Eliminate Child Labor Exploitation with Fair Trade Chocolate

| 6/10/2011 11:59:09 AM

L.HoltThis weekend (June 12th) is World Day Against Child Labor, and elementary school children in New York started the awareness project early with a Times Square rally in front of the Hershey store. They gathered with other concerned consumers to demand that Hershey “raise the bar” and stop exploiting children in the production of its line of chocolate treats. The rally was hugely successful and many students attended as a field trip related to their study of social justice. Passersby signed petitions and grabbed posters to join in when they discovered what the rally was about. Pictures can be viewed on Flickr.   

Major companies in the chocolate industry (including Hershey) agreed to eliminate forced labor, trafficking and child labor from their supply chains over a decade ago, but Hershey in particular has failed to implement true change in ending these practices. The students and consumers hope that more large-scale chocolate production companies will begin using Fair Trade practices, thus eliminating child labor and ensuring a better life for cocoa farmers in general.

Children in New York object to the fact that some popular
chocolate brands rely on child labor to keep production costs low.
 Photo by chotda/Courtesy

If you don’t know, Fair Trade is a system that focuses on sustainability and improving the equality of international trading conditions for small-scale producers, especially in developing countries. Fair Trade companies purchase their raw materials—in this case the cocoa for chocolate—at a price higher than the market average. That “extra” money is intended to assist small-scale farmers to improve their communities and quality of life through things like education and medical care. Other popular products that can be found fair trade include tea (my favorite brands are all Fair Trade), grains, coffee, wine, and culinary herbs and spices. For a full listing, check out the Fair Trade USA website.

Organic chocolate is reportedly another way to ensure that your sweet snack or dessert wasn’t produced by exploited children due to the checks on labor practices organic certification requires. Additionally, organic producers often receive higher (and more stable) payment for their goods than those who don’t use organic methods, though there is no guarantee that those funds will go towards improving the farmer’s community.

If you’re concerned about the source of your favorite chocolate treats, the resources at the end of this blog have lists of certified Fair Trade and Organic producers. Keep in mind that some organic or fair trade producers are owned by larger companies with less attractive business practices (Dagoba, for example, is owned by Hershey). If you want to add your voice to the demand that Hershey reform their production practices, check out this website for instructions. You can also host a Fair Trade movie night, make Fair Trade s'mores or collect petition signatures.