Please watch this important and deeply moving documentary disclosing what is happening in the cocoa industry.
Latest News in Child Slavery
Due to the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on the global economy, there has be a 10-15% increase in child labour along the Ivory Coast and in Ghana’s cacao farms, likely due to school closures and lower farmer incomes. (1)
Despite the biggest chocolate companies offering a range of chocolate products that have been “certified” and despite their vows to eradicate child slavery, they still continue to be the largest producers of chocolate that has been sourced from the unjust and abusive labour of children and farmers in Western Africa and Brazil. The problem is actually getting worse and increasingly secretive (making it harder for reporters to access farms) and deceptive (with misleading advertising that their products are fair), all of which makes it harder for the chocolate lover to discern what products are truly ethical and trust worthy.
DID YOU KNOW?
Cacao was originally brought to Africa from European countries. After the Spanish had colonised North and South America, the sacred wisdom of the cacao plant was forbidden, and her medicine became adulterated and diluted. The beans were heavily processed and sugar and milk were added creating a type of chocolate product unlike anything that nature intended. This sweet tasting money making confection made its way all through Europe and as the industry grew, chocolate companies began to seek out cheap and free labour. Fast forward 170 years or so to today and the exploitation of workers is still rampant.
- Most cacao farmers get paid under $1 a day, well below the extreme poverty line (2).
- Up to 2.1 million children are at risk for falling under the Worst forms of Child Labour conditions set by the UN (ILO 182) (3)
- Most of the children laboring on cocoa farms are between the ages of 12 and 16, but reporters have found children as young as 5 (8)
- Some children end up on the cocoa farms because they need work to support their families and traffickers tell them that the job pays well. (4)
- Other children are sold to traffickers or farm owners by their own relatives, who are unaware of the dangerous work environment and the lack of any provisions for an education. The ave cost of a child is around $250US (5)
- Often, traffickers abduct the young children from small villages in neighboring African countries, such as Burkina Faso and Mali, two of the poorest countries in the world. (6)
- In one village in Burkina Faso, almost every mother in the village has had a child trafficked onto cocoa farm. (7)
- There has been a huge increase in the past decade of the number of children exposed to agricultural chemicals on Ghana and the Ivory Coast’s cocoa farms, from 15% of children to approximately 50% of children. (9)
LATEST COURT CASES
AGAINST NESTLE AND CARGILL – December 2020
In 2005, International Rights Advocates sued Nestlé and Cargill on behalf of six children trafficked from Mali to Cote D’Ivoire to forcibly harvest cocoa under dangerous conditions. Today, 16 years after the case was filed, the Supreme Court issued a heavily divided opinion with an unclear result in our child slavery case against Nestlé and Cargill under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS).
Nestlé and Cargill’s legal argument that they could freely use enslaved children to harvest cocoa sharply conflicts with their public claims that they are committed to ending their reliance on child labor. They—along with leading chocolate and cocoa companies including Mars, Hershey, Mondelēz, Olam, and Barry Callebaut—have repeatedly admitted that child labor is persistent in their cocoa supply chains, and acknowledge the problem is getting worse, not better”. Read the full article of the court case here.
Terry Collingsworth, International Rights Advocate says “The companies promised that by 2005 that they would stop using child labor. They were going to phase it out and figure out a way to change the system. Instead of doing that, they have given themselves three five year extensions of time. There was no consultation. They just said – well, we didn’t do it yet. Their latest is that by 2025 they will have phased out by 70 percent, their use of child labor. If you think about it, that is evil genius. It’s an admission that they are doing it and that they are going to continue doing it. There are some of the largest companies in the world that are saying they either can’t or won’t end their dependence on a system of production that relies upon child slavery.”
AGAINST HERSHEYS AND RAINFOREST ALLIANCE – October 2021
“On October 27, 2021, Corporate Accountability Lab (CAL) brought suit against chocolate giant The Hershey Company and certifier Rainforest Alliance, Inc. for false advertising relating to certain Hershey’s chocolate products. Hershey is one of the largest chocolate producers in the US and relies on Rainforest Alliance for much of its certification”. Read more about that case here.
Since these huge corporations are refusing to be accountable and place childs rights before profits, it is up to us to take a stand. Every time you purchase our ceremonial cacao instead of cheap and unethical, highly processed chocolate, you are helping to liberate a child from the chains of slavery.
This is a great video below highlighting what is with the court cases.
Are Cocoa Certifications Trustworthy?
As consumer awareness grows, there is an increasing trend towards chocolate lovers wanting to source ethical and slave free cacao products. This has created a demand for certification schemes that are supposed to guarantee minimum prices to farmers and create a baseline of practise standards that are human and fair. As a chocolate lover myself, I have explored various certification labels, and I do have my concerns.
What I have noticed is that some larger confectionary companies, might create one product using “fair trade or rainforest alliance” cacao, but the majority of their business still thrives off unethically sourced cacao. (1) It also seems some of these certification labels look good on paper, but at the ground level, are not making a difference to eradicating child labour and poor working conditions.
Below I share information that I have found during my own research. I will leave it up to your own intuition and discretion to decide if you trust the labels.
According to their website “The Rainforest Alliance seal promotes collective action for people and nature. It amplifies and reinforces the beneficial impacts of responsible choices, from farms and forests all the way to the supermarket check-out. The seal allows you to recognise and choose products that contribute toward a better future for people and planet”
Their logo is on everything from McDonalds, Nescafe and American airlines to Hershey bars, Baskin and robins, Magnums, and Nestle Kit Kats. They certify 32% of the worlds cacao (2), topping the market share, yet they do not guarantee a minimum price for farmers and just recently in October 2021, there has been evidence found of child labour on Rainforest Alliance farms (3).
In 2014 they were sued for citing unfair and deceptive marketing practises (4) “The lawsuit names six Guatemala communities near the Nahualate and Madre Vieja Rivers suffer from water pollution and airborne exposure to toxic chemicals from plantations that provide so-called “Rainforest Certified” bananas grown for Chiquita” You can read more about it here.
In 2018, Rainforest Alliance merged with UTZ Certification. According to their website “The UTZ label stands for more sustainable farming and better opportunities for farmers, their families, and our planet. The UTZ certification program enables farmers to use better farming methods, grow better crops, and generate more income. They learn how to improve working conditions, adapt to climate change, and protect the environment”
Yet in October 2019, the Washington Post reported that UTZ certified cocoa farms were actually more likely to employ child labor than farms without the certification. Additionally, a spokesperson confirmed reports that more than 4,900 UTZ-certified farms were illegally located within national forests. UTZ identified four independent auditing firms it contracts with as the source of most of the flawed certifications. (5)
The fair trade movement has grown immensely and whilst I do believe there are good people that are making a difference, there are ways that corporations use fair trade cacao to bring a fair trade product to the market, yet the majority of their business still uses slave labour cacao.
According to their website Fair Trade “is the most recognised and trusted sustainability label in the world. We are a global organisation that is co-owned by more than 1.8 million farmers and workers who earn fairer prices, build stronger communities, and have control over their futures”
I personally would support this label, especially if it is on a smaller chocolate brand. Unlike Rainforest Alliance which dominates 32% of the global market, Fair Trade takes up 5% of market space and offers a minimum living wage to cacao farmers (6). Fair Trade also offers premiums on organic farming and ensures a fixed premium into community projects. It allows farmers to have a democratic voice in decision making and part-ownership of standards.
Interestingly when large companies like Nestle or Cadbury’s invest in fair trade beans, it does increase fair trade premiums to farmers and it massively helps the fair trade industry. However, when you purchase a fair trade product from a large corporation, they cannot guarantee that those beans will not get mixed with non-fair trade cacao, meaning you could be eating a product that you think is fair trade but actually has no fair trade ingredients in it at all. This article explains it.
Look for Organic and Fair Trade Cacao Products, and favour purchasing from smaller businesses that use these labels, rather than bigger mainstream corporations. The best you can get is Direct Trade which is where cacao distributors and chocolate makers have a direct relationship with the farmers and collectives where the cacao is grown and processed. Thirteen Foundation sources Organic and Fair Trade Cacao from Peru and Direct Trade Cacao from Ruk’U’x’ulew Women’s Collective in Guatemala.
What can you do?
- Purchase slave free cacao here and make your own yummy chocolates and hot cacao drinks (instead of buying high processed commercial chocolates) with these recipes.
- How you spend your dollar makes an impact. Withdraw your money from giant commercial chocolate companies and corporations, and invest in small community led businesses. Support this list of ethical chocolatiers (I am also currently working on an Australian list).
- Ask your local chocolatiers where they source their chocolate from, there is a very good chance it is slave trade. Invite them to start sourcing slave free ingredients.
- Copy, paste and sign this letter to let Nestle know it is not ok what they are doing.
- Sign this petition asking Mars and Nestle to stop using child labour in their products.
- If you are in the US you can sign this petition to let Nestle know that replacing fair trade certification with Rainforest Alliance (which offers no minimum price for cacao) will not help famers.