The Child Slavery Behind Your Chocolate

Unpublished

Cassandra Clifford
Netherlands Aid
10/25/2011

October could almost be designated “candy month” in the United States, thanks to the consumer buying power and commercialization of Halloween.  As I wrote in my post, Trick-or-Treating Minus the Slavery, the chocolate industry in the United States alone is a$13 billion industry. It is led by Hershey’s, which holds 42.5% of the U.S. chocolate market.

Yet the global cocoa industry often traffics children to work as slaves, according to UNICEF (The United Nation’s Children’s Fund).  In West Africa, 200,000 children are living in conditions of forced labor and slavery on cocoa farms.  Sadly, Hershey’s uses large amounts of cocoa harvested in the Ivory Coast, which according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), produces 43% of the worlds cocoa.

The Hershey Company has been aware that their products are tainted by slavery and child labor rooted at the beginning of their supply chain since at least 2001, when along with the other major chocolate companies, made a commitment to end child and forced labor in their cocoa supply chains.  In September 2001, chocolate and cocoa industry representatives signed the Harkin Engel Protocol, developed by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engel, in an effort to eliminate child labor in the industry. The protocol has a six-point approach to solve the problem, including a time sensitive process to establish credibility and eliminate the use of child slavery. The protocol was signed by the industry’s large cocoa producing companies and set forth an action plan to eliminate the worst forms of child labor and forced labor from cocoa farms worldwide by 2005.

However, Hershey’s has continued to produce their products undaunted by the knowledge that their profits come with a high human cost. They continue to source cocoa from this region without ensuring that child labor exploitation does not occur in the production of the cocoa they use.

 This month, Global Exchange, Green America and the International Labor Rights Forum released a new report urging Hershey’s to “Raise the Bar,” an initiative that details how hundreds of thousands of children are still forced to work under abusive conditions for long hours on cocoa farms in West Africa, while others are victims of trafficking and forced labor, all for a bar of Hershey’s chocolate.

The report, REAL Corporate Social Responsibility Report for the Hershey Company, is a follow-up to a 2010 report, and asks Hersey to:

1. Agree to take immediate action to eliminate forced and child labor in violation of international human rights standards on forced, child, and trafficked labor from Hershey’s cocoa supply chain through:

  • tracing its supply chain to the farm level
  • sourcing from farmers who can show through independent verification that they do not use forced labor or child labor
  • asking suppliers to end such practices throughout their supply chain.

2. Commit to sourcing 100% fair trade certified cocoa beans by 2012 for at least one of its top five selling chocolate bars that prominently display Hershey’s name.

3. Commit to making at least one additional top five selling bar 100% fair trade certified every two years thereafter, so that Hershey’s top five selling cocoa bars will all be 100% fair trade certified within ten years.

The reality is that ten years is long enough for Hershey’s to clean-up their act and ensure that children’s rights and lives are not lost for their profit. No child’s life should be given less value than that of a chocolate bar.