Chocolate is a staple dessert in many American households. However, journalists have recently helped expose the reality of the chocolate industry, revealing how most chocolate companies, including Hershey, Lindt, Mars and Nestle take advantage of child labor in the cocoa industry to increase profits. The cocoa that chocolate companies use to produce their products grows in the tropical climates of West Africa, Asia and Latin America, with West Africa producing 70% of the world’s cocoa. On average, the income of cocoa farmers is less than $2 a day. This income, which is below the poverty line, causes farmers to seek out cheap labor. Many children in West Africa live in poverty, so some children looking for work turn to cocoa farms, while others are sold into labor. Children as young as five work on these farms, enduring physical abuse and hazardous working conditions. One recently freed child slave said, “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.”
While child workers continue to be exploited, here are five chocolate companies that do not support child labor in the cocoa industry.
5 Chocolate Companies That Fight Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry
- Divine Chocolate: A group of farmers in Ghana founded this company in the early 1990s and set up a farmers’ co-op that traded its own cocoa and managed the entire sales process. The co-op, Kuapa Kokoo, aims to empower farmers by giving them a voice and providing ethical working conditions. The company also works to provide opportunities for women through literacy and numeracy programs, as well as training women to be buying clerks. The company is fairtrade certified and works to be environmentally conscious in its production.
- Endangered Species: This company focuses on farming cocoa in ethical working conditions and preserving wildlife diversity in its practice. In doing so, the company donates 10% of its annual profits to organizations that work to protect wildlife and animal habitats. Endangered Species is also the first chocolate company to source all of its cocoa from West Africa through fair trade, showing that it is committed to supporting cocoa farmers and their communities.
- Alter Eco: Alter Eco’s chocolate bars and truffles are made with cocoa from South Africa and only use ingredients that are clean and certified organic. The company is fairtrade certified, while also providing its partners with assistance by addressing concerns such as food security, biodiversity and gender equality. The company also aims to offset the effects of its chocolate production by practicing agroforestry, which copies the natural evolution of the forest and improves the wellbeing of its farms.
- Theo Chocolate: Theo Chocolate’s mission is to produce chocolate in a way that allows every member of production to thrive in the process. The company works directly with farmers in the Norandino Cooperative in Peru and Esco-Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to source its organic and fairtrade cocoa. As a fairtrade company, Theo Chocolate pays farmers above-market prices and prioritizes purchasing from smallholder farms.
- Shaman Chocolates: Shaman is a fairtrade certified company that donates 100% of its profits to the indigenous Huichol tribe in Mexico, which is the last tribe in North America to maintain their pre-Columbian traditions. A leader of the tribe, Brant Secunda, founded the company in order to provide financial support to allow the tribe to continue practicing their traditional lifestyle, keep conducting their ceremonies and create artwork. One of the company’s projects sent the first Huichol member to college, while other projects involve building schools and supplying beads.
In recent years, journalists have exposed the child labor that occurs in the cocoa industry. Children living in poverty sometimes turn to this industry for work and are subject to hazardous working conditions and abuses. While child labor is still used by some companies, through things like fair trade, these five companies fight child labor in the cocoa industry.
– Natascha Holenstein