Everyone knows that chocolate comes at a price.
A Hershey bar can cost a couple dollars, a container of cocoa powder five dollars, and a bag of candy six dollars. No matter what kind of chocolate you want, you’re going to be handing over some money in payment for it. Sadly, in most cases, there’s another cost for the sweet taste of chocolate. The chocolate that we eat costs more than money, but most of the people supplying us with our favorite treat don’t like to tell us about this.
More than 60% of the world’s cocoa comes from Africa’s west coast, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where many cocoa farmers live in poverty. They aren’t paid fairly for the cocoa that they produce, usually occurring in the supply chains of mass-producing companies such as Hershey. This poverty, as all poverty can, leads to human trafficking and child labor.
The bottom line is this: The chocolate we normally consume comes to us at the cost of child labor and slavery.
There are about 2.3 million children working on cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast (Tulane University, 2015). Harvesting chocolate is no easy task, and 90% of these kids are being forced to work under illegal and dangerous conditions, such as using large machetes, lifting heavy loads, and being exposed to harmful chemicals. These children can’t go to school and are robbed of a future, further trapping them in the cycle of poverty and exploitation. In an interview with Dutch journalist Teun van de Keuken, four former child slaves describe being forced to work without being paid, not being allowed to see their families, and being threatened with beatings or death.
Chocolate doesn’t seem quite so sweet anymore, now does it?
Mass chocolate-producing companies such as Mars and Hershey are trying to responsibly source their cocoa. Hershey and Mars both aim to use 100% certified and sustainable cocoa by 2020. Nestlé is also trying to source its chocolate more ethically. Godiva, while not fair trade certified, does support industry and government efforts to identify and eliminate child slavery in the Ivory Coast, as well as requires their suppliers to follow labor laws and regulations. Ghirardelli, another big chocolate producer, did not respond to inquiries regarding child labor and human trafficking in their supply chain.
It’s good that these companies are trying, but in the meantime, something must be done.
Knowing the true price of a chocolate bar isn’t enough. We need to come together and change the chocolate industry by changing our demand. When the demand for a product changes, so will the supply. Commit to only eating Fair Trade certified, UTZ certified, Rainforest Alliance certified, or direct trade chocolate. These certifications and ways of sourcing cocoa do their best to ensure that farmers get paid fairly and no human trafficking or child labor is going on behind the scenes.
The second most important thing to be done, besides supporting ethically sourced chocolate, is to spread the word.
Many people don’t know the true price of the chocolate they enjoy. Telling others about the truth of the chocolate industry, about the human trafficking and child labor that occurs behind the scenes, and encouraging them to be responsible consumers can help change the chocolate industry, and therefore the lives of many people caught in slavery and forced labor.
Together, we can make the chocolate industry even sweeter for all of the right reasons.
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[wc_accordion_section title=”Companies That Sell Ethically Sourced Chocolate”]
RAAKA // https://www.raakachocolate.com
TONY’S CHOCOLONELY // https://tonyschocolonely.com/us/en//
GREEN & BLACK’S // https://us.greenandblacks.com
NEWMAN’S OWN // https://www.newmansown.com/
CHOCOLOVE // https://www.chocolove.com
TCHO // https://tcho.com
GUITTARD // https://www.guittard.com
N O T E :
This is a list of all of the sources I used while writing this post, including some correspondence with a few chocolate companies. I invite you to do your own investigation on this issue. And please do share what you find!
Black, Karen, Nestlé Brand Ambassador. “Regarding your Nestle Contact.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 16 January 2019.
Boyer, Chantal. “Inquiry to Guittard Chocolate.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 22 January 2019.
Harris, Alex and Brett. Start Here. Multnomah Books, 2010.
Maria, Hershey Consumer Representative. “A Message From the Hershey Company.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 16 January 2019.
Mars Wrigley Confectionery. “MARS Chocolate.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 17 January 2019.
Spencer, Godiva Customer Care Department. “[EXTERNAL]Inquiries on Fair Trade and Child Labor.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 15 January 2019.
“Buy Certified.” Stop the Traffik, https://www.stopthetraffik.org/campaign/chocolate/buy-certified/ Accessed 25 January 2019.
“Traffik-Free Chocolate.” Stop the Traffik, https://www.stopthetraffik.org/campaign/chocolate/ Accessed 25 January 2019.
“Former child slaves witnessing for Teun.” YouTube, uploaded by Tony’s Chocolonely, 6 April 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PD7ePlz0awE
“Our Timeline.” Tony’s Chocolonely, https://tonyschocolonely.com/us/en/our-story/our-timeline Accessed 25 January 2019.
“Our Mission.” Tony’s Chocolonely. https://tonyschocolonely.com/us/en/our-story
Accessed 25 January 2019.