11 “Sustainably-Minded” Brands That Were Caught Relying On Child Labor

Here are eleven brands that preached sustainability while secretly relying on the labor of children. Prepare to be shocked by the hypocrisy and deceit as we uncover the dark truths behind their green veneers.

11 “Sustainably-Minded” Brands That Were Caught Relying On Child Labor

In today’s market, sustainability is the buzzword that brands love to flaunt. From eco-friendly packaging to fair trade promises, these companies paint themselves as champions of ethical practices. But behind the glossy ads and feel-good slogans, some of these “sustainably-minded” brands have been caught engaging in one of the most exploitative practices imaginable: child labor. 

Here are eleven brands that preached sustainability while secretly relying on the labor of children. Prepare to be shocked by the hypocrisy and deceit as we uncover the dark truths behind their green veneers.

1. Nespresso

Despite Nespresso’s claims of zero tolerance for child labor, an investigation found children working in Nespresso’s fields in Guatemala. In a documentary by Dispatches, labor lawyer Lesbia Amésquita revealed that children had to work because their parents, even after working 15-16 hours a day, couldn’t earn enough to feed their families. 

Amésquita criticized Nespresso’s certification process, stating it was not genuine and that regular visits to ensure compliance were not conducted.

2. Starbucks

Starbucks, which sources coffee beans from the same fields as Nespresso, was implicated in the same child labor scandal. A mills manager disclosed that Starbucks, despite claiming zero child labor in its supply chain, only visits these farms every 2-4 years. 

While Starbucks’ CEO promised “deep investigations” and third-party audits, critics argue that fair wages for parents would be a more effective solution.

3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Microsoft, Tesla, Google, Dell, and Apple

These tech giants were accused of “knowingly benefiting from and aiding and abetting the cruel use of young children” in cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the companies could not be held liable, describing their interactions with suppliers as “ordinary buyer-seller transactions.”

8. Mars

Mars, a major player in the cocoa and chocolate industry, has been criticized for its spending priorities. In 2023, Mars spent $7 million on a thirty-second Super Bowl ad, while cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, who rely heavily on the cocoa sector, earn far below a living income. 

The low farmgate price for cocoa perpetuates poverty among farmers and their families, who struggle to afford basic necessities.

A CBS News investigation found that Mars uses cocoa harvested by children as young as five in Ghana. 

9. Mondelez

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Mondelez International, alleging the company relies on child labor and causes deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire, contrary to its sustainability claims. The lawsuit claims Mondelez, which owns brands like Oreo and Toblerone, pays cocoa farmers as little as $3 a day, leading to the use of child labor. 

Despite promoting its “Cocoa Life” program as supporting fair labor and environmental practices, the lawsuit argues these claims are misleading and deceptive to consumers.

10. Ferrero

Ferrero has faced criticism for prioritizing investments in production facilities over fair compensation for cocoa farmers.

Ferrero Rocher, known for its premium chocolates, has faced allegations of using child labor in its supply chain. Investigations have revealed that some cocoa used by Ferrero may come from farms in West Africa where child labor is prevalent. 

Despite Ferrero’s commitments to sustainable sourcing and ethical practices, these allegations suggest that the company has not fully eradicated child labor from its supply chain, raising concerns about the authenticity of its sustainability claims.

11. Nestlé

In 2022, Nestlé spent billions on marketing, new facilities, and share buybacks, yet failed to allocate sufficient funds to ensure a living income for cocoa farmers. 

Despite its substantial revenue, Nestlé’s investment in fair wages for cocoa farmers was minimal, highlighting a stark contrast between the company’s financial priorities and the needs of its suppliers.


It would have cost companies roughly $4.96 billion to pay all cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana a living income in 2022, representing less than 1.5% of the revenues from companies like Nestlé, Mars, Ferrero, and Mondelez. 


This amount is negligible compared to their overall profits, yet it would make a significant difference in the lives of cocoa farmers and their families. These cases highlight the need for more ethical practices and genuine commitment to social responsibility in the business world.