Module 2: Child Labour Due Diligence

This module focuses on child labour risks possibly related to your company’s own operations, supply chains and other business relationships. In the context of Responsible Business Conduct (RBC), child labour is one of the most sensitive topics and may constitute a reputational risk to the product or company.

The existence of child labour is also an important indicator for the overall sustainability performance of a production process and, thus, the product. If child labour takes place, it is likely that also other human rights are being violated, that minimum working conditions and health and safety standards are not being obeyed and that insufficient attention is being paid to environmental protection. The use of child labour can be caused by other RBC issues such as extreme poverty, discrimination, gender inequality and/or a lack of freedom of association and collective bargaining. In addition, child labour may keep children uneducated and ignorant, making poverty and other unfavourable situations difficult to improve.

The gravity of child labour is also underlined by the fact that legislation on child labour due diligence is being considered in the Netherlands. Abolishment of child labour is also a major attention point in the ICSR covenant signed by KNSV.

  • Module 2 builds on Module 1 of this toolkit, which focuses on general Due Diligence Management. Module 2 helps you to identify specifically where child labour may be a risk and how you can address this in the context of Due Diligence Management. In Module 2 only additional recommendations that specifically concern child labour are given. Thus tips regarding general Due Diligence Management will not be repeated here!

  • In general, it is recommended that you also consult the ILO-IOE child labour guidance tool for business. This guidance tool is in line with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) (see Module 1 of this toolkit), but tailored to child labour. It gives answers to a number of hard questions about addressing child labour.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) considers child labour “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical or mental development including by interfering with their education. Specifically, it means types of work that are not permitted for children below the relevant minimum age.

A person under the age of 18 is considered a child. However, not all work performed by children is considered child labour. Millions of young people above the relevant minimum age undertake work, paid or unpaid, that is lawful, appropriate for their age and maturity and part of their socialisation and school-to-work transition. By working, these young people learn to take responsibility, gain skills, add to their family’s or their own income and wellbeing, and contribute to their country’s economy.

  • The definition of child labour in legislation may vary from country to country. This may be a source of confusion and misunderstanding. As a KNSV member it is recommended that your RBC policies covering your own operations, supply chains and other business relationships contain the internationally widely recognised International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards:

    • Children who are over the age of 13 years (in developing countries this can be 12) can do light work as long as it does not threaten their health and safety or hinder their education or training. National governments are supposed to determine locally what is acceptable light work, although few countries have.
    • Children who are over the age of 15 years (in developing countries this can be 14) can work as long as it does not threaten their health and safety or hinder their education or training.
    • Children under the age of 18 years are not allowed to do dangerous work or work in dangerous or unhealthy conditions which could result in illness, injury or death. This is known as hazardous work.”

  • The ILO-IOE child labour guidance tool for business summarises the general causes of child labour and related push and pull factors:

Causes and General Contextual Factors Include:

  • Poor enforcement of child labour laws
  • Inadequate social protections
  • Lack of quality education for the poor
  • Endemic poverty
  • Weak rule of law
  • Absence of systems for workplace collaboration
  • Large parts of the economy are informal
  • Rural areas with inadequate infrastructure

Push Factors Include:

  • Household and community poverty
  • Economic shocks (e.g., unanticipated health problems)
  • Social acceptance of child labour
  • Insufficient educational opportunities and/or social or bureaucratic barriers to education
  • Discrimination in access to schooling or certain jobs
  • Lack of parental guidance and support


Pull Factors Include:

  • Attraction of earning an income
  • Unregulated enterprises in informal economy
  • Unprotected migrants seeking income earning opportunities
  • Family enterprises that rely on their children’s work because they are not able to employ adult labour
  • Certain work that is commonly organised such that it can be performed only by children
  • Hiring practices of recruitment or employment agencies or approaches by individual labour brokers


  • FAO mentions the following root causes of child labour in agriculture:
    • Poverty, unemployment and underemployment
    • Inadequate or lack of social protection systems
    • Inadequate protection of workers’ rights
    • Limited access and barriers to education
    • Labour intensive agricultural work
    • Poor access to extension services and knowledge
    • Functioning of value chains and the rural and the global economy; for example, when high quotas for export crops displace food production or relegate food production activities to children
    • Insufficient supply of adult labour
    • Inadequate legislative frameworks and enforcement, including exemptions for agriculture
    • Seasonal nature of agricultural work with peaks in labour demand
    • Lack of political will and leadership to respond
    • Traditions and cultural perceptions; for example, sometimes education is not perceived as an important investment and, for some agricultural stakeholders, there is a resistance to acknowledge work-related risks and the extent of such risks for a child.
  • In the case of disasters or conflicts, which are increasing due to various factors including climate change, a child’s life in agricultural areas is likely to be negatively affected. In such situations:
    • Children separated from their families may need to work to survive.
    • Families may resort to negative coping strategies and pull children from school and put them into work.
    • Attending school may no longer be possible due to unsafe conditions, restricted access, impeded mobility or because of the destruction of infrastructure.
    • Harvest failure increases the chances that children will be needed to support household income and production.
    • Children may be forced into more harmful situations, such as joining armed groups.
  • This report gives a general overview of global child labour problems.

This section builds on Steps 1-3 and 7 of your Due Diligence Management process (see Module 1 of this toolkit). In this section only additional recommendations with regard to specifically child labour are given.

  • Make sure to explicitly mention in your RBC policy the commitment that your company strives for the abolishment of child labour in entire supply chains and that your company seeks collaboration with suppliers and possibly other parties to achieve that.

  • Consider specifically emphasising abolishment of hazardous work for children in your RBC policies, as this is a major problem in agricultural supply chains.

  • For communication purposes, consider putting your RBC policies in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), possibly in addition to another formulation. Relevant SDGs are SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and possibly SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 4 (quality education) SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production) and/or SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals).

  • Make sure your supplier code of conduct and possible supplier self-audit questionnaires at least address the following topics:

    • Abolishment of child labour
    • Compliance with (local) legislation
    • Payment of living wages/incomes to the extent possible
    • Stimulation of acceptable working hours
    • No discrimination
    • Freedom of association and collective bargaining
    • Commitment that your company is willing to contribute to solutions should problems be encountered
    • The measure with which compliance with the code will be monitored and what consequences of non-compliance will be.

  • Include the ILO definition of child labour in your supplier code of conduct, purchasing conditions, purchase contracts/orders, product specifications and possible supplier self-audit questionnaires (see the ‘What is Child Labour?’ section of this module) (hier interne link naar deze sectie).

  • Explicitly include in your supplier code of conduct, purchasing conditions, purchase orders/contracts, product specifications and possible supplier self-audit questionnaires the condition that your first tier suppliers are, as far as reasonable, also expected to conduct child labour due diligence among their suppliers.

  • Make it explicit to new suppliers that occurrence of child labour in supply chains will be considered a knock-out criterion. Make it clear to existing suppliers that if child labour in supply chains is encountered, a plan to phase this out should be developed in cooperation with your company. Also make clear how compliance will be monitored. Include this arrangement in the purchasing conditions and purchase contracts/orders.

  • Make the fact that workers involved in the entire supply chain should preferably receive a living income/wage an explicit point of discussion in engagements with suppliers (not just the legal minimum income/wage). Use this tool to calculate living wages.

  • Include child labour as attention point in templates for supplier and client visit reports, supplier (self) assessment questionnaires, your suppliers’ record keeping systems, instruction/training materials for your own procurement and sales people and possibly your suppliers.

  • Also include child labour in your internal and external communication efforts. Describe general child labour policies, approach and findings of child labour due diligence, specifics of risk management plans and the results of implementation of the plans (at outputs and outcomes level).

  • Identify one or more globally active NGOs specialised in child labour. Ask them to actively inform your company if child labour in relevant supply chains is encountered. In addition, contact these NGOs yourself at least once/year to identify possible new child labour issues and to validate your company’s own child labour risk assessments and risk management plans.

  • Make sure that the existence of your grievance mechanism is explicitly brought to the attention of relevant stakeholders who could address child labour possibly related to your own operations, supply chains and other business relationships.

For general guidance on how to identify, assess and prioritise RBC risks and issues within your Due Diligence Management process see Module 1 of this toolkit (Step 4: Assess Adverse Impacts).

For the identification, assessment and prioritisation specifically of child labour risks in your supply chain, it is recommended that you take a two-step approach.

  • Start with a Quick Scan to identify possible child labour hot spots in your supply chain. If you have many supply chains and limited capacity consider setting a target to conduct Quick Scans for X supply chains per year. Together with your first tier suppliers (and possibly other parties), map your entire supply chains. If your first tier suppliers are reluctant to cooperate or if they do not have reliable information themselves, conduct desk research or seek cooperation with NGOs or external experts to identify these risks. A first assessment of child labour risks, including prioritisation, can be made based on this Quick Scan. You may want to distinguish between child labour risk categories, for example based on the following principles.
Risk level Assessment


Child labour with regard to the specific supply chain (product-country combination) is specifically mentioned in:


Product-country combination associated with child labour is not explicitly mentioned in literature, but:


  • Country is considered an extreme risk country according to Child Labour Index Map 2014 and
  • No quantitative data on child labour available


Product-country combination associated with child labour is not explicitly mentioned in literature and Product-country combination does not fall in any of the other risk level categories.


Product-country combination associated with child labour is not explicitly mentioned in literature and

Country is considered a low risk country according to Child Labour Index Map 2014.

  • Based on a Quick Scan executed in 2017 and these risk categories, the following assessment has been made with regard to a number of specific product-country combinations.





  • Black pepper-Vietnam
  • Cardamom-Guatemala
  • Chillies-India
  • Cloves-Madagascar
  • Cloves-Comoros
  • Cumin-Turkey
  • Saffron-Iran
  • Vanilla-Madagascar
  • White pepper-Indonesia


  • Cinnamon-Vietnam
  • Coriander-Russia
  • Cumin-Syria
  • Cumin-India
  • Fenugreek seed-India
  • Garlic (dried)-China
  • Ginger-Nigeria
  • Onion-India
  • Oregano-Peru
  • Paprika-Peru
  • Paprika-China
  • Turmeric-India
  • Basil-Egypt
  • Black pepper-Indonesia
  • Cinnamon-Indonesia
  • Coriander-Morocco
  • Coriander-Bulgaria
  • Coriander-Ukraine
  • Dried Herbs-Morocco
  • Dried Herbs-Turkey
  • Dried Herbs-Egypt
  • Nutmeg/mace-Indonesia
  • Oregano-Turkey
  • Pink pepper-Brazil
  • Paprika-Spain
  • Parsley-France
  • Parsley-Spain


  • Important notes related to risk categorisation:
    • If a child labour risk is assessed relatively high this does not mean that child labour actually occurs in the specific supply chain(s) of your company.
    • If a child labour risk is assessed relatively low absence of child labour is not guaranteed. This only implies that no specific information on child labour has been found.
    • In such an assessment, the level of severity of child labour has not been taken into account.
    • References to possible occurrence of child labour are related to assessments at a specific moment. The current and future situation may change.

  • Subsequently, if relevant, carry out in-depth analyses with regard to supply chains considered to have a high or significant risk of child labour. In this analysis, you must first assess if child labour actually occurs and, if so, what the root causes of it are and what mitigating measures your company could possible take. Differences between boys and girls must be considered, both regarding root causes and mitigating measures. If this step involves many supply chains and you have limited capacity, consider setting a target for conducting in-depth analyses for X supply chains per year. Consider cooperating with others (other KNSV members, suppliers, clients) to conduct such in-depth analyses (possibly in the context of the Sustainable Spices Initiative).

  • For these in-depth analyses, consider identifying and contracting an external organisation to carry out research in the specific production region. Such organisation must be expert in child labour issues, should make use of local researchers who speak the language and are sensitive to the socio-cultural context and who preferably have experience with the agricultural/spice sector. Make sure this organisation works according to the guidelines of the handbook for monitoring and evaluation of child labour in agriculture. If they engage with indigenous peoples they must also consider the guidelines of annex B of OECD-FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains. You may want to use this template as an invitation to such organisations to submit a research proposal.

  • For the Quick Scan and especially for the in-depth analyses, in most cases you will depend on the cooperation of your first tier suppliers. Some first tier suppliers will most likely be distrustful when they receive your inquiries because they may not have immediate answers themselves, they do not understand why you want to interfere with their procurement policies and/or they are afraid of losing business. It is, therefore, important to create an atmosphere of trust and to make clear that you will share the challenges and the potential benefits if child labour in supply chains can be adequately eradicated. Personal communication and awareness of cultural, economical and social sensitivities are key.

  • As part of the child labour risk assessment and the analysis of possible mitigating measures it is recommended that you also consult as to what extent international RBC initiatives related to spice supply chains sufficiently address and prevent child labour. See ‘Module 1, Step 4: Assess Adverse Impacts’ of this Due Diligence Management toolkit for an overview of such initiatives. Main checkpoints are explicit reference to the entire supply chain (not just first tier suppliers) and to sub-contractors (not just contractors).

  • Based on the information obtained from the Quick Scan and in-depth analyses, where necessary, prioritise the most significant child labour risks and impacts for action. In general, prioritisation must be based on severity and likelihood of adverse impacts. Severity is determined by three factors: (1) scale (gravity of the impact on children), (2) scope (the number of children affected) and (3) remediability (any limits on the ability to restore affected children to a situation at least the same as, or equivalent to, their situation before the impact). Where the Likelihood of an impact occurring is also high, the salience of the issue increases. However, because salience focuses on the severity of the harm to people, impacts of high severity and low likelihood should still be prioritised for attention.

    In general, give priority to potential or actual impacts that may be addressed immediately and to activities that are causing or contributing to adverse impacts. Prioritisation will be relevant where it is not possible to address all potential and actual adverse impacts immediately. Once the most significant impacts are identified and dealt with, the company should move on to address less significant impacts.

This section builds on Steps 5, 6 and 8 of your Due Diligence Management process (see Module 1 of this toolkit). In the section below only additional recommendations with regard to specifically child labour are given. Thus, tips regarding general Due Diligence Management will not be repeated below!

There are several strategies for interventions to abolish child labour ‘on the ground’. Such strategies should be tailored to targeting the root causes of child labour. For example, these include: 

  • Training and awareness raising of local authorities to improve enforcement of regulation;
  • Development of clear definitions of what should be considered ‘light’ or ‘hazardous’ child work within a specific sector (important for enforcement);
  • Community engagement and implementation of a programme strengthening the economic resilience of parents and enabling them to generate a higher income (e.g. income diversification, premium prices, creation of product added value and implementation of good farming practices that would increase productivity);
  • Reintegration programme for the youngest children (e.g. below 13 years old) to return to school;
  • Coaching and educational programme for older children (e.g. 13 – 17-year old);
  • Vocational and technical training for children having completed basic education;
  • Programme for improving access to saving or micro-financing schemes, including training on financial literacy;
  • Campaign to discourage families to send their children to work (including awareness raising);
  • Campaign to discourage employers and labour intermediaries to hire children (including awareness raising);
  • Deployment of occupational health and safety experts;
  • Improvement of quality of -and access to- local education;
  • Improvement of infrastructure and facilities (e.g. electricity, water, sanitation, child care facilities, recreation) for workers (in collaboration with local authorities);
  • Increase of transparency in the supply chain with a stronger focus on traceability;
  • User-friendly, easy-to-access grievance and feedback mechanisms;
  • Child Labour Free Zones (see this document for more information).

In general, it is recommended to assess a baseline on the children’s work as a priority starting point before implementing measures for change. 

However, your responsibility to act and the expectation that you are directly involved in such interventions on the ground depends on your position in the supply chain (see also the section ‘What is Your Responsibility?’ in the introductory section of this toolkit) What is your Responsibility?. In general, if your company causes or contributes to child labour through its own activities, it is expected to stop doing so, and remediate the harm or its contribution to the harm. Where child labour is only linked to your company’s business relationships, your company is expected to take action to try to mitigate the risk of the impact continuing or recurring.

  • Many KNSV members are probably only linked to possible child labour through their supply chains. Such companies are mainly expected to make an effort together with others to improve the situation for the children. However, If your company lacks sufficient leverage with suppliers/business relationships, you may want to increase leverage, for example by:

    • Introducing RBC and due diligence expectations into commercial contracts.
    • Establishing commercial incentives linked to RBC criteria.
    • Establishing longer-term relationships with your suppliers or other business relationships.
    • Partnering with suppliers/business relationships to develop and implement corrective action plans that are time-bound and outcome-oriented.
    • Providing technical guidance to suppliers/business relationships, for example in the form of training, management systems upgrading, etc.
    • Facilitating the participation of suppliers/business relationships in broader sector-wide initiatives or regional initiatives to prevent impacts.
    • Facilitating linkages of suppliers/business relationships with local service providers.
    • Facilitating access to financing for suppliers/business relationships to help implement corrective action plans, for example through direct financing, low-interest loans, guarantees of continued sourcing, and assistance in securing financing.
    • Teaming up with companies sourcing from the same supplier and developing and sharing a common set of requirements. This way you can apply combined leverage to encourage the shared suppliers to implement effective corrective action measures. However take competition law into consideration!
    • Establishing a sector-wide or regional level initiative to identify and engage suppliers that operate at common control points in the sector supply chain (e.g., the Sustainable Spices Initiative).
    • Joining existing geographic or child labour-specific initiatives that seek to prevent and mitigate child labour (e.g., country, commodity or sector roundtables, multi-stakeholder initiatives and on-the-ground programmes).

  • In general, employers’ and workers’ organisations, civil society organisations, international organisations and other stakeholders can all contribute to the elimination of child labour. Your company may want to further increase leverage by engaging or partnering with these organisations. In addition, you may want to engage with governments in sourcing countries to discuss the their critical role in protecting children. In doing so, it can be particularly helpful to engage through national employers’ organisations.

  • Consider procuring certified spices or spices from specific sustainability initiatives, providing that these certification schemes and initiatives sufficiently address abolishment of child labour. See overview in Due Diligence Management Module 1: Step 4: Assess Adverse Impacts.
  • In general, if child labour is somehow related to your company’s current supply chains or other business relationships, disengagement with the business relationship should only be considered as a last resort. This is because the situation for the affected children will not improve or may even deteriorate. Disengagement should only be considered either after failed attempts at mitigation or where the company considers mitigation not feasible.

  • Although it is unlikely that many KNSV members cause or contribute to child labour, if such situation occurs the company must implement a policy to communicate with impacted or potentially impacted right holders in a timely, culturally sensitive and accessible manner. In that case consider implementing the actions as presented in sections 6.1 and 6.2 of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct.

  • In the case of possible involvement in interventions on the ground and/or for monitoring of the effectiveness of measures make sure to consider the ILO Guidance for Developing Child Labour Monitoring Processes. This Guidance aims to prevent negative side effects when interacting directly with children. In case of engagement with indigenous peoples also consider the guidelines of Annex B of OECD-FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains.

  • Note that failing to take meaningful action to prevent and address child labour in the company’s operations or value chain cannot be offset by doing good elsewhere.

  • After child labour risk management plans have been implemented, continue to conduct child labour due diligence for the specific supply chain, even when child labour has been abolished (the frequency of due diligence may decrease when child labour has been proven not to have taken place for a longer period). Consider cooperating with others to conduct such periodic verification activities. If child labour proves not to have been abolished, develop and implement a new risk management initiative.


In 2018 a number of case studies with regard to spices from specific origins have been carried out. The objective of these studies were (1) analysis of the scale, scope, severity and root causes of child labour and (2) identification of possible mitigating measures. These case studies are examples of in-depth analyses referred to in the “How to Identify, Assess and Prioritise Risks in Supply Chains?” section of this toolkit (module 2). 

It concerns: