By Mitch Ellmauer, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum
S'mores! They're everybody's favorite summertime snack. In fact, what warm summer night spent around the campfire would be complete without them? This year, however, you should ask yourself where the ingredients for that s'more come from. If that’s a Hershey's bar wedged between your graham crackers and your marshmallow you might want to think again before biting into your s'more. What might be a delicious treat for you may, in fact, be the product of forced, trafficked, or child labor in West Africa.
The Hershey Company, America's largest and oldest chocolate manufacture, likely uses cocoa harvested by child laborers in Cote d'Ivoire. Cote d'Ivoire is the world's largest cocoa exporter. Many children work in hazardous conditions harvesting cocoa, the primary ingredient in chocolate. Additionally, some children are even trafficked from neighboring countries to work on cocoa farms. Malian and Burkinian children, some as young as twelve, wind up on Ivorian plantations through a combination of trickery and desperate poverty. Traffickers, called "locateurs" in Mali, entice families with promises of good wages and education to send their children to work in Cote d'Ivoire. These children may work over 12 hours a day, are underfed, and even subject to beatings and abuse.
The chocolate industry was made aware these abuses in 2001. The Chocolate Manufactures Association pledged to eliminate slave and child labor from cocoa production. Many of Hershey's competitors, like Mars and Cadbury, have begun to implement policies to purge child labor from their supply chains. Cadbury, its parent company Kraft Foods, Blommer Chocolate Company, and Mars Inc., and about half a dozen other major chocolate manufactures, have all agreed to use cocoa certified by independent monitors.
Hershey, however, has refused to allow third party monitors to trace its cocoa supply chain. Over the years, Hershey has also rejected shareholder proposals to increase sourcing transparency within the company and implement labor and environmental standards. Currently, Hershey is the only major chocolate manufacturer that has not made any commitment to source cocoa that has been independently certified to comply with international labor rights standards.
It is up to you to pressure Hershey’s to take responsibility for labor abuses in its supply chain and begin using Fair Trade Certified cocoa for its chocolate. This summer, join Global Exchange, Green America, and the ILRF in fighting child labor in the chocolate industry. Use Fair Trade chocolate in your s'mores and check out all the ways you can take action to tell Hershey you want "more from your s'mores" online here. You can send an e-mail to Hershey right now here or sign our petition here and download copies to collect signatures in your community. You can also join us at a rally in front of the Hershey's Times Square store on June 8th! Not in NYC? Send the information to friends and family in the New York area!