On May 14, 2019, the Dutch senate passed a law that requires companies to take action on child labor, the “Wet Zorgplicht Kinderarbeid” (Child Labor Due Diligence Law) – an important milestone in the fight against child labor that adds the Netherlands to a growing list of countries adopting due diligence legislation. The law means that companies delivering products to the Dutch market will be required to report on their activities to address child labor risks in their value chains.
What does the law say?
The law requires companies to submit a statement that they have applied due diligence on child labor in their value chains, meaning that they have taken steps to prevent, identify, and account for risks and cases of child labor in their value chain. This means that a company will not be required to provide a guarantee that no child labor occurs, but that it has done what can be reasonably expected to prevent it. The law follows a trend of more due diligence laws that have been adopted by European countries in recent years. While it is certain that the law will be implemented (January 2020 at the earliest), some elements are still to be worked out. For example, it is uncertain which institution will be in charge of the law’s implementation. Also, the specifics of an acceptable action plan are to be determined. Joint, multi-stakeholder plans of action approved by the Minister of Foreign Trade and Development are one way to comply.
Child labor in agriculture
According to the ILO, 152 million children are victims of child labor, of which 71% are in agriculture. In 17 countries, coffee has a known risk for being produced using child labor. Child labor is a complex issue that has multiple root causes beyond the farm, including poverty and cultural norms. This cannot be solved by a single intervention alone, but requires intensive collaboration with communities, supply chain actors and governments. Read about how this certified cooperative works on child labor in Honduras.
What does it mean for your company?
Mandatory due diligence laws such as this one raise the bar for all companies, which means those companies that have already taken action are well-positioned. Thousands of companies already work with the Rainforest Alliance and its UTZ and Rainforest Alliance standards to help develop and implement their responsible sourcing commitments. This includes reducing the risk of human rights abuses while driving positive social and environmental change. In addition, the Rainforest Alliance promotes multi-stakeholder and area-based approaches and encourages collaboration with stakeholders, including governments, companies and civil society organizations, for example in cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and in coffee in Uganda.
Although specifics still need to be worked out, this law is already a good reason to start working on due diligence regarding child labor. Learn more about our approach here.