Unilever in Child Labor Controversy

May 07, 2003

By George Anderson

A report published by the India Committee of the Netherlands claims Unilever buys hybrid cotton seeds from farmers who are using children as young as six years old as their labor force.

Unilever strongly opposes the use of child labor. A company spokesperson, Alexandra Middendorp, told BBC News Online Unilever “does not accept direct responsibility for the employment of children.” She added the company would, however, “try to find a solution.”

Farmers are said to work the children, primarily young girls, for up to 13 hours a day in hazardous conditions that include prolonged exposure to agricultural chemicals.

Moderator’s Comment: Do manufacturers and retailers
have a responsibility to ensure their suppliers are ethical in dealing with
labor issues?

The report claims children are being put up as collateral
to secure loans given to their parents by farmers. It is because so many refuse
to take responsibility (government, businesses and consumers) that a situation
such as this exists. Doing the right thing shouldn’t be an option. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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