The chocolate industry has been a growing point of controversy and change. An awareness of how chocolate is made and who makes it has stirred the need to move the industry in a more positive and humane direction. Seventy percent of the world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa, and it is estimated that around 1.8 million children are working on cocoa farms. In a study conducted (additional article) by Tulane University, it was determined that some of the children are working in very poor and often dangerous conditions, sustaining injuries, and some have been trafficked onto these farms (additional article).
There has been an outcry for the chocolate industry to end child labor from many different organizations and groups. Some major chocolate companies involved with child labor are Mars, Cadbury, Nestle, and Hershey, and there has been some movement from each of these companies to mitigate the issue.
Mars has promised to be child-labor free by 2020 and is working with the U.S. Department of Labor and the International Labour Organization to understand the complexities of child labor and find “…more effective strategies to combat trafficking…”.
Britain’s popular Cadbury has also taken steps to promote a more ethical chocolate industry and became Fair Trade (additional article), putting Fair Trade certified chocolate on store shelves back in 2010 .
Nestle partnered with the Fair Labor Association to identify if they have child laborers working under them and hopes to resolve any child labor issues they may have been supporting.
Hershey’s chocolate has also begun to take steps to amend its business practices. Hershey has agreed to sell “Bliss” chocolate, a Rainforest Alliance certified chocolate bar. It has also pledged $10 million over the next five years to help educate farmers in West Africa and improve their trade to fight child labor. As America’s biggest chocolate producer, Hershey is under a lot of pressure to continue to make steps toward fighting child labor. On June 12, 2012, leaders from AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Global Exchange, Green America, the International Labor Rights Forum, and the National Guestworker Alliance, called for Hershey to step up and make reforms for its chocolate production and “…ongoing use of abusive child labor…”.
The “We Want more from our S’Mores” event was started by Global Exchange on July 4, 2012 to further encourage Hershey to move in a more ethical direction. The event calls for making Fair Trade ingredient s’mores and runs until Labor Day. For more information about having your own event, click here.
The Penn State Brandywine TrailBlazers will be participating in this event to promote a more ethical chocolate system, and hopes to not only encourage Hershey to continue to grow and expand its effort to fight child labor, but the rest of the chocolate industry as well. Our event will be held 12:30PM on Thursday August 16, 2012, in the Vairo Building Courtyard on the Penn State Brandywine campus. If you would like to attend for some additional discussion and to create your own Fair Trade s’more (or two, or three, or four…), please RSVP here!
UPDATE: Article on Change.org on National S’more Day: Make Yours Fair Trade (08/10/2012)
-Contributed by Sarah DeMartino, Fair Trade Intern