You love your chocolate, but how much of it was produced using child slave labor, and what can you do about it?
According to several sources, most of the chocolate you consume was produced, at least in part, using child forced labor. Also known as child slavery.
And at least one parent of a Girl Scout has started an online petition to get the Girl Scouts to buy sustainable and ethically sourced chocolate for its cookies.
The Girl Scouts did not comment on their use of chocolate.
How much child slavery is there in chocolate?
It is difficult to get actual numbers, but CNN estimates that around 200 thousand children are used as slave labor in the production of chocolate.
Slave numbers are hard to come by because most are family farms where children are expected to help in the harvest. One family’s survival is another’s slavery.
West Africa produces some 75% of the world’s cocoa. CNN states that cocoa from this region, Ivory Coast, Ghana, is predominantly slave produced.
Is Hershey the problem child of chocolate?
Hershey’s has been specially targeted by anti-slavery groups because it is the largest buyer of chocolate in the world.
An organization called Raise The Bar Hershey, is focusing on Hershey because “Hershey continuously refuses to identify its cocoa suppliers; therefore it is impossible to verify that its chocolate was not made under conditions of abusive child labor.”
In my own investigation, Hershey was the only company not to respond to my requests for comment.
In Hershey’s favor, all of their Bliss chocolates are now Rainforest Alliance certified and they have joined other chocolate companies in using the year 2020 as a target date for 100% reliable third party certification.
Other companies joining the 2020 pledge include Ghirardelli, Ferrero, Mars (M&Ms et al).
This time is different, they swear
Not to sound too cynical, but chocolate companies also signed the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol promising to address child slavery issues by 2005 and not all of these goals have been met yet. Oops.
Mars Chocolate responds
When I asked Mars why it should take until 2020 to certify their chocolate child slave free, the company first said, “a very small number of children is trafficked or forced to work on cocoa farms,” and that “reaching every one of the millions of cocoa farmers in West Africa is a difficult task.“
Mars also said that ensuring non-child slave chocolate was “complex” and they believe “ten years is a realistic time frame” to ensure sustainability.
But they are “hopeful that a plan” will be in place within two years. I’m sure the 12-year old working 14 hours a day for no pay is “hopeful” too that something will be done by the time they are 20.
As one of the few groups to have complete control over every step of their production chain, Lindt group, owners of Ghiardelli said they have moved production to labor friendlier Ghana from the industry loser Ivory Coast.
Lindt says it will use independent 3rd party verification by Certification Capacity Enhancement, UTZ Certified, Source Trust, World Cocoa Foundation, African Cocoa Initiative and others. Also by 2020.
At least Nestle has gone one step further and allowed the Fair Labor Association to fully map its cocoa supply chain and make it transparent, thus allowing greater oversight and one would hope, less or no slavery.
Nothing to me.
Keep the pressure on people. And check back here in seven years and let’s see what’s changed…
How McDonald’s changed an industry “overnight”
Why it takes 20 years to change an industry is your call, but McDonald’s was able to make the beef industry more humane practically overnight when it decided to source its cattle more ethically, and only purchase from suppliers who met its standards.
How to buy slave free chocolate
To avoid slavery in your chocolate look for the following labels:
Fair Trade label
UTZ Certified (no relation to the potato chip)
Certification Capacity Enhancement
There are many smaller and independent chocolate makers who use fair trade and direct trade, that is going and getting the beans themselves, who promote fair labor practices, usually found in higher end and specialty stores.
How about switching to vanilla? Nope, slavery there too.
You could switch to eating vanilla. But maybe not, as it seems there is child slavery in the vanilla industry too. Only a lot less known for now.