by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Americans love their chocolate. Annual chocolate sales are about $16 billion a year in the U.S.according to IBISWorld. Although the sales of fair trade certified chocolate are increasing, most of the chocolate sold is anything but fair trade. Hershey is the top chocolate company in the U.S., and Hershey is a company that does not sell even one fair trade certified chocolate bar. ( Chocolate Production In The US Report)
You might be wondering what the big deal is about fair trade chocolate. Chocolate that is not fair trade certified is likely to contain child labor. Yes, you read those two last words correctly. Some of the child labor is even forced, that is, slave labor.
A TulaneUniversity report on child labor in the cocoa sector in the Ivory Coastand Ghanafound that 25 to 50 percent of the children in households in both countries work on cocoa farms. The Ivory Coast, Ghanaand other West African countries produce 75 percent of the world’s cocoa, and the Ivory Coastproduces 40 percent of that total. The U.S. Department of State in 2009 estimated that there were over 109,000 children working in Ivory Coast’s cocoa industry, and about 10 percent were victims of human trafficking or enslavement. ( Oversight Report on Child Labor) ; (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor)
In September, Green America and Global Exchange released a report about Hershey, Still Time To Raise the bar, a follow-up to last year’s report. This year’s report found that Hershey made “little to no progress toward implementing any of the recommendations” made in the first report. Hershey continues to “trail behind its competitors in addressing labor rights issues in its specific cocoa-sourcing policies.” ( Social Responsibility Report For Hershey)
Most of the cocoa Hershey uses comes from West Africa “a region plagued by forced labor, human trafficking, and abusive child labor according to the US Department of Labor,” the report states.
In Hershey’s 2010 CSR report, the company stated that it does not have a Supplier Code of Conduct covering social and working conditions, but does state that it revised its Supplier Code “to better reflect industry best practices.” The lack of transparency by Hershey makes it difficult to verify that the cocoa purchased was not harvested by child labor. Hershey still does not have a system in place to ensure the cocoa it purchases fromWest Africais not produced by child labor. ( Hershey’s CSR Report)
Fair trade in general is a better deal for farmers, including cocoa farmers. In the fair trade system, farmers sell their produce directly to purchasers, who agree to pay more than the market price for the produce. Fair trade certified chocolate in particular, means that the product is produced without child labor.
Perhaps you are wondering how you can find out which chocolate bars are fair trade certified. One easy way to find fair trade chocolate bars is through the Transparency Toolbar, offered by the Guideguide.com, which is a toolbar for your internet browser that allows you to determine facts about products, including chocolate bars. For instance, the toolbar rates a chocolate bar by Green & Blacks very highly, but gives one by Hershey a very low rating. (Guideguide.com)
Green & Blacks, by the way, is a company that committed to making all of its chocolate bars 100 percent fair trade certified by 2010. I found Green & Blacks bars at two national retailers, Target and Walgreen’s, and at the West Coast chain, Fresh & Easy.