By Courtney Smith, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum
As Halloween is approaching, ILRF thought it would be appropriate to reflect on the state of the U.S. chocolate market. While many people associate chocolate with smiling, happy children, in reality this is not actually the case. Hershey dominates the U.S. chocolate market, and yet many people are still unaware of the implications of their chocolate sourcing in West Africa.
The International Labor Rights Forum, Global Exchange, Green America and Oasis USA recently published a report on Hershey, drawing attention to this issue. In West African countries like Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, many of the cocoa farms use forced and trafficked child labor. Because cocoa farmers are paid so little, they are often driven to use child labor because they cannot afford to pay an adult wage. These children are in some cases forced to work on cocoa plantations for no pay and risk serious bodily harm due to injuries, but also lose their right to an education. Even more, some children have been trafficked from nearby countries like Mali and Burkina Faso to work on these cocoa farms, further removing them from their families.
While many chocolate supplying companies, including Ben and Jerry’s, Cadbury, and Nestle, have made noticeable efforts on ending this injustice by providing products that are certified to meet certain labor standards, Hershey has clearly lagged behind. On September 13, 2010 Hershey released its first Corporate Social Responsibility report, but Hershey currently has no means of tracking where their cocoa is coming from or auditing its cocoa farms to ensure labor standards for its suppliers. This leaves many consumers in the dark as to whether or not their chocolate has been made at the hands of child labor. ILRF is asking Hershey to take immediate action to end the use of child and forced labor on the cocoa farms in its supply chain.
You can take action today by reading "Time to Raise the Bar." Then, go over to Hershey's CSR survey and tell Hershey that you will not be satisfied with the company's performance and transparency until it begins to source Fair Trade Certified cocoa and implement the recommendations of the "Time to Raise the Bar" report.
There is also something else that you can do to bring even more awareness to this issue! ILRF is joining Global Exchange and many other organizations to support Reverse Trick-or-Treating again this year. Reverse Trick-or-Treating is a great way to get involved on Halloween. This Halloween, instead of your typical trick-or-treating, we are asking that individuals distribute fair trade chocolate to adults with an attached card explaining the issues in the cocoa industry. This is a simple and easy way to get involved and to bring awareness to an issue that is affecting children in West Africa. Sign up here (and be sure to note in your order form that you found out about this from the International Labor Rights Forum)!