The below report tells the story of Nestlé, the world's largest food and beverage company, and its two hazelnut suppliers in Turkey, Olam and Balsu, as they pilot-tested the United States Department of Agriculture Guidelines for Eliminating Child Labor and Forced Labor in Agricultural Supply Chains (USDA Guidelines) in Turkey’s hazelnut supply chain. This project was a partnership between the three companies and the Fair Labor Association (FLA), funded by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL).
Hazelnuts are grown in the Black Sea region of Turkey. In the summer, tens of thousands of seasonal migrant workers, mostly from the Southeast region bordering Syria, travel across the country to harvest hazelnuts for 30-45 days. Children often work alongside their parents in the hazelnut gardens.
With support from Turkish government agencies and civil society organizations, the three companies and the FLA undertook research and identified risks of child and forced labor, and strengthened capacity to address these challenges throughout the hazelnut supply chain.
Key lessons learned through this project include:
1) Collaboration Maximizes Impact – Addressing systemic issues like child labor and forced labor requires a multi-stakeholder approach. By working together on this project, companies, farmers, labor contractors, local and national government, and civil society groups were able to achieve greater results. Collaboration is essential to ensure long-term sustainability and scalability of social compliance programs.
2) Strong Programs Depend on Solid Data – In addition to commodity mapping, robust data collection on worker demographics, migrant workers’ movements, and workplace conditions provides critical context for companies as they assess risks and design strong remediation programs to protect human rights throughout their supply chains.
3) Understanding Workers’ Needs Is Crucial – Not every workforce faces the same human rights issues. In this project, companies needed to understand the unique challenges confronting a young, seasonal, migrant workforce in order to address their needs. To build a successful program that protects workers, companies need functioning channels for workers to communicate their concerns.
4) Processes and Programs Require Flexibility – Risk assessment and standard setting are continuous processes. Companies must take into account changes in the local environment and periodically review their systems and approaches. Adjusting remedial interventions to take advantage of new information acquired through research or exchanges with stakeholders boosts their effectiveness.
Nestlé, Olam, and Balsu successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of the USDA Guidelines as a practical framework to help agricultural firms, large and small, national or multi-national, to improve their social compliance systems and reduce the risks of child and forced labor in their supply chains. The Guidelines are applicable in any country and to any agricultural commodity, from nuts in Bolivia to palm oil in Malaysia, cotton in India to cocoa in Cote d’Ivoire.