What is human rights due diligence?

In 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). These guidelines describe the respective responsibilities of both governments and businesses to prevent and address adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity. The UNGPs underline that next to the State duty to protect the human rights of their citizens, all businesses, big or small, have a responsibility to respect human rights in their operations and supply chains by carrying out human rights due diligence (HRDD) on an ongoing basis. Embedded in this approach is constant vigilance and risk assessment, appropriate action in response to potential and actual risks identified, continuous learning from action taken and transparent reporting on issues and progress. Since their publication, the UNGPs have formed the basis of a number of other important guidance documents such as the Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

HRDD in the cocoa supply chain

Over the past years, the need and expectation for HRDD legislation has grown around the world. For example, in the cocoa sector, there have been increasing calls for mandatory legislation at the European Union (EU) level, from civil society, international organisations, governments, in addition to cocoa and chocolate companies.

At ICI, we believe that if designed well, HRDD legislation can drive responsible business practices in the cocoa sector and accelerate the scale up of prevention and remediation mechanisms that have been proven effective in tackling child labour and forced labour, in complement to voluntary initiatives. Currently we estimate that effective systems that prevent, identify and address child labour risks cover 25% of the cocoa supply chain in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Although this presents positive progress, there is an urgent need both to scale up due diligence efforts across the cocoa supply chain, and ensure efforts from all stakeholders are aligned, which can all be helped by an appropriate regulatory framework.  

What do we do?

We support the cocoa sector implement and scale up human rights due diligence approaches that identify, assess and address child and forced labour in the supply chain, which are judged to be amongst the most salient human rights risks in the West African cocoa sector. For example, our Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS) follow a risk-based due diligence approach in line with guidance from the UNGPs and the OECD. These systems enable actual or potential cases of child labour to be identified, remediated and monitored on an ongoing basis. We provide advice, operational support, and implementation capacity for CLMRS to be scaled-up in cocoa-growing areas with and on behalf of our members.

In tandem, we work at the national and international level to help shape the appropriate enabling environment and create conditions for the scale up, and alignment, of these and other actions to address child labour and forced labour. For example, we are actively engaged in dialogue at the EU level (e.g through the European Union’s multi-stakeholder dialogues for sustainable cocoa) and the Cocoa Coalition, an informal group which brings together cocoa and chocolate companies and civil society groups. The Coalition’s aim is to support the development of relevant EU policy measures (including an EU-wide HRDD legislation) capable of driving the production of sustainable cocoa within a dignified and responsibly-managed supply-chain. For more information, please seethe positions papers from the Cocoa Coalition.