Chocolate Production and Child Labor
When a person craves a quick snack or pick-me-up and runs to the store to grab their favorite chocolate bar, they may not wonder where the chocolate came from in the first place. However, much of cocoa production takes place in West African in places like the Ivory Coast and Ghana. The result of this cocoa harvest is sweet, but the process is quite bitter. Currently, 2 million children in these countries labor to produce chocolate. Over the last few years, measures have removed children from this labor. However, the problematic relationship between chocolate production and child labor has increased from 30% to 41%.

The Conditions of the Children

Children often work on small cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, and mostly as victims of human trafficking. They work day in and day out using machetes and harmful pesticides to harvest cocoa pods. The children are very young and overworked with hunger. Most of them have not even gone to school for many years.

Raising Awareness

The world’s chocolate companies are aware of the atrocities of chocolate production and child labor that are part of their products’ creation. Many have pledged to eradicate child labor in the industry, but have consistently fallen short. In an article in the Washington Post, Peter Whoriskey and Rachel Siegel addressed this issue. They outlined the continuous failure of many large companies to remove child labor from their chocolate supply chain. As a result of these companies’ negligence, the odds are substantial that a chocolate bar in the United States is the product of child labor. Some of the biggest chocolate brands, such as Nestle or Hershey, cannot even claim that child labor is not involved in their chocolate production.

Addressing the Issue

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) is combatting child labor in the chocolate production process. It has been creating plans and programs to break the cycle. Its research and data show that the Ivory Coast and Ghana produce 60% of the world’s chocolate, with a steadily increasing demand for chocolate worldwide. This will likely exacerbate child labor issues instead of stopping them. As the leading funders of child labor combatting programs, ILAB has raised $29 million to fight child labor in chocolate production in the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

ILAB formed the Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG). It brought together the governments of the Ivory Coast and Ghana and representatives from the International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry together. They had essential conversations that are integral in eradicating child labor in the chocolate industry.

The CLCCG works toward eradicating child labor. It has also been integral in raising awareness about this issue and creating resources to combat it. However, it cannot do it all by itself. Governments, stakeholders and large chocolate companies must commit themselves to removing children from harmful environments for the sake of cocoa production.

Looking Ahead

Chocolate production and child labor have gone hand in hand for decades. However, through the efforts of government organizations, the cocoa production process could become as sweet as its end product.

Kalicia Bateman
Photo: Unsplash

The Hershey Company does more than produce delicious sweets. The company shares goodness with malnourished people all around the world in order to help end world hunger. To do this, their mission consists of a balance between having good business, fostering a better life for others and creating a bright future for those in need.

The company is dedicated to its mission. In the last three years, they increased cocoa farm yields around the world by 45 percent and improved cocoa farming knowledge in Ghana. In addition, Hershey has started Project Peanut Butter, which helps save the lives of starving children in Ghana. The company has also raised over 4 million dollars for Children’s Miracle Network, which helps treat sick and injured children.

The candy company constantly continues to touch the lives of others.

On July 16, 2015, Hershey partnered with Stop Hunger Now for their fourth event geared towards ending world hunger.

Stop Hunger Now is an organization that aids people who face starvation and disaster.

Todd Camp, director of Hershey’s Corporate Social Responsibility and Community Relations said, “We are excited to partner with Stop Hunger Now and have such an impact on the hungry around the world.”

More than 700 Hershey employees gathered and packaged 255,744 meals put together by Stop Hunger Now. The packaged meals contain rice, soy, vegetables and 23 essential minerals and vitamins. They will be sent to Stop Hunger Now partner organizations in Haiti, El Salvador, Liberia and Burundi.

“It’s not just about that we make candy, it’s not about the stockholders, it’s that we’re helping children every solitary day. To know we get to keep giving back… it’s a great feeling,” said Hershey volunteer, Denise Price.

Another Hershey volunteer, Scott Rownd said, “We just sat here for two hours and packed 2,000 meals to make a difference in maybe 10,000 people’s lives. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Hershey packaged 15,000 more meals this summer than last summer. With the commitment shown by the Hershey volunteers, next summer’s event is sure to be promising. Like many others, The Hershey Company hopes to contribute to the end of world hunger.

-Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: Stop Hunger Now, The Hershey Company, Virtual Strategy Magazine
Photo: Business Wire

Fair Trade Chocolate
Chocolate, called “xocoatl” by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago, has historically been a staple in life to many millions of people.

Cacao concoctions were drunk by Mayan royalty, lauded as a gift from the gods, and was even used as currency by the Aztecs as early as the 1500s.

Today’s chocolate is also worth a lot of money. Recent estimates of chocolate consumption patterns around the week of Valentine’s Day say that “consumers will buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy, raking in $345 million in sales and accounting for 5.1 percent of total annual sales” in the United States alone, reports Sylvia Camaj of PolicyMic.

The history of chocolate has also always included a dark side, however.

Scholars know that Mayan and Aztec rituals regarded cacao beans as an essential element in some capacity; whether the ritual was religious, concerned life or death, did or did not involve the sacrifice of human life – cacao was seen as a representation of divinity.

Today’s dark side of chocolate stems primarily from the statistic that 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, produced for major companies such as Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Kraft and Dove, comes from plantations in Africa’s Ivory Coast and Ghana, and is responsible for the trafficking of an estimated 109,000 children, says the State Department. The children suffer terrible abuse for their work, beating beaten and forced to work long hours while being exposed to dangerous and stunting pesticides and equipment.

However, smart and dedicated consumers are demanding change from these multi-national companies, and the companies are responding. When Cadbury was bought by Kraft in 2010, Kraft promised “to honor Cadbury’s commitment to Fair Trade cocoa sourcing. Nestle has also committed to buying chocolate that meets international labor rights standards.” Hershey has made similar commitments, although the company still has much work to do regarding their Fair Trade labor practices.

Consumers pressuring companies into morally correct business practices is a healthy, growing global trend that must receive continued attention and support from the international community. A commitment to Fair Trade products helps companies achieve a better moral standing with consumers. They can then be seen as more credible producers.

An example of a global company adopting Fair Trade production is Starbucks, a global giant in coffee that has committed to streamlining several of their beans purely from Fair Trade sources.

Learn more about Fair Trade from Oxfam International.

– Nina Narang

Sources: PolicyMic, Smithsonian
Photo: Urban Earthworm