Activist’s open letter to Church of England leader pleading to end child labour

Activist Fernando Morales-de la Cruz across the Thames from the Palace of Westminster in London, England. Picture: Supplied

Activist Fernando Morales-de la Cruz across the Thames from the Palace of Westminster in London, England. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 29, 2024


London, January 29 2024

The Most Rev. and the Right Hon.

Archbishop of Canterbury

Justin Welby

Lambeth Palace

London, United Kingdom

Your excellency,

I am a Guatemalan journalist and a human rights activist who has investigated misery, hunger, infant malnutrition, child labour and forced labour in the supply chains of corporations and developed nations for 10 years with the goal of eradicating them.

I am extremely concerned that the Church of England continues to promote and support so-called “Fairtrade”. A business model of the German organisation Fairtrade International promoted in the UK by the Fairtrade Foundation that besides deceiving consumers sustains misery, hunger, infant malnutrition, and child labour in the rural communities that produce coffee, cocoa, tea, sugar, etc.

Activist Fernando Morales-de la Cruz outside Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Picture: Supplied

“Fairtrade” has never been FAIR according to the definition of FAIR in the dictionary. The price paid to growers has always been exploitative. The new historically “high” “Fairtrade” price paid to coffee growers is the equivalent, adjusted for inflation, to less than 50% of the minimum price the coffee growers were paid forty years ago, under the International Coffee Agreement of 1983. There is hunger in the coffeelands and this is true even in what the Church of England dares to call a fairer deal for farmers and rural workers. Today these “Fairtrade” farmers and workers receive together only 2.5p or less of the price of a cup of coffee sold in the United Kingdom for £2.50 or £3.50 or even more.

This is neocolonial.

They should receive at least 10p per cup in order to be really fair. The same is true in “Fairtrade” cocoa, tea, etc.

The Church of England supports “Fairtrade” Churches a deceitful marketing campaign that benefits mostly the large corporations and retailers using the “Fairtrade” label but does not eradicate misery or child labour in supply chains as it claims. In my opinion “Fairtrade” Churches and the marketing and sale of exploitative goods as “Fairtrade” by the Church of England is exploitation abusing the name of God. Something unacceptable for any true Christian. You must stop this scam immediately.

In his testimony at the European Parliament Ange Aboa, a Reuters correspondent for West and Central Africa who has reported about cocoa for more than 20 years, responding to a question about the certifications from the then Chair of the Development Committee, UK MEP Linda McAvan, said that the certifications Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, etc “are the biggest scam of the century”. In fact, their business model is illegal. It is consumer fraud. Why does the Church of England support consumer fraud and deceitful marketing?

In 2019 the Church of England supported a campaign claiming that African women deserved a “Living Income” of £1.86 a day. That amount for any woman anywhere in Africa is cruel, exploitative and racist. It supports Modern Day Slavery in supply chains. In the words of Jose Maria Figueres, former president of Costa Rica, at the Coffee Producers Forum in 2021: “A living income is not acceptable from an ethical point of view, from a moral point of view, from a human point of view…”

I was in Davos during the World Economic Forum for the 14th time two weeks ago.

I wrote a “Letter from Davos to Pope Francis” and I would appreciate very much that you read it.

I would like to believe that you agree with me that it is absolutely unacceptable that 75 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the 2,500 WEF participants profit from the exploitation of more than 75 million children and yet Dr. Klaus Schwab and the WEF members claim that they are “Improving the State of the World,” while hundreds of mountain high journalists look the other way at their human rights abuses.

This was my video message to Dr. Klaus Schwab, the Board of Trustees and all WEF members.

As I wrote to the Holy Father: “If we want to eliminate misery, hunger, child malnutrition, forced labour and child labour, some journalists must change their attitude of indifference to misery, neutrality in the face of injustice and, in some cases, even complicity with the exploiters. Some key investors must become true ethical investors. At present, Christian and Catholic churches are not leading a global movement of ethical investors to eliminate exploitation in corporate business models. They must do so to be consistent with the faith they profess.”

At the beginning of 2021 I contacted Reverend Edward Carter, then Chair of the Church Investors Group, to express my concern that the Churches members of the CIG did not play an activist role in demanding the elimination of child labour in corporate supply chains. On May 5, 2021 I received a message from the Chair of the Church Investors Group saying:

It was good to confirm at our most recent Church Investors Group Trustee Board meeting that we're to focus on the 'Child Labour in Supply Chains' project over the coming months.

I will always be grateful to Reverend Edward Carter because he managed to get the Board of Trustees of the Church Investors Group to agree to work on child labour in corporate supply chains. Two years later, in May 2023 I confirmed that the members of the Church Investors Group had done almost nothing to help eliminate child labour in corporate supply chains and many continue to have partnerships that sustain child labour with corporations. 2021 was officially the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, neither the Church Investors Group nor the Church of England had a plan to eliminate child labor even in the “Fairtrade” coffee, tea and chocolates you consume in Lambeth Palace or in the Houses of Parliament.

The group of Christian Churches in the CIG still does not have a plan. I demand that you act to change this immediately.

As you know, on November 14-15, 2023, the Church Investors Group met in London and discussed: How well do the 1000+ biggest companies in the world consider their impact on children? The presentation was made by Matthew Goodwin, of the Global Child Forum.

They used false benchmarks based on information published by the corporations without any verification by third parties to rank the corporations that protect children’s rights.

Their Global Benchmarks Report 2023 even dares to claim that Nestle is the European Leader in children’s rights. The truth is that Nestle is one of the top global leaders in the exploitation of children in its supply chains, besides being responsible for hunger, infant malnutrition and misery in its supply chains of coffee, cocoa, tea, sugar, palm oil, etc., etc.

The Global Child Forum claims that they “highlight children’s rights at the heart of sustainability and smart investments.” They also claim that investors with 7,2 trillion with USD in AUM are using their insights. As a seasoned businessman and social leader you know well that many NGOs, “charities” and foundations do not exist to protect the poor, the vulnerable or the defenceless children but to protect the financial interests and the reputation of the corporations and wealthy individuals that fund them.

I sent this WhatsApp message to my friends in Africa, Asia and Latin America a few days ago:

Greetings from London. The King’s Fairtrade Rooibos tea is harvested by child labor. The King’s Fairtrade Darjeeling tea is harvested by child labor. The King’s Fairtrade coffee is harvested by child labor or forced labor. Some of the King’s cotton and silk clothes are produced with child labor or forced labor. The King is a committed environmentalist, and his electric and hybrid cars are produced in part with child labor. The Church of England, headed by King Charles, profits from slavery and child labor by investing in corporations with cruel and illegal business models. The CoE also operates businesses and supports NGOs that use child labor and deceive consumers. (sic)

I hope that the Lord Jesus Christ guides your response to my extremely serious concerns and you do everything in your power to implement with immediate effect a policy of #ZeroChildLabor and #ZeroSlavery in the Church of England and demand that also in the Church Investors Group, in the United Kingdom and in the Commonwealth.


Fernando Morales-de la Cruz

* Fernando Morales-de la Cruz is an activist and vocal advocate for the abolition of child labour and slavery globally.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.