Our Position:

The Coca-Cola Company firmly opposes the use of child labor and has incorporated that requirement into our Supplier Guiding Principles (SGP) program for direct suppliers to the Company. Commercial agreements with direct suppliers require compliance with child labor laws under the Supplier Guiding Principles program.

What we did when contacted by HRW:

When Human Rights Watch (HRW) contacted us about suspected child labor in Salvadoran sugar mills, we moved quickly to review our direct suppliers' policies and practices. Although a 2003 audit of the refinery had found no child labor, we again verified that it and its supplying mill had sound policies against employing underage youth.

Nevertheless, child labor is a problem on family-owned farms and farm cooperatives in El Salvador. In support of a multi-stakeholder effort to help address this problem in the sugar industry, the local sugar association increased monitoring and enforcement, education of parents and communities and provided expanded educational opportunities for rural children for the 2004/05 harvest. According to International Labor Organization (ILO) project data, 65% of the ILO-targeted group of 5,000 children under 18 that worked in the previous year's harvest were removed from the 2004/05 harvest as a result of a variety of community efforts. Furthermore, over 15,000 children under 18 years of age deemed by the ILO to be at risk of working in the harvest, have been prevented from beginning work in the harvest. This significant improvement was driven through community programs focused on school enrollment, parental awareness and creating local non-hazardous opportunities for youth. (Source: ILO-IPEC El Salvador.)

During the 2004/05 harvest, representatives of The Coca-Cola Company and our Salvadoran bottling partner regularly engaged with the Salvadoran Sugar Association, local NGOs, the ILO and others related to a number of the projects underway as part of the national program to address child labor in the sugar industry. Review of the outreach programs and their impact is still on-going by the ILO and other stakeholders to identify those initiatives which show the greatest promise for success over time.

Based on a review of the programs, the Salvadoran Sugar Association and our direct suppliers will refine and enhance their most successful awareness, monitoring and outreach programs to address child labor. Further, as a result of efforts facilitated by The Coca-Cola Company, the sugar association commissioned pilot audits at several co-ops during the harvest. They plan to integrate learnings from those pilots into plans for the next harvest.

Within our roles and abilities, we and our bottling partner in El Salvador, will continue to work with our direct suppliers, the sugar association, NGOs, local officials and the International Labor Organization in El Salvador to strengthen community outreach and increase youth access to education and opportunity.