Chocolate producer, Hershey has been dragged to court over its alleged involvement in unlawful child and forced labour in Ghana.
Louisiana Municipal Police Employees' Retirement System (LAMPERS) a public pension fund has filed a suit against Hershey to inspect its books and records.
LAMPERS contend the Pennsylvania-based confectioner uses cocoa produced as a result of unlawful child and forced labor in Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Shareholders of the company claim the board has long known of the company's dealings with suppliers utilizing illegal child labor in Ghana and the Ivory Coast and committing human trafficking violations.
The court filing marks the beginning of what could be a major shareholder challenge to the business practices of Hershey, the largest chocolate producer in North America.
Shareholders contend that the board of Hershey which sells chocolate in some 70 countries worldwide with over $6.8 billion in net sales in the past fiscal year consistently permitted the company to engage in unlawful acts in violation of its certificate of incorporation under Delaware law, and consequently breached its duties.
Meanwhile, the Regulator of the Ghana’s cocoa industry COCOBOD have said Ghana is close to eradicating child labour in the cocoa industry.
Efforts to curb child labour on cocoa farms began in 2001 with the Harkin-Engel Protocol; an agreement, signed by cocoa and chocolate companies, to source cocoa grown and processed according to ILO child labour standards.
Over 100,000 children work on Ghana’s cocoa farms.
Last year government rescued over 6,000 children from cocoa farms in the country.
The Chief Executive Officer of the COCOBOD, Anthony Fofie told Citi Business News
, Ghana has made tremendous strides in its bid to eradicate child labour.
He said: “We have done quite a lot we are above most of our neighbors with the eradication of child labour on our farms.
I was awarded by the world cocoa foundation because of our progress with regards to the eradication of child labour on our cocoa farms.”