A GLOBAL confectionery business based in York has unveiled plans to tackle child labour risks, increase farmer income and achieve full traceability in cocoa.

Nestlé, the world's largest food and beverage company with nearly 2,000 employees at its York site, has announced new ways of operating its cocoa production.

At the centre is an income accelerator program, designed to improve the livelihoods of cocoa-farming families and support more sustainable ways of working.

A cash incentive will be paid directly to these households for activities such as enrolling children in school.

As Nestlé, which is the largest private employer in York, continues to expand its cocoa sustainability efforts, the company plans to invest CHF 1.3 billion (Swiss franc) by 2030, more than tripling its current annual investment.

Nestlé’s new approach will see cocoa-farming families rewarded for the quantity and quality of cocoa beans they produce as well as the benefits they provide to the environment and local communities.

These incentives are on top of the premium introduced by the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana that Nestlé pays, and the premiums Nestlé offers for certified cocoa.

This cocoa is independently audited against the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard, promoting the social, economic and environmental well-being of farmers and local communities.

Cocoa-farming communities face immense challenges, including rural poverty, climate risks and a lack of access to financial services and basic infrastructure like water, health care and education.

These complex factors contribute to the risk of child labour on family farms.

Mark Schneider, Nestlé CEO, said: “Our goal is to have an additional tangible, positive impact on a growing number of cocoa-farming families, especially in areas where poverty is widespread and resources are scarce, and to help close the living income gap they face over time.

“Building on our longstanding efforts to source cocoa sustainably, we will continue to help children go to school, empower women, improve farming methods and facilitate financial resources.

"We believe that, together with governments, NGOs and others in the cocoa industry, we can help improve the lives of cocoa-farming families and give children the chance to learn and grow in the safe and healthy environment they deserve.”

The program rewards practices that increase crop productivity and help secure additional sources of income, which aim to close the gap to living income and help protect children.

By getting involved in these practices, families can additionally earn up to CHF 500 annually for the first two years of the program.

It is not paid based on the volume of cocoa sold and is inclusive to provide smaller farmers meaningful support.

In a departure from normal practice, the program also offers financial incentives for the farmer's spouse, who is typically responsible for household expenses and childcare.

By dividing the payments between the farmer and the spouse, the program helps empower women and improve gender equality.

Payments will be delivered via a secure mobile service transfer to ensure traceability directly from Nestlé suppliers to the intended recipient.

The cash incentives will be distributed when most needed. Based on feedback from farmers, this includes the back-to-school period and before the rainy season.

Building on a positive pilot in 2020 in Côte d’Ivoire, Nestlé will expand the program in 2022 to include 10,000 families in the country before extending it to Ghana in 2024.

It will then assess the results of that test phase and adapt where necessary, before moving to reach all cocoa-farming families in its global cocoa supply chain by 2030.

As part of the program, Nestlé will transform the global sourcing of cocoa to achieve full traceability and segregation of its cocoa products from origin to factory.

This will help transform the supply chain of Nestlé and the broader industry.

Nestlé will introduce a range of products with cocoa sourced from this program, offering consumers the opportunity to support the improvement of the families’ livelihoods and the protection of children.

This will start with a selection of KitKat products in 2023.