Tim Newman, Campaigns Director, International Labor Rights Forum
Earlier this week, Godiva achieved a major marketing coup. Oprah Winfrey, the so-called Queen of All Media, re-designed the set of her popular show for the day using thousands of Godiva chocolate bars. You can check out photographs of the set online here. There's no doubt that Godiva must have dropped quite a bit of cash to get this level of brand exposure -- and to construct the set itself.
Unfortunately, the farmers and workers who harvest the cocoa that is the primary ingredient in Godiva products -- and likely in Oprah's special set -- do not share in the luxury promoted by Godiva. As readers of this blog are well aware, abusive child labor, forced labor and trafficking are widespread in the cocoa industry. Recently, the Free2Work.org gave Godiva a D- rating in terms of the company's efforts to address forced and child labor in its supply chain. That makes Godiva one of the lowest rated of major chocolate companies.
Other chocolate companies have gone much farther in ensuring transparency in their cocoa sourcing and supporting better conditions for cocoa farmers. For example, Divine Chocolate is Fair Trade certified and is even co-owned by the democratic cooperative in Ghana that produces its cocoa, Kuapa Kokoo. Equal Exchange sources cocoa beans from Fair Trade cooperatives in Latin America and its operations in the US are run by a worker-owned cooperative. More and more big companies like Green & Black's and Ben & Jerry's are also making stronger commitments to support labor rights standards and fair prices for their cocoa suppliers.
In the past, Oprah has done a number of excellent shows exposing child labor abuses. For example, years ago she featured a groundbreaking documentary about child labor globally called Stolen Childhoods on her show. Oprah can continue to be a leader in protecting children's rights. Hopefully in the future, she will conduct more due diligence on the child and forced labor policies of the companies promoted on the show and she could also explore the ongoing labor abuses in the cocoa industry -- as well as the inspiring stories of cocoa farmers like Kuapa Kokoo who are spreading positive change in the industry -- on a future show.