Courtney Smith, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum
Two of the world's largest cocoa exporters, Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, are notorious for their use of child labor on cocoa farms. The Payson Center at Tulane University’s report found ample evidence of child labor, forced labor, and trafficking of children from Mali and Burkina Faso. Many of these children have experienced verbal, physical, and sexual harassment and restrictions of their freedom of movement. They also endure dangerous working conditions that include spraying of pesticides and machete use. Children are used as laborers on cocoa plantations because cocoa farmers are often not paid enough for their produce to afford wages for an adult labor force. The Harkin-Engel Protocol, which is supposed to address the use of child labor on cocoa farms that supply cocoa to American chocolate corporations, has not been entirely successful.
One of the major corporations that still have no mechanism in place to prevent the use of child labor in its cocoa supply chain is Hershey. Many other chocolate companies have committed to sourcing their cocoa from certified cocoa farms. For example, Cadbury's top selling chocolate bars are all Fair Trade certified. Despite the fact that Hershey prides itself on supporting underprivileged children in the United States, it fails to take the initiative to protect children abroad who are being forced out of school and into harmful working conditions. A recent report published by ILRF, Global Exchange, Green America and Oasis USA includes a number of recommendations for Hershey to address the lack of transparency and accountability in its supply chain. The recommendations are:
- Hershey should agree to take immediate action to eliminate forced and child labor;
- Commitment to sourcing 100% Fair Trade Certified cocoa beans by 2012 for at least one of its top five selling bars;
- Commitment to making at least one more top five selling bar 100% Fair Trade Certified every two years;
- Commitment that most of Hershey’s chocolate will be Fair Trade Certified by 2022.
As individual consumers, even you can make a difference and help to urge Hershey to work towards ethical and transparent sourcing of its cocoa. Halloween is just a few days away and Hershey chocolate is one of America's favorites. There are a few steps that you can take while you are trick-or-treating. First of all, you can distribute flyers and collect petitions asking Hershey to supply Fair Trade chocolate. If you aren't going trick-or-treating, just take a few minutes to send an email to Hershey or fill out Hershey’s CSR survey and ask them to go Fair Trade. If you want to learn more about this issue you can order The Dark Side of Chocolate, a documentary providing a first-hand account of the use of child labor on cocoa farms in West Africa. Finally, you can also send an e-mail to Stephen Colbert asking him to reveal the labor abuses behind Hershey products.