-Kason Hudman, PJC Volunteer
The Halloween season is in the air! Goblins and ghouls are set to roam the streets as children get ready to dress up and go trick-or-treating. But there is a spookier side to the candy children often receive on Halloween, something even more cursed than the scariest costume. For the last several decades, as the chocolate industry has become ever more centralized and controlled by some of the largest food corporations, observers and human rights advocates have sounded the alarm on the fact that the worst forms of child labor, including human trafficking and enslavement, are happening within the cocoa supply chain. In the Ivory Coast and Ghana, where 70% of the world’s cacao is harvested, children are often trafficked in from surrounding countries and forced to work in grueling conditions for long and arduous hours. Some of the most popular candy brands, including Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars, are all implicated in this egregious abuse.
In 2001, US Senator Bob Harkin and US Representative Eliot Engels worked with chocolate companies to pass the Harkin-Engels Protocol, a non-binding resolution that had the chocolate giants admit to the labor abuses present in their supply chain and verbally committed them to reducing and ultimately eliminating the worst form of child labor. They committed to reducing it by 70% by 2005. Unfortunately, due to the non-binding nature of the resolution, 2005 came and went, with no notable change in the supply chain. The chocolate companies pushed the deadline back to 2008, and then to 2010, eventually pushing the deadline all the way back to 2020. Nearly all independent observers have said that the supply chain is still not in line with the promises made in the Harkin-Engel protocol, with 2020 on the immediate horizon. The chocolate companies simply profit too greatly from the low labor cost, and the nature of the protocol did not place any legal ramifications in place forcing them to act. If the human rights abuses are to be mitigated, turning to the official solutions seems to be a non-starter. Fortunately, there is another way to help: supporting the Fair Trade movement and buying fair trade chocolate!
The Fair Trade movement is an international collaboration between producers and consumers dedicated to uplifting workers in the global south and ensuring that the rights of laborers are respected across the globe. Within the cocoa industry, fair trade certification helps identify chocolate that has been produced without the worst forms of child labor and with a guarantee that the cocoa farmers are treated well and paid a fair price for their product. As a prominent example, Divine Chocolate works with the Kuapa Kokoo worker-owned cooperative in sourcing their chocolate, ensuring that the Ghanaian people who grow the cocoa for Divine have substantial power in the organization and are paid fairly. There are many other fair trade certified chocolate companies, many of which work with worker-owned cooperatives and small farms, and all of them are certified by independent third parties who observe the supply chain and report that the working conditions are fair and free from abuse. Because the large chocolate companies are so slow to respond to things like the Harkin-Engels protocol, buying fair trade certified chocolate is the only way to ensure that the chocolate was made without child labor. As your local activists and fair trade promoters, the Peace & Justice Center is here to help you buy fair trade chocolate and learn more about how you can help correct the abuses in the cocoa industry through our Cocoa Campaign!
The Cocoa Campaign is an ongoing campaign through the Peace & Justice Center that educates community members about the abuses present in the chocolate industry and how we can respond through our consumption choices. The Peace & Justice Store has a variety of fair trade chocolate available to purchase, including a large selection from Divine Chocolate. In addition to this, on Saturday, November 2nd, at noon, the Peace & Justice Store will be hosting a fair trade chocolate tasting event as part of the Cocoa Campaign. You are invited to attend to learn about how you can make a difference by supporting the fair trade movement and buying fair trade chocolate. We will have delicious fair trade chocolate available for you to try! Come and learn more, buy fair trade chocolate, and together we can help end the most haunted part of Halloween and ensure that our chocolate is only delicious.