Lit Review: Child Labor In Cocoa Production and Fair Trade Chocolate By Sarah Kopperl Introduction: I have always had a love affair with chocolate. When I was little I thought the best job in the world would be to be a chocolatier, and have my own candy shop. I often visited Hershey P. A. and went to Hershey World, never wondering why they didn’t tell us much about how the cocoa was grown and harvested, only looking forward to the chocolate bar at the end of the “How Chocolate is Made” ride, and the roller coasters to come.
As I have grown up, my intentions for a career have changed, but my love of chocolate has stayed. During the summer I took a course that had me researching commodities in South American countries and came across an article about child labor in chocolate production, which is discussed in more detail below. Since then I have tried to buy mostly fair trade chocolate, but didn’t really think too hard about it.
Because of this project, I have dug into what Fair Trade is, why it is needed, and the underlying causes of child labor in cocoa farming communities.
It made me think past the candy bar to the process of making it. Corporate Websites: The corporate websites I looked at were hesrheys. com, and usa. cadbury. com. Through the corporate websites I was hoping to learn about where their cocoa comes from, how chocolate is made, and some statistics on chocolate.
I was also hoping to see how the companies are working towards sustainable cocoa crops and if they are Fair Trade or if they are doing anything to support fair wages and better living conditions for cocoa farmers.
Hershey’s has a printer and user friendly section on how chocolate is made which talks very little about how cocoa is grown and harvested, focusing more on how cocoa is processed. (4) The site also links directly to the Hershey Company website which is separate from the site that would come up if searched in google. This is where the mission statement, information for investors, and a section on corporate responsibility are available. The company signed a protocol in 2001 to ensure children are not being harmed hrough cocoa production but both websites fail to state where the majority of their cocoa comes from. It also discusses supporting ECHOES and ICI to work towards sustainability and fair practices for cocoa farmers, but none of the cocoa used is Fair Trade Certified. (5) At my grocery store, Hershey bars are sold for less than a dollar, which is often the cheapest chocolate bar I can find. This makes me wonder if by flexing its corporate muscle, Hershey is forcing desperate farmers to use child labor and treat all workers poorly.
The Cadbury brand was recently acquired by Kraft, but still maintains a separate website from the massive corporation. The website fails to really explain how chocolate is made or where it comes from, but does give some incite as to when chocolate first went commercial and then corporate. It is one of the older companies out there, starting in 1825. The section about what the company strives for explains quite a bit about how cocoa farmers wind up being exploited and why child labor isn’t a surprise in the industry, since the focus is growth, efficiency, and capability.
The website is upstanding in that it has a strong section on corporate responsibility, stating that Cadbury in the UK and Ireland are fair-trade certified, as is the cocoa used to make Green and Black, one of the offshoot brands of Cadbury. This portion of the site also discusses the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership, which is working with the United Nations to improve farmer outcomes and develop communities. I also found some nifty facts in random places, such as how much cocoa is used by the company annually. The facts are not static, the pop up each time you move to a new section of the site. 6) I felt like the Cadbury site was a good example of a corporation responding to customer demand by moving towards fair trade cocoa, and by showing the initiatives the company is taking to help the lives of cocoa farmers. Child Labor: One of the common themes I found when researching how cocoa is grown and harvested was the use of child and/or slave labor. A major expose was done on the subject by Sudarsan Raghavan and Sumana Chatterjee and published by Knight Ridder Newspapers in 2001. It then hit other major media outlets including the BBC, as well as organizations such as Global Exchange.
The expose paints a picture of young boys working long hard hours with little food, poor health care and daily beatings. It also explains the challenges faced by those in poverty in Mali and surrounding regions where children are offered money for their families and a chance to see other parts of the world in order to lure them into the work. Finally it points to the lack of control over market prices and the hidden nature of slavery in Africa, claiming that the responsibility is placed on the government and manufacturers of chocolate. 1) While I agree that this is where major influences lie, I also think it fails to hold the consumer AND the growers accountable. Also, governments in the countries where the cocoa is sold need to be held accountable as well. This expose was one of the first if not the first items I read about child labor in chocolate, and it made me want to look further into the subject. I feel like it will be useful in showing the consumer the realities faced by struggling cocoa workers on the Ivory Coast. One of the sites I came across was Stop Chocolate Slavery.
It has a section called Take Action which gives advice for consumers on how to work towards child labor free chocolate. It also has a section called Slave Free chocolate which lists some products that the site deems worthy of consumer purchase. (8) I will use this site for my section about what can be done by consumers. I also used the News and Information section to find a link to the expose mentioned above. (8) Another source I found was an article written by Sarah Cheyes called “Chocolate and Slavery. One of the first things Cheyes points out is that forced labor is a problem around d the world because humans are seen as commodities and children are used and discarded; being seen as easily replaceable. She discusses the initiatives sought to place “Slave Free” labels on products in 2001 and how the U. S. chocolate industry responded by sending lobbyists to ward off the possible legislation, claiming that the labels would hurt the people of West Africa and that they had no way of knowing what cocoa beans were slave free because all beans were combined together before delivery.
The chocolate companies themselves said they were not responsible for the farming practices of their suppliers. After major media articles and with impending government action, the companies finally decided on action. They signed the Harkin- Engel Protocol, which was facilitated by 3 senators in late 2001, was designed to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the chocolate industry by 2005. It was signed by most of the major chocolate manufacturers along with several progressive organizations. However, it only targets child labor in West Africa, and is not a LAW but a protocol.
This means it is difficult to enforce, and it does not address the problem in other cocoa producing countries. It also fails to address the causes of forced or child labor in poor countries. (2) Cheyes includes a section in her article on the causes of child labor in cocoa manufacturing, pointing to the fact that manufacturers encourage poor countries to grow cocoa, and with a mass supply, this drives down market prices for the commodity. This often forces poor farmers to save on costs any way possible, including child labor.
According to the Prime Minister of the Ivory Coast, manufacturers would have to pay more than ten times what they do in order to end forced labor in cocoa production. It would also help to educate farmers about how the market works and find ways for the 40 percent population of the country to be less dependent on cocoa. Farmers are unable to communicate and often forced to rely on middlemen who cheat them. Also, there haven’t been enough efforts to create a stable and sufficient price for cocoa. This causes producer incomes to remain low, and poverty means desperation. (8) Chocolate And Slavery” also discusses alternatives, including Fair Trade collectives that require a signature from purchasers guaranteeing a fair price plus a premium that guarantee a living wage for farmers as well as money that goes into a fund for improvements in the community. Cheyes also mentions that some manufacturers simply don’t buy cocoa from West Africa. This solution fails to address or eradicate the problem, and may actually hurt the farmers more. She also discusses the responses of those in the chocolate industry as well as professional cooks and pastry chefs.
She mentions one manufacturer representative who denied the existence of a problem. She also talks about the conflict of a professional asking a purveyor for slave free cocoa or the sobering reality that one uses cocoa that is slave manufactured, but is unable or unwilling to do anything about it. She goes on to point out that it may be those professionals who wield the most power to create change. We live in a world of celebrity chefs and cooking shows that glamorize the profession, and if those celebrities would make an effort they could make a huge difference.
They do however face a conflict, in that by angering major chocolate manufacturers, they may lose the sponsorships that allow their fame to continue. (8) Cheyes closes out her article with a section on what can be done by the general public. She encourages education on the subject, both for you and for others. She says to write letters to chocolate manufacturers, and if in the industry to work with your purveyors to find chocolate derived from free market cocoa. Of course she encourages the purchase of only free trade chocolate, and to encourage others to do the same. (8)
I found this article incredibly informative. It gave me a much better perspective on the causes behind both child and forced labor in the cocoa industry, as well as some of the politics in the U. S. surrounding the problem. It also gave me insight into why the problem may still exist. I will use much of this information in my background section, as well as my fact section. More recently an independent audit by Tulane University shows that the efforts that were supposed to create 100 percent child free labor certification by 2010, have failed to even come close to reaching goals.
The article “Child Labor Still Key in Ingredient in Chocolate Industry,” shows that the Harkin-Engel Protocol which created community based education and monitoring programs has done some good, but less than 3 percent of cocoa growing villages in the Ivory Coast have been visited by monitors. The article does mention that Kraft in the U. S. plans to carry chocolate that is labeled sustainable and Mars, the largest buyer of cocoa in the world, plans to go completely sustainable by 2020. This does not; however mean that the cocoa is Fair Trade or slave free.
There is no mention of Hershey at all in the article, nor does it offer other smaller brands or companies that use sustainable cocoa, nor why the problem of child labor exists. (3) This article shows that more still needs to be done to encourage free market cocoa use by major companies. It also shows that there needs to be more education on the differences between sustainable and fair trade. Fair Trade and Sustainability: Another theme I found when researching chocolate was Fair Trade Cocoa, and Sustainable cocoa farming.
Buying Fair Trade chocolate is one of the things all consumers can do to help cocoa farmers around the world. Sustainable cocoa farming is important for preserving the environment. One of the sources I found about Fair Trade is the website for Fair Trade USA, which is the only Independent, third-party Fair Trade Certifier in the U. S. at this time. It is also one of 24 members of Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International (FLO. ) The company site gives an overview and definition of Fair Trade in the section called Fair Trade Overview.
It explains the principles of Fair Trade, including fair price, fair labor conditions, direct trade, democratic and transparent organizations, community development, and environmental sustainability. There is a section called Social benefits which talks about kids being able to go to school instead of working on the farms, farmers being able to feed their families, and efforts to help educate the community and provide healthcare. It also provides a FAQ section as well as information about the organization such as the board of directors as mission statements. 7) I find it interesting that one organization holds the monopoly on providing Fair Trade certifications in the U. S. and that it seems to operate like a corporation. While this website helped me understand the Fair Trade certification process, and I think the idea of Fair Trade is super important, I wonder if this organization is making money off of the process, and if so, where that money goes. Another organization whose website I used as a source was that of the FLO. The FLO is 24 international organizations that set international fair trade standards and support fair trade producers.
The site explains how standards for fair trade are set and who sets them. It gives a strong explanation as to what fair trade is and how it can benefit the growing community. There is a timeline about how FLO started and a section on the international Fair Trade label. There is a section that allows you to search for fair trade price and premium minimums, and an updated section on the standards for each certified product. I was sad to find upon searching that many standards in regard to cocoa were pre 2004, and had not been recently updated. 10) This shows me that although Fair Trade is an amazing advance for the cocoa industry, more needs to be done. The price that would allow a living wage for a cocoa farmer has surely changed since 2004, so these organizations need to step it up. Maybe there needs to be a different system set up that allows prices to fluctuate based on inflation and other economic factors. I found the World Cocoa Foundation website to be incredibly helpful as well. There are sections called Who We are and one called What We Do give background on the foundation.
Their mission is to, “…promote a sustainable cocoa economy through economic and social development and environmental stewardship in cocoa-growing communities. ” What We Do is broken down by region. In the Africa section I learned that 70 percent of the world cocoa supply comes from Africa, 90 percent of which is grown on nearly 2 million family farms consisting of 2 hectares or less of land. The World Cocoa Foundation holds to their mission in many ways, such as training farmers to better manage pests and to diversify crops, improving education at all levels, and teaching about HIV/AIDS and providing health care.
Another section called Sustainability Principles and Goals shows more efforts made by the foundation based on specific goals such as Profit, People, and the Planet. A section called Learn About Cocoa breaks down the cocoa commodity chain from harvest, straight on through to the global market. This section taught me that cocoa has to be harvested by hand, and that the beans must ferment before shipping, and reminded me of the process for making that bar of chocolate. There is also a section that addresses efforts to curb child labor. 9) This website shows that there are efforts to help cocoa farmers that don’t just include Fair Trade, and that one can get involved on a deeper level than writing organization or buying Fair Trade certified chocolate if they want to. The site also gave me quite a bit of history and background information about cocoa and chocolate. Conclusion: My research brought to me to many conclusions, and brought up as many questions as it answered. I wonder who is on the board of stakeholders for FLO.
Does the board that creates fair trade standards for cocoa include cocoa farmers who are more aware of the realities of middle men and harsh conditions, or does it only include CEO’s and other higher level corporate types who are driven by profit and disconnected from the farmers? I also question why the U. S. government sponsored and corporately signed Harkin-Engel Protocol in only a protocol and hasn’t been changed into a law which is more enforceable and holds those who signed it more accountable for their actions.
The average consumer has no idea that forced and child labor exists in the chocolate industry or why it does. They may know about fair trade chocolate and have a general idea of what fair trade is, but they often balk at the extra cost, preferring to reach for the $1. 00 Hershey bar or bag of M&M’s. I think that it is so important to make consumers aware of the commodity chain that goes into producing the food we eat. It is important for consumers to know how much the cocoa farmer is getting paid, and what projects are being funded by buying fair trade chocolate.
I also think it’s important for consumers to be aware of how their demand for lower cost food is affecting everyone down the commodity chain. I think it is important for the media to continue showing pieces that expose working conditions for farmers in third world countries, and for people to be more curious about their food. In order to find more information, people have to dig deeper, going to media sources that are not big corporate run sources, and hold themselves, their governments, and corporations responsible. It is important to take little steps, which will in turn add up to bigger steps.
Becoming informed, demanding fair trade cocoa use from big chocolate manufacturers, buying only fair trade, sustainable chocolate, and getting to know your local farmer so you feel reconnected to the food will eventually add up to a stronger movement towards responsible, fair, and sustainable cocoa and chocolate production. Sources: 1) Chatterjee, Sumana and Raghavan, Sudarsan, “A Taste of Slavery,” Knight Ridder Newspapers, June 24th, 2001, accessed via http://vision. ucsd. edu/~kbranson/stopchocolateslavery/atasteofslavery. html#pa rt1 2) Chayes, Sarah, “Chocolate and Slavery”, Chocolate Work, http://www. hocolatework. com/chocolate-slavery. htm 3) Oved, Marco, Chown, “Child Labor Still Key Ingredient to Chocolate Industry,” Associated Press, October 8th 2010, accessed via http://www. theglobeandmail. com/news/world/africa-mideast/forced-child-labour-still-key-ingredient-to-chocolate-industry-study/article1749279/ 4) http://www. hersheys. com/ 5) http://www. thehersheycompany. com/ 6) http://usa. cadbury. com/Pages/Home. aspx 7) http://www. transfairusa. org/ 8) http://vision. ucsd. edu/~kbranson/stopchocolateslavery/main. html 9) http://www. worldcocoafoundation. org/index. html 10) http://www. fairtrade. net/