Bayer Child Care Program: Towards sustainable supply chain

Child labor is one of the biggest problems of our time: the United Nations estimates that between 168 million children around the world are forced to work – making a care-free childhood and a school education impossible.
Child Care Program

For the past eight years, Bayer has worked effectively to implement a comprehensive multilevel Child Care Program (CCP) an initiative that has transformed the way seed supply chain is organized -making it sustainable and complaint with its policy of saying no to child labor. CCP has been rolled out in five states - Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu where the company has contract cotton seed production. It aims at getting children off the fields of contract farmers and in to the school.

Bayer's Child Care Program has been set up with robust management systems that formulated specific actions, step-by-step, for identifying and monitoring child labor at cottonseed farms. Awareness-rising is at the heart of its proposal.

A series of program-enabling elements such as a sophisticated monitoring program, an incentive & sanction scheme, Target 400, a training programs for the enhancement of farmers' productivity, safe use and handling of crop protection products, became a part of the model. A strict guideline based on the company policy of 'zero tolerance for child labor' has been implemented and Bayer started working only with those farmers who confirm by contract not to employ children on their fields.

Bayer Human Rights Position

We follow a clear 'zero tolerance to child labor' policy in our business operations worldwide. We do not tolerate child labor in our supply chain either, where we take strict action against known cases of violation.

Steps of the Child Care Program

The program comprises of the following action points:
  • Raising awareness on the ills of child labor among local communities and farmers
  • A comprehensive field monitoring program
  • A clear contractual ban of child labor combined with incentives and sanctions for farmers
  • Stakeholder dialogue to continuously improve the program
  • Improving children’s access to education through the 'Learning for Life' initiative

Raising Awareness

At Bayer, we recognize that the first step to change is awareness. We aim to raise awareness among people and not penalize farmers. We wish to educate parents about the benefits of enrolling their children in schools instead of sending them to work in cotton seed fields. Therefore, the Child Care Program aims to constantly communicate the ills of child labor to local communities, farmers, children and their families, and enlighten them about the benefits of education.

A well-planned awareness activity has been implemented which includes everything from written messages against child labor and prints on all company seed packaging in local languages, to farmer awareness campaigns, to traditionally accepted media such as puppet shows, slides in cinema theaters and street plays. The campaign message was standardized as 'Let's stop children from working, let's protect their right to education'.

Child Labor Clause in our Contracts

The grower is obliged, through three agreements, not to engage child laborers:
  • Before the growing season starts, we create a 'Letter of Intent' in local language with our future farmers. It clearly points to our general policy of not accepting child labor
  • When handing over the foundation seed, the 'Letter of Undertaking', also in local language, is signed by both parties. It contains again a 'No Child Labor' clause and informs the farmers of the tiered sanction system should the contract be broken. It also includes a system of incentives as a reward for compliance
  • The 'Seed Production-Grower Agreement' in English details our business relationship with the grower. It includes a 'No Child Labor' clause

Field Monitoring Programs

A stringent monitoring system ensures that we have minimal child labor incidences. The contracted fields used in cotton seed production are checked at least six times each season. Cotton production staff along with Child Care Program field monitors carry out unannounced assessment visits on the farms. These teams are rotated across locations. During each of these visits, the staff collects age information about the laborers. When a child laborer is identified, the farmer was given two working days to find an adult replacement. When the age of a worker cannot be unambiguously established, an age verification process is set in motion and is completed within four working days.

This system has ended all ambiguity toward identification and monitoring of child labor. Such a system also provides Bayer with accurate and precise data and information on child labor cases. Further, guidelines for external stakeholders interested to visit the cotton farms have also been implemented. Monitoring efforts are validated via external sample checks by Ernst & Young on a relevant number of randomly selected farms. They independently conduct unannounced field visits over the crop season.


Every farmer who complies with our policy against child labor is paid an incentive at the end of each season.


We decided against employing an immediate cancellation of contracts at the first violation of the 'No Child Labor' policy, because such an approach would not aid in the eventual eradication of child labor in villages. Instead, we have chosen a graduated sanction scheme to tackle violations of our policy. Repeated violators face an eventual termination of their contracts as per the following sanction scheme.
  • 1st incident - written warning
  • 2nd incident - loss of bonus
  • 3rd incident - 10% cut of procurement price
  • 4th incident - cancellation of contract

Farmer training program

Target 400 is a training program for farmers aimed at increasing their productivity and profitability as well as their awareness of the safe use and handling of plant protection agents. Bayer's field officers hold training sessions for the farmers.

Learning for Life project - Impacting lives

A key component of the Child Care Program is the educational module under the broader 'Learning for Life' initiative. It provides out- of-school children from cotton seed production farms with access to education.

A continuous improvement process

The measures are bearing fruit. The incidence rates of child labor in our cotton seed production have dropped continuously to a now virtual level of zero in our cotton seed supply chain. And thanks to our education efforts, many children are back where they belong – at school. The Child Care Program was started in cotton seed production in India and is now being transferred to other crops, e.g. to the hybrid rice seed production.

Our success so far doesn’t mean that our commitment has reached its end – much the contrary. Bayer is constantly looking at ways to improve the Child Care Program. The positive results we have already had keep motivating us to do more – for example by extending the outreach of our best educational program tools to more villages and other regions.

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