A Brazilian court found Cargill liable for child and forced labour in its supply chain in Brazil and ordered the company to put in place due diligence measures and pay USD 120,185. This case appears to be part of a wider strategy by prosecutors in Brazil to hold large multinationals accountable under international standards.
- A Brazilian Labour Court in Bahia has found Cargill liable for child and forced labour in its cocoa supply chain. Cargill was ordered to pay 600,000 reais (USD 120,185) as compensation for “collective moral damages”. According to Reporter Brasil, the money will be used to fund child protection projects. The court also ordered Cargill to put in place the following due diligence measures:
- Amend its contracts with suppliers to include a clause stating that Cargill will end commercial relationships with any companies where child labour or other unlawful activities are found
- Put in place a due diligence policy to verify whether there is child labour in its supply chain and implement practices to eradicate this
- Formalise contracts with cacao producers and suppliers, including social clauses to prevent the use of child labour, within 30 days
- Create, within three years, a permanent advertising campaign against child and slave labour.
- Cargill announced that it will appeal the decision. In a response to Reporter Brasil, Cargill stated that “it does not tolerate human trafficking, forced or child labour in its operations or supply chain” and that all its Brazilian suppliers are checked against government embargo lists and any violations identified result in immediate suspension of the relationship.
About the case
- The lawsuit was brought by the Bahia Labour Prosecution Service in the form of a Public Civil Action in 2021. It claimed that the entire cocoa supply chain should be held accountable, which includes purchasers of cocoa. Prosecutors also stated that Cargill was not meeting its legal duty to prevent its suppliers from using child and forced labour.
- Prosecutors submitted evidence of inspections that confirmed cases of child and forced labour at Cargill suppliers. This included a case of 42 workers (including three children) rescued from a cacao farm that supplied Cargill in Medicilândia, Pará in 2010; notification of a different Cargill supplier for using child labour in 2013; and a finding that the same farm was continuing to exploit children in 2019. Prosecutors alleged that Cargill had failed to adopt mechanisms to prevent these violations from reoccurring. Prosecutors asked for 119 million reais (USD 23 million) as compensation for alleged child labour practices.
- This case appears to be linked with other prosecutions in the sector in Brazil.
- In 2021, Brazilian state prosecutors launched a case against Olam International and two other unnamed companies for child and forced labour practices in the companies’ supply chains. According to reports at the time, the unnamed companies were Cargill and Barry Callebaut. This has now been confirmed with respect to Cargill.
- The case against Olam followed investigations conducted by the ILO and the Brazilian Labour Prosecution Office. These showed widespread use of child and forced labour in Brazil’s cocoa industry, perpetuated by an extensive network of suppliers used by the company to purchase cocoa. Prosecutors in the case against Olam, which is currently ongoing, are seeking 300 million reais (USD 58 million).
- Cargill has also been subject to litigation in the US for child labour on cacao farms in West Africa. Separate cases against Cargill and other large manufacturers were dismissed by US courts in 2021 and 2022.
- In a new effort to target this issue, International Rights Advocates – the US-based NGO behind these cases – launched a case against the US government in the US Court of International Trade. The lawsuit concerns cocoa produced with child labour and imported into the US by manufacturers including Cargill.