An investigation into Nestle's cocoa supply chain has revealed "numerous violations" of its labour code, notably with regard to child labour.

The probe, by Fair Labor Association (FLA), was instituted following an agreement with the two parties late last year. The results were announced today (29 June) and included "multiple serious violations" of Nestlé's supplier code, with child labour "the primary cause for concern".

Health and safety violations, excessive working hours and discrimination were also found, the report said.

FLA has made 11 recommendations for Nestle. The organisation said the Kit Kat manufacturer should strengthen its supplier code and defining clear roles for staff, suppliers, cooperatives and farmers covering all aspects of its Nestlé Cocoa Plan, which aims to improve the lives of farmers and improve cocoa yields.

FLA recommended Nestle review and strengthen contracts with suppliers to develop a "robust and comprehensive" monitoring system covering all actors in the supply chain. The organisation also called on Nestle to local and international stakeholders such as the International Cocoa Initiative, World Cocoa Foundation and the International Committee of the Red Cross share information and work more closely.

Nestle said it "fully supports" all recommendations and is acting upon them, in some cases in collaboration with its partners.

"The use of child labour in our cocoa supply chain goes against everything we stand for," said José Lopez, Nestle executive vice president for operations. "As the FLA report makes clear, no company sourcing cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire can guarantee that it doesn’t happen, but what we can say is that tackling child labour is a top priority for our company."

Nestle has published an action plan outlining three phases of improvement activities to be completed by the end of 2012, 2013 and 2016 respectively.

In the short-term, it has agreed to develop a clear, illustrated guide to its supplier code by October 2012 and distribute this to more than 20,000 farmers participating in the Nestlé Cocoa Plan. It will also boost training of all employees who deal directly with farms to look for violations and encourage compliance with the labour code.

The company will also conduct a survey of child labour at two cooperatives by the end of the 2012/2013 harvesting season and at six co-ops in the 2013/2014 season, with the aim of establishing a baseline measurement of compliance at all Nestle cocoa plan co-ops by the end of 2015.

"Our investigation of Nestle's cocoa supply chain represents the first time a multinational chocolate producer has allowed its procurement system to be completely traced and assessed. For too long child labour in cocoa production has been everybody's problem and therefore nobody's responsibility," said FLA president Auret van Heerden. "Nestle is taking direct responsibility for decreasing the risks in its supply chain especially when it concerns the persistent challenges of ending child labour. But make no mistake, the eradication of child labour is a long journey and this report is just the first dispatch from the field, with many, many more to follow."