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Bayer CropScience Child Care Program - Protecting Children´s Rights

Background to the casestudy

Initial situation

When Bayer CropScience acquired the seed production company Proagro at the end of 2002, the company was confronted with the issue of child labor in the production of cotton seeds.

Bayer CropScience’s position on human rights is unambiguous and includes a strict ban on child labor. In many developing and emerging countries, child labor is unfortunately still widespread in agriculture and light industry and often deep-rooted in society.

Poverty is one of the main reasons for child labor, though it is often not the only one. Other factors also play a major role:

  • Children’s hands are said to be ideal for performing manual pollination of flowers for seed production, while children are also the perfect height for cotton plants, thereby enabling them to work faster.
  • In comparison with adult workers, children are often shy and do not demand regulated working times or observance of breaks.

Relationship to core business

With annual sales of around EUR 6.5 billion (2009), Bayer CropScience AG is one of the world’s leading innovative crop science companies with operations in crop protection, non-agricultural pest control (Environmental Science) and seed and plant traits (BioScience).

Bayer CropScience’s business activities are concentrated on the four key crops canola, rice, cotton and vegetables. The company has also started research on enhanced cereal varieties. Its research activities are also increasingly focusing on soybeans.

Intension of corporate citizenship

Description of the issue

Once Bayer CropScience became aware about child labor in its cotton seed production, the company immediately set to work on developing a package of effective countermeasures:

1. Contractual ban on child labor
Contracts concluded with Bayer CropScience’s partners expressly ban child labor. Clear agreements are reached that specify penalties of varying severity in the event of non-compliance, and provide incentives for dispensing with child labor.

2. Regular visits to areas under cultivation to check ages
During the growing season, for example, Bayer CropScience teams visit cotton-growing areas several times to check the age of the people working there. A separate organizational unit is responsible for this and the results are verified each year by an independent auditor.

3. "Learning for Life" education opportunities
Children should be given the chance of a better future. The company’s “Learning for Life” initiative covers everything from reintegration into the regular school system to vocational education measures. The projects in our “Learning for Life” initiative form a key part of the Bayer CropScience Child Care Program:

  • Bayer School of Agriculture
    The Bayer School of Agriculture, a vocational education center near Hyderabad, opened in January 2008. Its aim is to provide underprivileged children in rural areas with practical agricultural skills through courses to prepare them for skilled work in the future.
  • Naandi Foundation – „Creative Learning Centers“
    Bayer CropScience works in collaboration with India’s Naandi Foundation in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. These centers provide effective support with enrolment and reintegration. For example, since 2004 over 1,000 children have been reintegrated into the regular school system as a result of the activities with Naandi.
  • Basic vocational education in schools – "Introduction to Basic  Technology"
    Since December 2008, this project – implemented in cooperation with two experienced non-governmental organizations – has provided vocational lessons for Year 8 and since 2009 for Year 9 in addition. The aim is to make attending school more attractive. The project is initially focused on five schools in the Indian state of Karnataka.

4. Raising awareness of the problem
Schooling is the key to a higher income later in life. Bayer CropScience is  getting this message across with its communication strategies and showing farmers that they can work their fields profitably without using children.

5. Incentives for farmers
Bayer CropScience helps ensure the economic efficiency of cotton cultivation through further incentives such as training in the use of crop protection agents and extensive knowledge transfer on crop production as part of our “Target 400” program.

  • Bayer CropScience helps to negotiate micro loans at reasonable interest rates / make these available itself.
  • In cooperation with the Multi Commodities Exchange of India (MCX) and the India Post, Bayer CropScience has opened service centers (Gramin Suvidha Kendra) in 15 villages in the Indian state of Karnataka. Farmers can consult weather reports here and also obtain harvest insurance, current details on prices and quotations for temporary storage of the crops they harvest. This gives them direct access to the market. Comprehensive consultancy services on crop production are also available.

Target group

 

  • cotton seed producers (farmers)
  • people living in rural areas who work in the fields for our producers
  • children from the region

Target groups in a wider sense include

  • non-governmental organizations
  • school authorities
  • governments and
  • general public.

They can help spread the word about the "Bayer CropScience Child Care Program" as a good real-life example of how to significantly reduce child labor.

Implementation

Strategy

Eliminating child labor is a complex task and requires comprehensive solutions. To really help children, it is important to ensure that families receive sufficient income. Children must also be offered long-term (career) prospects. Education is the key to a better future. Supervisory and inspection measures must ensure that children do not work in the fields – but that is only part of the task. It is much more important to change the way people think. Fields can also be worked cost-effectively without child labor. Bayer CropSience’s multi-level action program in India aims to make it clear to children and their families in rural areas that child labor can be no way of securing their livelihood.

Resources

The measurable achievements from a program are much more important than input that can be difficult to quantify. That’s why Bayer CropScience chooses not to refer to a figure that is inevitably difficult to calculate and has little meaning in this context.

The program is a multi-disciplinary project involving management, specialists from the Child Care Team, staff from the seed production team and colleagues working in communications who play a key role in raising awareness of the issue. Employees also help make the project a success through guest presentations in schools and their own personal commitment and involvement.

Partners

 

  • Vignana Jyothi (NGO) - vocational training at the „Bayer School of Agriculture“
  • Naandi Foundation - enrolment and reintegration of children into the state school system
  • Vigyan Ashram und Prajayatna (NGO) - implementing the “Introduction to Basic Technology” project
  • Multi Commodity Exchange of India (MCX) and India Post – setting-up village service centers
  • own advisory body of independent experts (Fair Labor Association, German Society for Technical Coorperation (GTZ), Friedensau Adventist University, The Energy and Research Institute (TERI))

Challenges

Acceptance of child labor is deeply rooted in rural areas in India. By communicating clearly and unambiguously that child labor will not be tolerated by Bayer CropScience, we initially run counter to the long-established value system.

Bayer CropScience had to engage in some persuasion and create trust and credibility to ultimately change the way people think. The company was only able to achieve success by convincing people that children with a better education have better opportunities for the future.

This change in thinking occurred through many small steps. People began to realize that collaborating with Bayer CropScience brought them immediate benefits. For example, through knowledge transfer on crop production, the company was able to deliver significant and long-term growth in yields. This resulted in an increased readiness to listen to Bayer CropScience and to put advice into practice.

Achievement

  • Bayer CropScience’s supply chain for cotton seed in India no longer has any systematic child labor. The company only encounters isolated cases and deals with immediately.
  • The “Introduction to Basic Technology” program reached 1,000 children from its launch up to June 2009.
  • 1,402 children were (re)integrated into the school system as a result of the collaboration with the Naandi Foundation from the start of the project up to September 2009.
  • At the agricultural vocational training center near Hyderabad founded in conjunction with Vignana Jyothi, students graduated from the first one-year course in January 2009. 19 of the total 27 graduates from this first year found a job. A second year group successfully completed its training in January 2010.
  • Up to September 2009, 337 farmers registered to take part in the project at the “village service centers” (Gramin Suvidha Kendra) launched in December 2008 in conjunction with the Multi Commodity Exchange of India and India Post.
  • Under the umbrella of the international federation CropLife International, a position against child labor was agreed in conjunction with other companies from the seed industry and published to coincide with the World Day Against Child Labor on June 12, 2009. As well as companies, the drafting of this position also involved non-governmental organizations such as the Fair Labor Association and intergovernmental organizations including the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
  • Bayer CropScience’s communication material reached an estimated 9,000 to 10,000 people in India.

Lessons learned

The measures to be implemented should give people a direct benefit that they can feel immediately. This raises the level of acceptance for further action. The aim is to achieve a win-win situation for the company and the people affected.

Working with local organizations who are at home in the language has proven to be beneficial for Bayer CropScience. Major intervention by staff from Europe should be avoided if at all possible, except where specific know-how is required in individual cases. European employees are not usually familiar with local conditions, the specific cultural characteristics or language.

Bayer CropScience AG

Company business type: Crop Protection, BioScience, Environmental Science
Volume of trade: 6.510 Mio € EUR
Employees: 18.700
Countries: India
Duration of CSR activity: 2003 to ongoing

Contact person

Mr. Dr. Uwe Brekau, Abteilung Corporate Social Responsibility

Telephone: 02173-38-0