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5 Aug 2020

Oliver Balch, The Guardian

USA: Activists warn that Nestle/Cargill lawsuit risks creating 'safe haven' for corporate abuse

"US could become ‘safe haven’ for corporate abusers, activists warn," 5 August 2020

US corporations could be able to commit human rights violations overseas with almost no legal sanction, effectively turning the US into a “safe haven” for corporate abusers…The possible change arises from a legal challenge by multinational firms Nestlé and Cargill to…a lawsuit lodged under the disputed Alien Tort Statute to be brought against them for “aiding and abetting” forced labour in Ivory Coast’s cocoa industry.

The companies argue that the law in question, which dates back to 1789, only applies to individuals and cannot be used to indict corporate entities…Should the US Supreme Court reinterpret the law in the companies’ favour, victims would need to prove the culpability of individual decision-makers within the accused corporations to bring a case.

[A decision in the companies’ favour] would incentivise companies to become “lazier” about monitoring their supply chains and “potentially more abusive” in their operations [said Charity Ryerson, Executive Director of Corporate Accountability Lab]. The exception would be human trafficking, for which corporations can still be held liable under the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

…In a statement, Cargill said the company does not tolerate human trafficking, forced or child labour in its operations or supply chain. “We take steps to understand potential problems, while continuing to work actively to protect human rights, with a firm commitment to protecting the rights of the child worldwide”…A Nestlé spokesperson maintained that child labour in foreign countries is a “complex, global social problem”. It said the company now has “explicit policies against it”, including a monitoring and remediation system designed to engage with households where children are at risk and provide remediation measures.

Part of the following timelines

Child labour case against Nestlé, ADM & Cargill will move forward after US Supreme Court declines to hear companies' appeal

Nestlé, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland lawsuit (re Côte d'Ivoire)