A new campaign around World Chocolate Day aims to help consumers understand the exploitation that too often accompanies the farming, trade and production of chocolate treats — while highlighting the positive impacts of choosing fair and ethically sourced cocoa.
July 7 is World Chocolate Day — and while celebrating this delicious luxury, brands are also seizing an opportunity to educate consumers on cocoa's bitter costs.
And as the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Nestle (and Cargill) v John Doe has reminded us, one of the cocoa industry’s chief injustices is the use of child labor. A new UN report estimates that 160 million children globally are trapped in child labor systems. It’s estimated that 2 million children are working in the cocoa industry; and the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on West African cocoa farmers has only worsened the situation.
To shed light on this topic, Fairtrade International recently launched a global, consumer-facing initiative to elevate the stories of cocoa farmers in West Africa and illuminate the injustices in the global cocoa trade system. Crowning the campaign is a stop-motion animation film, called "Unwrap a Fairer Future," that follows the creation of two chocolate bars: one certified Fairtrade and the other un-certified. The film and the engagement around World Chocolate Day aims to help consumers understand the exploitation that too often accompanies the farming, trade and production of chocolate treats while highlighting the positive impact of choosing fair and ethically sourced cocoa.
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However, it will take more efforts like this — alongside the work of businesses, certifiers, governments, farmers and shoppers — to root out the exploitation of children in cocoa.
Addressing the root causes
Child labor in cocoa isn’t an isolated problem; it’s deeply connected to the greater issue of poverty. Without a decent income from their crops, farmers must rely on the cheapest available labor in order to stay afloat. Farmers and workers too often bear the burden of cost-cutting to keep consumer goods cheap, earning less for their work and their produce. The less producers earn, the more children are at risk.
This is why organizations and businesses have to start at the beginning of the chain to make a real difference in combatting child labor. Achieving living incomes for cocoa farmers is critical. By tackling the deeper problem of poverty through better prices paid to farmers and premiums reinvested in farm and community development, cocoa farms don’t need to rely on cheap child labor to make ends meet.
Envisioning a different supply chain
As the Fairtrade International “Bitter Sweet” campaign shows, a supply chain that prioritizes the people at the heart of a product is a direct investment in tackling issues such as child labor. For consumer goods companies, that could start with having an ethical source of cocoa. Tony’s Chocolonely blazed a trail with its mission to make slave-free chocolate the standard throughout the industry. More recently, Nature’s Path announced that it would source Fairtrade-certified cocoa for all of its products.
A better deal for cocoa farmers is also a better deal for kids. When brands take their role in cocoa trade reform seriously and help consumers understand the difference their shopping choices can make, big change can happen.