A recent report conducted by Amnesty International has concluded that many popular brands, including Kellogg’s, Nestle, Unilever, and Colgate-Palmolive, use palm oil produced by child labor working under dangerous conditions.
In order to reach this conclusion, Amnesty traced these well-known companies’ products back to a palm oil company called Wilmar, which allegedly employs children to work intense physical labor in Indonesian refineries. The report states that products sold by the aforementioned companies were “tainted by appalling human rights abuses…with children as young as eight working in hazardous conditions.”
The work includes a lack of safety equipment and exposure to toxic pesticides. Children must also regularly carry sacks of palm fruit weighing 55 pounds.
As reported by the Guardian, Amnesty’s senior investigator, Meghna Abraham, had plenty to say about the findings:
“These findings will shock any consumer who thinks they are making ethical choices in the supermarket when they buy products that claim to use sustainable palm oil…There is nothing sustainable about palm oil that is produced using child labour and forced labour. Something is wrong when nine companies turning over a combined revenue of £260bn in 2015 are unable to do anything about the atrocious treatment of palm oil workers earning a pittance.”
Seven of the nine accused companies have admitted to using palm oil from Wilmar’s Indonesian supply network, but only Kellogg’s and Reckitt Benckiser, a British company, offered details about specific products.
Unsurprisingly, the other companies offered tepid responses to the allegations of child labor. For example, Colgate-Palmolive stated they are“concerned about the specific allegations raised by Amnesty International and will hold Wilmar accountable for addressing any issues.”
Nestle also said they will “investigate allegations related to our purchasing of palm oil, along with our suppliers.”
The notion that these companies were unaware of these abuses is somewhat dubious. Nestle has been the subject of global boycotts for years, and the company has already been accused of using palm oil produced by children for at least half a decade. They have also faced criticism for supporting child slavery through their cocoa-based products. On that front, Nestle and other companies claim to have taken actions to prevent child slavery, but the practice remains widespread as companies continue to buy and sell the products of their labor.