.

Child labor is an issue not only for Lindt & Sprüngli, but also for many chocolate companies. Child labor is a problem in more than half of all cocoa-growing households, according to a University of Chicago study in Ghana.


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