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How we tackle child labour

While there have been incremental efforts to shift cultural norms so that globally the number of child labourers has declined by one third since 2000 from 246 million to 168 million children (ILO), child labour is still mostly found in agriculture. “About 100 million boys and girls are engaged in child labour in farming, livestock, forestry, fishing or aquaculture, often working long hours and facing occupational hazards.” (FAO)

FAO further defines child labour as “work that is inappropriate for a child’s age, affects children’s education, or is likely to harm their health, safety or morals. It should be emphasised that not all work carried out by children is considered child labour. Some activities may help children acquire important livelihood skills and contribute to their survival and food security. However, much of the work children do in agriculture is not age-appropriate, is likely to be hazardous or interferes with children’s education. For instance, a child under the minimum age for employment who is hired to herd cattle, a child applying pesticides, and a child who works all night on a fishing boat and is too tired to go to school the next day would all be considered child labour.

Our commitments

Olam is committed to the responsible and sustainable management of our supply chains from seed to shelf. At the heart of this commitment, Olam is against all forms of child exploitation and the use of forced or trafficked labour, respecting and abiding by the ILO conventions No 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and No. 138 on the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and Work. In addition to ensuring this is applied across all of our direct operations (plantations, farms and processing units), Olam works proactively with others, including our suppliers, governments, specialist NGOs, such as the International Cocoa Initiative, and industry peers, to progressively eliminate these abuses in the labour markets related to agricultural supply chains. Olam follows, and expects its suppliers to follow, the table below as a direct reference to ILO Convention No 138 defining child labour by the categories below.

ILO Convention No. 138

This is clearly stated in the Olam Supplier Code which is currently being rolled out across our supply chains, setting out certain minimum and non-negotiable standards to which all our suppliers must adhere. Signing the Olam Supplier Code represents a commitment to follow the fair employment practices in compliance with all applicable local government rules and regulations regarding Child Labour Laws, and an understanding that regular auditing will be carried out.

In addition, Olam undertakes a raft of measures to mitigate the risk of child labour. These include:

  • Training farmers in good labour practices through the Olam Livelihood Charter
  • Helping farmers to increase yields through the provision of pre-finance, agri-inputs and training in Good Agricultural Practices, thus enabling them to hire adult labour
  • Through the Olam Farmer Information System (OFIS), surveying the community to identify where schools are lacking, and in turn working in collaboration with the governments and partners for their establishment, as well as ensuring long-term provision of teaching staff by the government
  • Providing adult literacy courses for farmers, not only to improve farm management capability but to demonstrate the value of education for their children
  • Scaling-up initiatives by working with partners including customers, foundations, governments and NGOs.

In 2012, Olam was the first agri-business company in the world to become an affiliated member of the Fair Labor Association (FLA). Since then we have been actively engaging through the development of specific programmes across our cocoa and hazelnut supply chains to improve labour standards. FLA has also given technical advice to strengthen the content of the Olam Supplier Code and the systems required to roll it out and monitor compliance.

Next section: How we tackle forced labour