Today, the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) launches its new strategy, laying out a vision to support cocoa communities to thrive through the advancement of children’s and workers’ rights. ICI’s new approach aims to catalyse the scale-up of prevention and remediation systems to reach all children and adults at risk of child or forced labour. ICI is calling for a massive expansion of effort from all actors in the cocoa sector to achieve this.

The challenge facing the cocoa sector is great. Estimates suggest that around one in three children living in cocoa-growing areas of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana (which account for more than 65% of global cocoa production) is involved in child labour. Forced labour, although at a more localized and limited scale, is also a real problem within agricultural supply chains. To confront these challenges and protect all children and adults at risk, ICI believes a massive expansion of effort, including greater investment and engagement, is needed from all actors in the cocoa sector who hold a shared responsibility to act.

ICI’s new 2021-2026 strategy lays out a roadmap to achieve its vision of thriving cocoa-growing communities within a dignified, sustainable and responsibly-managed cocoa supply chain. ICI believes that three key pillars must be in place to enable sector-wide impact that protects all children and adults at risk of child and forced labour:

  • Responsible supply chains built on systems and services that responsibly and transparently prevent and remediate child labour and forced labour across the entire cocoa supply chain.
  • A supportive enabling environment with local, national and international policies and laws, that inspire, motivate and obligate progress, from human rights due diligence legislation in cocoa-consuming countries, to policies that continue to advance access to quality education and social protection in cocoa-producing countries.
  • Coordinated approaches to support collaboration, alignment and accountability across the cocoa and chocolate industry, civil society, governments, and donors to maximise their collective impact.


ICI: A catalyst for scaling up impact

Operating for the past thirteen years to improve child protection in cocoa communities, ICI and its partners from the cocoa industry, governments and civil society, have made significant advancements in the fight against child labour. Since 2015 alone, ICI’s work and collaboration with its partners has delivered improved child protection for over 380,000 children (for full details of ICI’s impact see our 2019 annual report). ICI’s Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems and community development approaches have been proven to be effective at reducing child labour, with research and learning contributing to the continuous improvement of these efforts.

Progress has been made, but despite this ICI estimates that only 10-20% of communities in the entire cocoa supply chain in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are covered by monitoring and remediation approaches designed to reduce child labour. Moving forward, ICI’s role will be to drive the cocoa sector towards 100% coverage by innovating, catalysing and supporting the development and implementation of effective policies and practices. Through its new Strategy, ICI’s focus will pivot to three core areas:

  • Innovation and learning: ICI will continue to test and evaluate new ways of tackling child and forced labour and will conduct research on root causes, effective policies and promising practices.
  • Technical advocacy: ICI will promote the knowledge and learning it generates, engaging in the development of policies and standards, supporting all stakeholders to align their actions for a more coordinated approach and mobilizing resources to unlock investments required for the scale up of effective solutions.
  • Capacity and systems strengthening: ICI will provide time-limited operational support to its members and partners to set-up child labour and forced labour prevention and remediation mechanisms that can eventually be sustained without ICI’s support, strengthening national, corporate, civil society and community systems and helping them work together.

ICI expects that these efforts will inspire and deliver the required 100% coverage of human rights due diligence systems that prevent and remediate child labour and forced labour. 25% of the full supply chain will be covered by ICI’s direct work with its partners, while ICI will use its influence to drive collective efforts to cover the remaining 75% of the supply chain. This will positively impact the lives of 1.7 million children by 2025.

“This new strategy is ambitious. We are aiming to drive full coverage of child labour and forced labour risks across the cocoa supply chain in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which involves reaching 70% more children than under our previous strategy,” said Nick Weatherill, ICI’s Executive Director. “While a significant undertaking that will require more actors to engage and all actors to invest more, we believe full coverage is possible building on the results of the past and on the collaborative energy in the sector.

We can see that momentum is building for real change. Human rights due diligence legislation, for instance, is being increasingly applied to global supply chains, requiring more and more actors to implement the kind of approaches that ICI has developed with its partners. With ICI playing a catalytic role in refining, promoting and embedding these tools, and with all actors in the cocoa sector working together as part of a coordinated multi-stakeholder effort, we can bring our collective vision of thriving cocoa-growing communities to life.”

Read the Executive Summary of ICI’s 2021-26 Strategy here

Access the full document here

Read a blog post by Nick Weatherill, ICI’s Executive Director