Cadbury Business Ethics

When you typically think of chocolate it is difficult to not think of Cadbury. Cadbury is nearly synonymous with chocolate and it is one of the big five chocolate companies alongside Nestle, Hershey’s, Mars, and Ferrero Rocher. Their chocolate is extremely popular and a rich history surrounds this powerful company. From the onset of it’s establishment, Cadbury worked hard to establish the notion that as a company they conduct business with ethics. Cadbury makes it clear that they have come from a long line of Quaker roots and are an organization that values philanthropy. However, the moral attributes that the Cadbury founded their business on came into doubt in the early 1900s. William Cadbury uncovered in 1901 that slave labor was prevalent on Sao Tome and Principe post-abolition but still did not boycott until 1909. Cadbury was known for having an ethical image, however, William Cadbury’s lack of action from 1901-1909 shattered the humanitarian driven perception that they worked so hard to establish.

The Cadbury family stems from a long of Quakers who placed emphasis on things like integrity, peace, and a sense of community. They valued philanthropy and constantly tried to paint an image of cleanliness. This is evident by Cadbury’s official website which has a section devoted to their story. On the top of the page it even encourages you to uncover facts pertaining to Cadbury’s philanthropy. By displaying a page like this full of their philanthropical actions, Cadbury is attempting to establish trust with the consumer.

Cadbury was established in Birmingham, England in 1824 when John Cadbury began selling tea, coffee, and drinking chocolate. He and his brother Benjamin became manufacturers of chocolate and cocoa but they struggled. In the 1860s, John Cadbury’s sons Richard and George then took over and they made the business successful by presenting “to the public their own cocoa powder, labeled “Cadbury’s Cocoa Essence,” and it was an instant hit” (Coe, 242). Cadbury really placed an emphasis on their coworkers well being which is evident by Deborah Cadbury’s interview below for her book Chocolate Wars. She also discusses how George and Richard moved their factories out of the slum in Western Birmingham to Bournville to make a factory in a garden which created a sort of utopia with tons of benefits for the Cadbury employees (0:59 – 1:36).

The clean images the Cadbury’s possessed did not last long. In 1901 William Cadbury visited the Cadbury Cacao farms in Trinidad and uncovered that slave labor was prevalent on Sao Tome and Principe. Sao Tome and Principe is located in the Gulf of Guinea which is visible on the image below. The labor in question was run by servicais who truly were enslaved people “shipped to to the islands of Sao Tome and Principe, where they would spend the rest of their lives on cocoa plantations” (Satre, 7). The Cadbury family sent Joseph Burtt, an inexperienced researcher and reporter to investigate the labor in Sao Tome and Principe. Once he returned he agreed with the assessment of Henry Nevinson, a British journalist that there was evidence of slavery in Sao Tome and Principe. The difference was Nevinson printed his findings freely while Burtt was encouraged to not offend anyone with his printing.

Screen shot 2013-03-28 at 5.09.11 PM

The Cadbury’s could not keep their findings quiet forever because the public became aware of the slave labor in Sao Tome and Principe. It became apparent that a media outlet was going to post a story about the Cadbury’s lack of action which made them fear “that this article might force them to give up Sao Tome cocoa” (Satre, 81). The Standard published an article in 1909 calling William Cadbury a hypocrite for not boycotting after uncovering evidence of the slave labor. Cadbury sued for libel and the jury ruled in his favor but it didn’t matter because the damage was done. The character of Cadbury had already been tarnished and as a result the philanthropical and moral image they had possessed took a major blow.


Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

“Deborah Cadbury – Chocolate Wars.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.

Satre, Lowell J. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens, Ohio: Ohio UP, 2005. Print.

“Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 5.09.11 PM.” Flickr. Yahoo! Web. 13 Mar. 2015. <;

The History of Chocolate. The Story: 1850-1900. Cadbury Company website. N.D. Web. 13 March 2015. <;


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