Do you know your cocoa? What’s really behind the delicious chocolate you eat on a daily basis? It’s something a lot more sinister than you think. Read on to learn more about the connection between cocoa and child labor.
This post was originally inspired by a documentary I watched in high school. I’ve been going through the archives recently and decided that it was time to revamp this one specifically since it touches on a topic that not many people are aware. But just because people aren’t aware, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have importance. In fact, I am hoping some of you will be able to change some of your buying practices based on the information I share with you today. Read on to learn more…
I wanted to share some info I just learned about this week. It’s really quite shocking and I think a lot of you would appreciate knowing about it.
On Friday, I watched a documentary called “The Dark Side of Chocolate”.
Mmm chocolate, right?! But sadly this documentary was about something much more serious than just the sweet stuff all on its own. Here’s a short synopsis of the film:
A team of journalists investigate how human trafficking and child labor in the Ivory Coast fuels the worldwide chocolate industry. The crew interview both proponents and opponents of these alleged practices, and use hidden camera techniques to delve into the gritty world of cocoa plantations.
Human trafficking and cocoa? You wouldn’t normally think of those two things in relation to each other. Sadly they have a lot more in common than you’d think.
The documentary goes to great lengths in great detail to expose how the largest cocoa manufacturers in the world (think Hershey’s, Nestle, etc.) buy their cocoa from plantations (most notably in the Ivory Coast) that use child labor to farm the cocoa pods. Not only is it illegal for companies (specifically in the cocoa industry) to buy/sell cocoa that has been produced by child labor, but also most of the kids that are working the plantations have been kidnapped from their homes and are usually worked until they die. Essentially, modern-day slavery.
It was awful to see the actual footage of the trafficked children and to see the interworkings of the whole trafficking process. If that aspect weren’t bad enough, the cocoa industry is aware of these horrible practices and yet continues to do nothing about it.
The reason the plantation owners resort to child labor (and I am in no way justifying their actions!), is because it is free and pretty much the only type they can afford.
This is where the principles of Fair and Free Trade come into play. The farmers get such low (WAY BELOW market value!) prices for their cocoa products from the big cocoa manufacturers, that they hardly make any profit from which to live on. While the cocoa companies mark up the price of the cocoa 500 times and make astronomical amounts of money on the global market, the farmers and child workers suffer in poverty.
If the cocoa companies carried out their business in accordance with the practices of Fair and Free Trade and gave their producers reasonable payments for their goods, two bad situations could be resolved at once: child trafficking for labor would reduce drastically and the economic development in the impoverished nations these plantations are located in would improve due to the increases in profit.
I realize it’s not exactly THAT simple. However, it is clear that the cocoa companies’ greed for money, outweighs their moral values. I for one, am definitely going to look a little more closely at the cocoa and chocolate products I buy next time I am at the store. Even if it means buying a higher priced product with a Fair Trade seal. It’s worth it to me to ensure that the people producing these products are getting the rightful payment for their work.
No more Hershey’s for this girl.
There was actually a petition started to get Hershey to change their business practice…this is what resulted once the group collected over 100,000 signatures:
On January 30th, 2012 , The Hershey Company announced that it would make a commitment to purchasing Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa for all of its Bliss Chocolate products, starting later this year.
This commitment is a welcome first step for Hershey to improve its supply chain accountability. This is the first commitment that Hershey has made to using an independent, third-party certification system to ensure that its cocoa is grown sustainably, including the monitoring of forced and child labor.
This commitment also demonstrates that The Hershey Company acknowledges the severity of the labor abuses that taint the West African cocoa sector, from where Hershey sources the majority of its cocoa.
The members of the Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign congratulate Hershey on this first step to achieve greater supply chain accountability and hope that it will be the beginning of comprehensive supply chain traceability and certified child-labor free Hershey chocolate products.
We declare partial victory today because of this announcement. We achieved this through sustained, consistent consumer-based advocacy targeted at Hershey. We collected over 100,000 petition signatures, through Change.org and other sources, and organized petition deliveries, brandjamming contests, protests, and Facebook rallies to blanket Hershey’s wall with messages.
Hershey made its announcement less than one week after we announced that an ad would run during the Super Bowl that would highlight the company’s use of child slavery in cocoa production.
While this is a tremendous step, the Raise the Bar, Hershey! Coalition will not end our advocacy here. We will continue to work to end child labor and exploitation in the cocoa industry and to push Hershey to increase traceability and justice throughout its chocolate supply chain.
Pretty amazing, right? I know it’s just one small step, but it shows how standing up for something and voicing your desire for change in the world can really make a difference. Consumers have power and companies are listening. We just have to remember to take action, vote with our dollars, and stay resolute in our decision to not support corrupt business practices.
By the way, if you’re on board with boycotting cocoa companies that support child labor, here are a few options you can choose from instead…
Do you KNOW your COCOA?
Do you pay attention to Fair Trade seals when buying products?
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