There is a multitude of chocolate products on the market: ice cream, cookies, hot chocolate or dark chocolate. But all these sweet chocolate delights require the hard work of more than 1.5 million farmers, mostly from the Ivory Coast and Ghana, who grow and then harvest cocoa beans. Ivory Coast and Ghana are the two countries that produce more than half the world’s cocoa beans.
But this type of work has led to an increase in child trafficking and extremely difficult working conditions. According to a report released by Oxfam International, in 2009, along with Ivory Coast and Ghana, other countries which have similar problems are Indonesia, Ecuador and Cameroon.
Women, especially, get the worst paid jobs and they are harassed. “Most cocoa producers have never tasted chocolate,” write the authors of a report published in 2009.
The situation began to attract attention of chocolate lovers in the developed world. Big companies are starting to develop programs in this regard, Nestle and Mars already announced they will get involved in improving the working conditions of women in this industry. According to the same report, both companies have seen worrying statistics about the attention they give to these problems.
Human beings are curious by nature, but at what point does wondering about something turn into a life-threatening fact-finding mission? All the time, would be the appropriate answer for investigative journalist Miki Mistrati. After all, he is the Dane who gave the world the award-winning documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate.
The globally renowned film, released in 2010, set out to document the trafficking of African children in the chocolate industry.
The 46-minute documentary shot over 18 months was aimed at educating consumers on the realities of their seemingly innocent purchases from supermarket shelves.
“The idea for the film came about from a visit to my local supermarket where I’d gone to buy some chocolate,” Mistrati said. “I saw a variety of chocolate bars and one of them had the Fair Trade mark on it, so I began to wonder, if one was Fair Trade what about the other six chocolate bars?”
The bright red cards and red boxes of candy promoting Valentine’s Day romance are everywhere.
But there’s a dark secret underlying this fun holiday that’s beginning to see daylight.
Much of the chocolate sold by major chocolate manufacturers is produced through child trafficking and slave labor, working mostly under horrendous conditions for extremely poor wages.
In 2001 the child slave labor issue in the chocolate industry was brought to light through a series of investigative articles by Knight Ridder newspapers. Reporters profiled young boys who were tricked into slavery or sold as slaves to Ivory Coast cocoa farmers. The Ivory Coast, on the southern coast of West Africa, supplies more than 43 percent of the world’s cocoa beans. The more than 600,000 cocoa farms in Ivory Coast account for one-third of that nation’s total economy.
Jasper’s petition comes in response to Hershey’s announcement that it will follow the lead of other major chocolate companies and begin sourcing some third-party certified cocoa beans. Jasper and the International Labor Rights Forum are glad that Hershey’s has moved beyond charity programs, but our goal is to have Hershey’s be the leader in child-labor-free chocolate instead of just barely keeping pace with its competitors.
Hershey’s announcement means the fight to stop global companies from exploiting poor African farming families and children is gaining traction. We are barely at a point now where chocolate companies are accepting accountability for their supply chains. They are asking themselves: “How much more do we need to pay to keep the kids out of our cocoa fields?” Unfortunately, few if any are asking themselves the right questions, such as, “How can we empower African farmers to demand a better price?” and, “How can we ensure workers throughout our supply chain are treated fairly?”
Valentine’s Day is a huge money-maker in the chocolate industry and a great opportunity for us to make a difference.
The global cocoa industry often traffics children to work as slaves. According toUNICEF, in West Africa 200,000 children are living in conditions of forced labor and slavery on cocoa farms. One company that has been under heavy pressure to remove child labor from their supply chains is U.S. chocolate leader Hershey; however, the years of pressure by consumers and the media, not to mention the industry itself, have largely passed with little impact. The Hershey Company has been aware that their products are tainted by slavery and child labor since at least 2001, when along with the other major chocolate companies, Hershey made a commitment to end child and forced labor in their cocoa supply chains. In September 2001, chocolate and cocoa industry representatives signed the Harkin Engel Protocol, developed by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engel, in an effort to eliminate child labor in the industry. The protocol has a six-point approach to solve the problem, including a time sensitive process to establish credibility and eliminate the use of child slavery. The protocol was signed by the industry’s large cocoa producing companies and set forth an action plan to eliminate the worst forms of child labor and forced labor from cocoa farms worldwide by 2005.
However, Hershey’s has continued to produce their products undaunted by the knowledge that their profits come with a high human cost. They continue to source cocoa from the Ivory Coast, which according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), produces 43% of the worlds cocoa, without ensuring that child labor exploitation does not occur in the production of the cocoa they use. However, it seems that 2012 is the year Hershey will finally opened their eyes and fall to pressure, mostly thanks to the International Labor Rights Forum and the public campaign “Raise The Bar“, aimed directly at the company’s failure to act. The ILRF contacted Hershey to let them know of their plans to air an ad about Hershey’s child labor issues on a jumbo-tron at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl. Suddenly Hershey’s was ready to speak up and issued a statement that, by the end of 2012, they pledged to use onlyRainforest Alliance certified cocoa for its Bliss chocolate line. Rainforest Alliance Certified farms have three pillars of sustainability: environmental protection, social equity and economic viability. Hershey’s also stated they they plan to invest $10 million in West Africa, to encourage economic initiatives and to reduce child labor and improve cocoa supply (Huffington Post). While this is great news, it is not yet time to celebrate, as it is a small step in the long road to freedom for millions of children victimized by child labor.
Hershey’s use of child-slave labor will be the subject of a commercial titled “Hershey’s Chocolate: Kissed by Child Labor.” The first-ever Super Bowl “brand-jamming” ad will appear on a jumbotron screen immediately outside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where the game will be played on Sunday, February 5th, alongside spots by McDonalds, AllState, and others and is expected to reach over 250,000 consumers attending Super Bowl day activities.
The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), an organization dedicated to ending the worst forms of child labor, sponsored the ad which features West African children forced to harvest cocoa for the giant chocolate maker alongside Hershey’s iconic happy chocolate Kisses.
Chocolate lovers have gotten fed up with a decade of child labor and forced labor in the cocoa industry supported by Hershey. So, they’re covering displays of Hershey bars and s’mores ingredients in stores across the country with consumer alerts, warning that Hershey is tainted with exploitation, and including a QR code for shoppers to take action. Find out how you can join the movement again child labor in Hershey bars here: http://www.raisethebarhershey.org/smoresvideo
So infuriated by those who responded that they wouldn’t stop buying chocolate even if they knew it was made by child/forced labor. If there are companies that don’t use child labor, why not support those?