Tag Archives: child labor

From Cadbury to Nestlé: Big Chocolate & Forced Labor

While chocolate is a sweet delicacy enjoyed by millions around the world, the underlying forces of cacao production often leave a sour taste in consumers’ mouths. After Europeans “discovered” chocolate in Mesoamerica, its dissemination in Europe relied on the forced labor of indigenous populations and later African slaves on cacao plantations. Slavery was abolished on paper in England in 1833. Yet, it persisted under new names from serviçal in Sao Tome e Principe to “worst forms of child labor” in Côte d’Ivoire. I will compare the response of two influential companies in the cocoa industry–Cadbury and Nestlé–when faced with evidence of forced labor  in their cacao supply chain. While both companies’ actions are ultimately profit-driven, Cadbury took more legitimate actions to divest from forced labor than Nestlé, as the latter has yet to fully invest in ethically-sourced cacao.


William Cadbury’s awareness of forced labor in cacao plantations started with rumors of horrible work conditions in Sao Tome and Príncipe in 1901. At the time, Cadbury obtained 55% of its cacao from the area (Higgs 2012:9). He met with Portuguese authorities who assured him that new labour legislation addressed concerns of minimum wage (Satre 2005:23). Still, Cadbury commissioned Joseph Burtt in 1905 to investigate the work conditions in Sao Tome e Principe. Prior to Burtt’s return, Henry Nevinson published his investigative journalism in Harper’s Magazine in 1905.

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 07.27.43
Cadbury's_Cocoa_advert_with_rower_1885Nevinson shed light on the forced labor of indentured servants (serviçal) in Sao Tome e Principe (Martin 2017). It was indistinguishable from slavery. Burtt returns in 1907, and his report supports Nevinson’s research. Yet, British authorities request Burtt revise his findings to assuage Portuguese authorities because Portuguese authorities were instrumental to British colonial interests in South Africa (Satre 2005: 76, 24). Up to then, Cadbury’s actions were behind the public eye. While the company researched forced labor and attempted to negotiate with both British and Portuguese authorities with no divestment in sight, their consumers continued purchasing their “guaranteed pure and soluble” cacao. 

Nevinson persevered with his reporting and published “The Angola Slave Trade” in The Fornightly Review, which garnered a lot of publicity. Forced labor alarmed British consumers because although England had abolished slavery in 1833, they were still complicit to it. Slavery did not align itself with the Quaker values of the time. As consumers started demanding Cadbury take action, Cadbury takes a final trip to Sao Tome and Principe.

Upon his return, he convinces J.S. Fry and Rowntree, other British chocolatemakers to join him as Cadbury boycotts cacao production in Sao Tome and Principe. Presumably, Cadbury divests because of the continuous failed promises by the Portuguese government to ameliorate working conditions in both islands. While the Portuguese government was not intent on ending slavery in cacao production, Cadbury did not suddenly reach enlightenment in 1909. At the time of initial evidence of slavery in Sao Tome and Principe, Cadbury had no other sustainable source of cacao if it wanted to maintain its leading status amongst British consumers. A viable option was needed as the British confectionners turned to mainland West Africa. Hence, the boycott from its main source of cacao did not hurt Cadbury because during his backdoor negotiations with various stakeholders, cacao trees were being planted in the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana). From his visit to the Gold Coast in 1906 to the official boycott from Sao Tome’s cacao in 1909, cocoa harvest in the Gold Coast increased from 9004 to 20,534 metric tons (Grant 2005: 175). Therefore, in addition to being ethically sound, the move to the Gold Coast in 1909 was also business-proof.


A century later, big chocolate makers are still guilty of profiting from the fruits of forced labor in their supply chain. In 1998, A Taste of Slavery: How Your Chocolate May be Tainted was published. The UNICEF  report was one of the first to highlight evidence of child labor in West Africa, particularly in Côte d’Ivoire. Young people were often worked almost under horrible conditions: “the [Malian] boys had little to eat, slept in bunk-houses that were locked at night, and were frequently beaten. They had horrible sores on their backs and shoulders, some as a result of carrying the heavy bags of cocoa, but some likely the effects of physical abuse” (Off 2008: 121). Child labor in cacao farms in Côte d’Ivoire involves familial and contracted labor, often including human trafficking of children from neighboring countries like Mali and Burkina Faso. Such labor conditions violate the International Labor Organization (ILO) Minimum Age Convention and the ILO Forced Labour Convention (Schrage and Ewing 2005: 101-102).

Increasing media attention to such reports of child slavery pushed the cocoa industry to stop dawdling and take action because “the mistreatment of children posed a clear threat to corporate reputation and sales” (Schrage and Ewing 2005: 104). As the United States Congress began the legislative process of banning Ivorian cacao, the industry proposed a protocol to address the reports. In September 2001, the Chocolate Manufacters Association (CMA) and the World Cocoa Foundation signed the Protocol for the Growing and Processing of Cocoa Beans and their Derivative Products in a Manner that Complies with ILO Convention 182 Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Chila Labor also known as the Harkin-Engel Protocol. Ever since its inception, the protocol has continuously been extended as chocolate companies fail to eradicate the worst form of child labor from their supply chain by their own deadlines. Many have critiqued the protocol as too lenient because a voluntary plan does not ensure the industry will be accountable.

Nestlé has undertook actions to adhere to the Harkin-Engel Protocol. The company joined the Global Issues Group (GIG), “an ad-hoc, pre-competitive association of cocoa industry participants formed in response to the agreements as spelled out in the Harkin-Engil Protocol” (Tulane research). Furthermore, Nestlé contracted UTZ Certified, a product certification organization, to be held accountable for its cacao consumption. Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 16.27.24In 2009, Nestlé established the Cocoa Plan. The hyperlinked video highlights the work of the Cocoa Plan in Côte d’Ivoire. Through the International Cocoa Initiative, the Cocoa Plan has built schools throughout Côte d’Ivoire in order to provide alternatives for children who were previously child laborers or could potentially be involved in cacao production.This iniative, among others, empowers local communities and seeks to reduce the prevalence of the “worst forms of child labor” in cacao production.In addition, Nestlé has supported further investigation into their cacao sourcing. The Fair Labor Association (FLA) conducted a thorough investigation of the company’s cacao supply chain, making it the first chocolate-maker to undertake such a process (CNN 2012). The FLA has continued these investigations, which attest to Nestlé’s investment in an ethical supply chain. Nestlé’s actions were in response to growing criticism. The company had to handle lawsuits and respond to documentaries about the persistence of forced labor in Côte d’Ivoire in order to appease its consumer base, who was demanding more accountability in the cacao supply chain.


Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 16.28.53Consumer demand for and consumption of ethically produced chocolate is highest in the United Kingdom. This trend explains why Kit Kat chocolate bars in the UK bear the Faitrade mark and Kit Kat chocolate bars in Germany do not. While both bars have the Cocoa Plan logo, Nestlé reveals that it only purchases 14.5% of its cocoa through the Plan, of which 75% is either UTZ or Fairtrade-certified (Nestle 2013: 160). While Nestlé has taken steps to ethically source its cacao, this has only been for consumers who actively demand it.

Similar to Cadbury, Nestlé is acting in a profit-maximizing way. Ethics are secondary because the investment in the Cocoa Plan for all of its chocolate would not be be as profitable beyond the UK. Unlike Cadbury, Nestlé has unfortunately not significantly addressed the Protocol because shared responsibility with other big chocolatemakers and lack of significant consumer demand diffuse the pressure to immediately conform.


Cadbury’s Advert with Rower 1885. 2010. Wikimedia Commons

CNN,. 2012. “Nestleé Advances Child Labor Battle Plan”. Retrieved March 23, 2017 (http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/29/nestle-advances-child-labor-battle-plan/).

Grant, Kevin. A Civilised Savagery: Britain and the New Slaveries in Africa, 1884-1926.  London: Routledge, 2005.

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery and Colonial Africa Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012.

Martin, Carla. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Lecture, Chocolate Lecture, Cambridge, March 01, 2017.

Nestlé,. 2013. Nestlé In Society: Creating Shared Value And Meeting Our Commitments 2013. Nestlé. Retrieved March 21, 2017 (http://storage.nestle.com/Interactive_CSV_Full_2013/files/assets/common/downloads/Creating%20Shared%20Value%20Full%20Report%202013.pdf).

Nevinson, Henry Woodd. “The Slave-Trade of to-Day. Conclusion–the Islands of Doom.” Harper’s Monthly, 1906, 327-37.

Off, Carol. 2008. Bitter Chocolate. 1st ed. New York [u.a.]: The New Press.

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

Schrage, Elliot, and Anthony Ewing. 2005. The Cocoa Industry And Child Labour. Journal of Corporate Citizenship. Retrieved March 22, 2017 (http://www.justice.gov.il/Units/Trafficking/MainDocs/The_Cocoa_Industry_and_child_labour.pdf).

The Bitter Truth about Chocolate: A Long History of Forced Labor

The hands that consume chocolate sadly know very little about the hands, stricken by poverty and coercion, that tirelessly work to produce the coveted product (Contrasts: Things Kids Like). Today, over 70% of the world’s supply of cacao is produced in Africa, largely in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, two West African countries that depend heavily on child labor to meet the growing demands of the international chocolate industry (“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry”). Of the 1,203,473 child laborers involved in the cocoa sector in Cote d’Ivoire, approximately 95.7% of those children were performing hazardous work involved in cocoa production (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor-Côte d’Ivoire”). Similarly, this alarming proportion of child laborers engaged in risky labors for cocoa production was also reported in Ghana (“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor-Ghana”). While reports exposing the extent of child trafficking and labor in the chocolate industry shocked Western consumers, the reliance on forced labor is hardly a recent addition to the production of cocoa.

 “Labor rights issues in cocoa production are nothing new. They are tradition.” Professor Carla Martin, Harvard University

Over the past few centuries, forced labor in cocoa and sugar production has adapted to fulfill economic incentives as well as resist pressures of abolition. From the Encomienda system established by Spanish colonizers to the chattel slavery that manifested in the triangular trade, and now to the child labor that plagues cacao-producing regions, coerced labor has modified its form but has remained a major component of production. The systems of labor inequality that persist in cocoa and sugar production reflect the checkered history of slavery and elucidate the role of economic factors in perpetuating forced labor to drive the commodities to massive consumption.

Human Interventions in Cacao Production

Young boy struggling to transport cacao pods through the forest.

Understanding the nature of cacao helps to elucidate why human labor particularly was so essential to sustain its procurement and how forced labor systems developed to maximize the profit of this cash crop. The cultivation and retrieval of cacao itself is a delicate process, thereby necessitating the precision and tender care of human labor that cannot be easily replaced by a mechanical substitute.  A fragile plant, the cacao tree must be kept carefully unharmed during recovery of the cacao pods. This requires human labor to precisely and skillfully use a cutlass, knife, or long-handled tool to remove the cacao pods from the tree (Martin, Lecture 4). The pods are then transferred to a sack, totaling more than 100 pounds in weight that must be carried back (“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry”). The photo above captures the difficulty of this task, among others that are also extremely laborious and dangerous and continue to be so for child slaves in West Africa. The careful and gentle treatment required in the initial steps of cacao production partly explains why despite immense mechanization of our industries, technological alternatives have not satisfied the need for labor in the stage of cultivation and crop retrieval.

The Encomienda System

While the characteristics of the cacao plant help explain the demand for human labor, economic factors better demonstrate why the labor systems implemented over the centuries were steeped in inequality and disparity. One of the first major labor systems imposed on indigenous people was the encomienda system introduced to the Americas in the sixteenth century by the Spanish. The Spanish were granted the right to exact tribute, whether in the form of gold or forced labor, from the indigenous people (“Encomienda system established”). This system was intended to Christianize and care for inhabitants but quickly morphed into a means of usurping indigenous land and exploiting indigenous people, as portrayed in the image below. The economic incentive underlying this system of forced labor was clear: the Spanish aimed to extract cacao coinage in order to maximize the profit of this lucrative commodity (Martin, Lecture 6). The indigenous people were not protected or paid, and worked in harsh conditions; even though they were not technically owned, they were required to produce cacao for the Spanish. Though the encomienda system eventually ended due to protest from clergy, it was quickly replaced by the repartimiento, another exploitative means of further wealth extraction (Martin, Lecture 6). This account serves to demonstrate how one form of forced labor merely transitioned into another abusive form in response to pressures of abolition; this theme of modification in the face of abolition is recurrent, leading to the persistence of forced labor. Therefore, the economic motive of resource extraction made the encomienda system an abusive burden for indigenous people.

The stark differences between the goals of the encomienda and the abusive, exploitative system that resulted.

The Triangular Trade

This early form of an economically incentivized labor system set the precedent for more egregious forms in the following decades. In the sixteenth century, chattel slavery emerged as one of the largest systems of forced labor, as evidenced by the Triangular Trade. As the demand for sugar, cocoa, cotton, and other products began to escalate, the need for human labor also drastically increased. The triangular trade, a trading system involving Britain, West Africa, and the Americas, was implemented to accommodate the growing demand for labor. By the nineteenth century, nearly 15 million enslaved Africans were transported to the New World as “chattel” (Martin, Lecture 6). Chattel slaves refers humans that are treated as personal property that can be owned and sold as a commodity. Interestingly, African slaves were “false commodities” rather than actual commodities (Mintz 1986). In the complex triangular exchange, slaves were being traded for goods but they themselves were not objects, despite being treated as such. These slaves suffered a very long and harsh voyage, a significant proportion of them dying, and endured many more hardships upon arrival. While a common misconception holds that slaves were doing unskilled, menial tasks, they were actually involved in many labor intensive responsibilities that severely diminished their quality of life (Martin, Lecture 6).

The Triangular Trade highlights the exchange of commodities between Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

Much like the encomienda system, this system of slavery was fueled by economic considerations. Firstly, the exchange was designed to maximize wealth and prospects for the colonizers; secondly, the origin of Negro slavery can be traced back to the economic decision to capitalize off the cheapest form of labor, rather than back to any racial explanation (Martin, Lecture 6). This form of forced labor was also met with substantial opposition, slowly leading to abolition by the late nineteenth century. Abolition, however, did not eliminate all forms of forced labor. The permissive attitudes towards labor inequality bred throughout centuries of slavery has led to the exploitation of other vulnerable populations by industry giants.

Addressing Practices of Child Labor in the Twenty-first Century

Tracing the incentives and nature of major systems of coerced labor demonstrates how in response to pressures of opposition and abolition, forms of forced slavery transitioned into a form that exploited a different susceptible population. Today, as we grapple with the challenges of child trafficking and labor within the chocolate industry, it is important to similarly examine the economic precursors that contributed to this problem. While lack of education and enforcement contribute to the child labor problem, a significant factor is an economic driver, as was the case in many other previous forms of forced labor. The immense poverty experienced by cacao-growing farmers prevents them from being able to manage their business or pay their adult employees, they are forced to recruit their children rather than educating them (“International Labor Rights Forum”). Addressing this problem requires counteracting the consequences of poverty with measures that economically empower these communities. As consumers, it is our responsibility  to expect fair treatment of workers and to demand accountability from the major players in the chocolate industry.

Therefore, examining the role of economic incentives in driving different forced labor forms in the past has informed us about why these coercive systems persist, and how economic considerations continue to hinder complete abolition of forms of inequality in labor.

Works Cited

“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry | Food Empowerment Project. Food Empowerment Project, n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <http://www.foodispower.org/slavery-chocolate/&gt;.

“Encomienda system established.” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/imperial-rivalries/timeline-terms/encomienda-system-established&gt;.

“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Côte d’Ivoire.” United States Department of Labor. United States Department of Labor, 07 Dec. 2016. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/cote-divoire#_ENREF_9&gt;.

“Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor – Ghana.” United States Department of Labor. United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <https://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/2014TDA/ghana.pdf&gt;.

“International Labor Rights Forum.” Cocoa | International Labor Rights Forum. International Labor Rights Forum, n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <http://www.laborrights.org/industries/cocoa&gt;.

Martin, Carla. “Lecture 4: Sugar and cacao.” Harvard University, Cambridge. 8 Mar. 2017. Lecture.

Martin, Carla. “Lecture 6: Slavery, abolition, and forced labor.” Harvard University, Cambridge. 8 Mar. 2017. Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, Penguin Books, 1986.

Images and Video Links

Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/46/14/32/4614324cf570d635eb2ed8e3efcba4a2.jpg&gt;.

Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/90/c9/bc/90c9bcf094663c33e8c8fad2e9d67253.jpg&gt;.

Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2017. <https://kmjantz.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/map2.jpg&gt;.

Ph Balanced Films. “Contrasts: Things Kids Like.” Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube,27 March 2013. Web. 8 March 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a7p33UJ-Aw&gt;.


Chocolate’s Impact on Society and our History

Chocolate is truly a gift from the Gods. It’s rich succulent flavor melts on your tongue and forces you to take another bite. The moment it was discovered it has been cherished by all who have consumed it. Therefore, it seemed only fitting to ask someone who hadn’t learned about cacao and find out what role chocolate has played in their life.


People have been consumed with chocolate for centuries and it has become part of many people’s daily lives. I asked a friend of mine of what chocolate has signified and played in her life, she claimed; “It makes me happy and feel better. I have a major sweet tooth but it’s something I crave everyday, I may even be addicted.” In today’s world, chocolate is available to everyone. It’s also in a variety of different things like protein bars or shakes and desserts. It’s so prevalent that most don’t even know where it originated or how it’s even grown which is something everyone should consider learning about. Chocolate is classificationtree.jpggrown on a cacao tree also known as Theobroma cacao. It’s a fastidious plant that can only grow in warm climates no more than twenty degrees north or south of the equator; such as South America and Africa. It prefers to grow under a canopy of other trees with the air still easily breezing threw. Cacao trees are cauliflory meaning that the flower or fruit grows from the main stem or trunk therefore, the cacao pod grows directly on the trunk not from its branches. The trunk of the tree is so fragile that it cannot be damaged when the pod is being removed or it will not be able to grow a pod there again. Midges are tiny flies that help flower the tree, which only happens twice a year, and creates the pods (The True History of Chocolate by Sophie and Michael D. Coe). Once a pod is cut down from the tree it then undergoes a variety of processes. The first is usually fermentation where the little beans are set out to dry in either trays or banana leaves, cleaned, then stored. They then are roasted to kill off any bacteria or contaminants. Finally, they are winnowed where the shell is separated from the bean removing any last remaining germs. At this point you would be left with a raw cacao nib that would be very bitter with a dirt texture if you attempted to taste it. However, the next step would be to process that cacao nib into the chocolate we’ve grown to love. As anyone can see, chocolate isn’t simply plucked off a plant and melted into chocolate, it takes many different and precise processes to get the taste just right.


Chocolate has a competitive side. Originally, Hershey’s was in its very own ball park creating the Hershey Chocolate bar and Kiss and being one of the first to market to the general public. Other individuals saw this opportunity and began creating their own companies such as Henri Nestle with cocoa powder, Mars and the Snicker bar. Again, I asked my friend what her favorite chocolate was, she explained; “Cadbury and Lindor Lindt chocolate are very refined. Cadbury has a unique taste that’s different from other brands with a much thicker candy coating compared to M&M’s. Lindt truffles are fancy with a remarkable soft, melted inside that is so satisfying.” So what makes all of these brands so unique to allow people to have such a preference? Of course every person has specific taste buds and anyone can argue that it’s all personal opinion but there are specific reasons as to why different brands taste differently. Milton Hershey founded his company in 1903, he had a vision to not only create chocolate but to make a better working environment that provided education and extra-curricular activities. His idea to create assembly-line-chocolate.jpgsuch a wonderful working environment was inspired by Cadbury who was the first to create a town dedicated to creating a utopian work space, known as Bournville. Hershey’s goal was to find a way to make milk chocolate with actual liquid milk. This proved difficult because others had been attempting to make it with powdered milk but it wasn’t sweet and liquid milk was spoiling too quickly. Eventually, he succeeded by creating a different process during pasteurization that heats the milk to 282 degrees Fahrenheit, also known as Ultra High Temperature milk, instead of the typical 161 degrees Fahrenheit. From there they store the milk in specially packaged bottles that allows it to last until after its been used in the chocolate and the package is opened (Hershey’s Shelf Stable Milk). Cadbury is very precise when creating their traditional taste. Through may years of practice they’ve perfected their milk and chocolate ratio so that when sugar is absorbed in the condensed milk, then added into the cocoa mass, it creates a chocolate liquid with the most authentic Cadbury palate. They use fresh milk instead of powdered milk mixed with why powder that many other European chocolate companies use. (Cadbury.co.au). Both Hershey’s and Cadbury take the utmost care in their chocolate and value fresh, liquid milk in their products. However, both taste very differently from one another because of slight differences in their manufacturing, traditions, and chocolate-to-milk ratios.


Another possible question people may have is when did chocolate become so popular? For as long as most of our ancestors can remember its been available for generations, possibly centuries. This is true because chocolate has been apart of civilizations like the Olmec, Mayan, and Aztecs dating back to 1000 BCE. It was discovered through hieroglyphics that a word kakawa was prevalent and participated in traditional and ceremonial events. All of these cultures believed cacao trees to be sacred, possibly the First Tree, and linked to royal blood lines. It wasn’t until the age of exploration that cacao beans made its first appearance in Europe. Christopher Columbus, in the 16th century, was one of the first to have traded with these fine beans on his fourth voyage when encountering a Mayan trading canoe however, he only knecacao_beans_unshelled_pic1.1462517052.jpgw that they were considered valuable but hadn’t known why. (Sophie and Michael D. Coe). Slowly, they became more prevalent as more explorers were trading them and soon they discovered the sweet, wonderful flavor they possess. Since it was so rare it was only available to Kings and Queens. Eventually nobles and the elite were consuming chocolate and many even created separate kitchens within their homes for the creation of chocolate. Within this time period chocolate was only every consumed as a liquid, it wasn’t until 1847 that the first chocolate bar was created by Joseph Fry that was meant for consumption. Again, my friend had no knowledge of when chocolate was brought to Europe but she did know that the first consumers were the wealthy because of its delectable qualities. Europe during the the medieval years had a very strict class system that consisted of the wealthy versus the poor. It wasn’t until the rise of the middle class, in the 19th century, that chocolate became available to the general public. Cadbury was created in this time, developing its chocolate and advertising it to the masses. From there the rest is history, chocolate has flourished unlike any other food item becoming one of the most consumed sweets with hundreds of billions of dollars spent on chocolate a year. I guess you could thank Columbus for introducing us to what we love.


As many people say, “you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy chocolate”. Has anyone ever realized what they’re buying into completely? Unfortunately, as happy as chocolate makes us it has also been linked with many social concerns such as child labor and slavery. These topics are not publicized as they should be and are quickly swept under the rug or forgotten about. I asked my friend if she had known much about the social concerns and if they would hinder her consumption of chocolate. She stressed that she knew it had been associated with slavery in the past and that if she knew what companies were possibly still using this she would refrain from buying their products. Slavery has long been associated with with chocolate. This is in part because it originally was for the wealthy who had slaves and believed in lavish lifestyles which slavery slowly came to symbolize. These people were then dehumanized and treated as property to justify their lack of respect for their lives. in the 16th to 20th centuries slavery was very popular especially because the triangular trade emerged that brought many people from Africa, against their will, to the America’s and Europe. This was because sugar, cotton, tobacco, and other commodity crops started to become very popular. They were grown on large plantations that required massive amounts of labor. Of course plantation owners didn’t want to spend actual money on salaries for these hard working men so instead treated them like index.jpganimals.Sadly, they were overworked, had contracted diseases due to their travel and introduction to foreign lands, and were living under harsh conditions and heat that once arriving to the fields they only lived for another 7 to 8 years. Luckily, by the late 18th century those enslaved in Haiti had a revolution that proved successful. It got the attention of Napoleon, who was the leader of France at the time, and allowed them to declare independence and close the slave trade in 1807. (Sweetness and Power by Sidney W. Mintz). Slowly, many other people began to realize their own power and more revolutions came. Child labor has been another social concern with chocolate. As we know, chocolate is grown in many African and South American countries. Often times these are third would countries where poverty is very high. In order to help support their families, children have begun to work on sugar farms or harvesting chocolate. These jobs are very labor intensive and unfit for a child. Yet, some companies have allowed this so that they could pay them less and over work them (foodispower.org). Although it has been brought up in recent years by the media it hasn’t been closely monitored as it should be. Learning where our food comes from and it’s history is important because it teaches us more about our own world. Everything on this earth comes from somewhere and we should take the time occassionaly to find out where that is and what makes it so great. I encourage everyone to find some of their favorite foods and educate themselves on the primary reasons that make it so great. Who would have known that chocolate has been at the threshold of much of our history throughout the world.


Works Cited

     “Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Child Labor and Slavery. Food Empowerment Project, n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.

       Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.
     “Hershey’s Shelf Stable Milk Products.” Hershey’s Shelf Stable Milk Products. Hershey’s, n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.
   “Making Chocolate.” Cadbury Australia. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2016.
     Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 1985. Print.
Received verbal consent from friend to quote her from our interview.


Is Fair Trade the Answer?

For much of the history of chocolate production, it has been the farmers who have suffered the tolls of exploitation. Unfair prices continue to leave many cacao farmers in poverty while the intermediaries between farmers and the consumer market are reeling in large profits. The current practices have created a standard of living that many farmers believe is not worth the work. So where traditionally the family farming business would be passed down to kin, it seems only logical to ask just how long will these farmers accept this mistreatment before they drop the family business all together? Such talk has fueled worrisome predictions about the future of chocolate. The small-scale farmers who endure the greatest exploitation are actually the ones who contribute approximately 90% of the world’s cacao (Lamb, 2014). If the children of these farmers do not take over for their parents, the world’s cacao sources will dwindle, chocolate prices will skyrocket, and companies will likely be forced to reduce cacao content in their products. To add

Cocoa farmer in Ghana 345x288
Small-scale farmers produce about 90% of the world’s cacao and thus are an integral part of the chocolate production supply chain.

on to the problem, cacao trees that live in much of West Africa are producing lower yields as they age and farmers do not possess the funds to help combat the shrinking cacao numbers (Fair Trade USA, 2011). To help solve these problems, Fair Trade has made huge steps towards improving the situation for farmers and the cacao production process in general. Fair Trade has brought into light issues that were previously in the dark and set into motion plans to fix them. But just how effective is Fair Trade? Is it actually achieving what it sent out to do? Fair trade has without a doubt set its sights on a noble cause but, as one will discover in this paper, the organization’s plan still has some deficiencies that must be addressed if the any substantial change is to be solidified.

Cacao Production

The majority of cacao farmers fall at the mercy of local collectors and intermediaries who move their cacao to exporters and processors. These intermediaries are purchasing cacao from farmers for prices much lower than what is considered “fair.” These practices have suppressed farmers into states of poverty, with little chance of rising out of it. As mentioned earlier, cacao yields have also been suffering, which has in turn put a larger stress on labor needs (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Economic hardship has likely been a major contributor towards the use of child and salve labor in West Africa. Identifying these issues as problems that need to be addressed, Fair Trade has stepped in and placed into action a plan to rid farmers of the injustices that have been pushed upon them.

Fair Trade

Fair Trade has set its sights on helping “cacao cocoa farmers, traders and chocolate manufacturers participate in long-term, stable relationships that support a dependable living for farmers and their families” so as to allow them to “provide a reliable, high quality cocoa supply for the industry” (Fair Trade USA, 2011). The Fair trade system consists of: encouragement of farmers to organize as cooperatives, certification that ensures the absence of child labor, a framework to increase environmental sustainability, a ban on the use of agro-chemicals, a Fair Trade price guarantee, and community development premiums (Fair Trade USA, 2011).

Farmer owned and governed cooperatives and associations, essentially give farmers leverage to aid in the achievement of higher and more fair prices for their products. So whereas, in the past, farmers were often economically exploited as the result of possessing little power, cooperatives are essentially helping to restore balance to the chocolate production chain.

The Fair Trade guarantee of no use of child labor helps assure consumers that they are not supporting such injustices by buying the product, thus making not only the end product more desirable to consumers, but also the cacao more desirable to intermediaries, exporters, and processors. This is an incentive to farmers to resist the temptation to hire cheap labor in the form of child workers, contributing towards a higher ethical standard.

The importance placed on environmental sustainability and the ban on agro-chemicals helps to insure not only the quality of the product, but also the future prospects of prosperity and the continued production of cacao. To help with this, Fair Trade has implemented premiums designated to community development to “increase product quality, build infrastructure, train cooperative leadership, bring safe drinking water to their communities and establish local health clinics and schools” (Fair Trade USA, 2011). A large focus has been set on increasing the living conditions of farmers, essentially giving them a lifestyle worth investing in.

There have been numerous efforts aimed to improve cacao production. Many of these approaches were centered around increasing yields and creating new disease resistant cacao plants. It is Fair Trade’s opinion, however, that these plans failed to address the root cause of the problem, the economical exploitation of farmers resulting in their inability to invest in their work and create an environment that allows for a sustainable business (Fair Trade USA, 2011).

Fair Trade in Action

Within the Fair Trade system, as of 2011, there are 62 cacao-growing cooperatives worldwide, including 14 small-holder farmer cooperatives in Côte d’Ivore with 200 to 6700 members in each (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Fair Trade has seen implications in aspects of life that go beyond higher prices. Kavokia, a cooperative certified since 2004, now owns a big health center that offers free treatment and health care to its members (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Another cooperative, Coopaga, invested in trucks, computers, and other tools for its members and also helped contribute to the building of a local hospital (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Two other cooperatives, COOPAAAKO and COOPAYA, achieved organic certification of their crops after investing in organic production methods (Fair Trade USA, 2011). Fair Trade has also led to the first farmer owned Fair Trade chocolate, the Divine Fair Trade milk chocolate bar, made by The Day Chocolate Company (Oxfam, 2010). “We have taken our destiny into our own hands,” says Comfort Kwaasibea, a

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Farmers have been able to allocate much of their Fair Trade premium towards establishing a better standard of living.

member of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative (Oxfam, 2010). In 2013, Fair Trade producer organizations earned £4 million in Fairtrade premium alone, earnings that have allowed producer organizations in West Africa to allocate 36% of their premium (suggested minimum is 25%) on projects to increase productivity and cacao quality (Galandzij, 2014). These examples point to the positives of the Fair Trade system and the outcomes it can produce; however, they do not paint the whole picture. In order to understand Fair Trade in its full context one must acknowledge its shortcomings.


Upon first glance, the Fair Trade system seems hugely successful. In 2014, global sales reached £4.4 billion, which is up 10% from the year prior (Clifton, 2015). In fact, The Swedish and German markets saw 37% and 27% increases respectively in Fair Trade sales (Clifton, 2015). However, things aren’t as rosy as they appear to be for small-scale farmers. Solidaridad’s 2012 report reveals that even the best performing smallholders earn less than US$10 per day (Clifton, 2015). So it seems that despite Fair Trade’s success on the market level, small-scale farmers are still falling victim to economic exploitation. Dutch trade campaigner and current Executive Director of Solidaridad, Nico Roozen describes the reality for small-scale farmers as “a shift from poverty to certified poverty” (Clifton, 2015). The limitations of Fair Trade don’t stop here.

The Fair Trade certification stamp was designed to distinguish products that have essentially passed the ethical tests of the supply chain. Fair Trade products are supposedly free of child labor and the farmers who grew the cacao were justly paid. To the consumer, these are attractive guarantees and they allow the individual to feel good about the products they are buying. On the surface, the idea seems pretty reasonable. Companies who use Fair Trade cacao in their products will not only support an ethical cost, but will also hold an advantage on the consumer market. But unfortunately, things are not this straightforward. The Fair Trade system was largely implemented to help the too often exploited small-scale farmers move their products to new markets in order to allow them to compete with large-scale farmers. However, the Fair Trade certificate no longer guarantees tha
t small-scale farmers are step 1 in the supply chain, expanding their programs to large-scale farmers (Lindgren, 2015). As a result, products from large-scale farmers have now begun being labeled with the same Fair Trade certificate, essentially pushing small-scale farmers right back to the unfavorable and disadvantaged status from which they started.

Child labor/slavery continues to be a problem in the cacao production industry.

Fair Trade seems to also be failing on its commitment towards ensuring the absence of child labor from the production process. Anti-Slavery International Director Aidan McQuade claims that when they met with Fair Trade, Fair Trade stated that their primary responsibility is producers, not children (Clifton, 2015). McQuade also claimed that child labor and child slavery is common and a part of the culture in Ghana and Côte d’Ivore (Clifton, 2015). Moreover, although Fair trade bans the use of child labor, they also claim that they cannot guarantee that a product is free of child labor (Clifton, 2015). Regardless, it doesn’t seem like Fair Trade cares about investing the efforts needed to completely eradicate child labor. But under these standards, what does the certificate even represent?

This question can be asked again in response to the variability of products who all wear the same certificate. To be clear, some labels require significantly lower Fair Trade ingredients than others, providing misleading information to the consumer (Lindgren, 2015). A company who uses a larger percentage of cheap, non Fair Trade ingredients while still maintaining the Fair Trade certificate will obviously have an advantage over a company that pays the higher price for a greater amount of Fair Trade products. This obviously isn’t just and doesn’t help those who are largely dedicated to using Fair Trade ingredients.


As farmers continue to be left in poverty, the world may soon face the consequences of malcontent farmers, and thus a lack of new farmers to overtake the current businesses. The Fair Trade system seems to claim a desire for better lives for farmers, especially those of small-scale, however motives will not change these farmer’s lives, only action will. The practicality of the current plan is not enough to pull small-scale farmers out of poverty, which is what Fair Trade initially set out to do.

Fair Trade’s current certifications do little to help close the gap between large-scale farmers and small-scale farmers.

Fair Trade’s certifications seem to have lost their power to distinguish between large-scale farmers and small-scale farmers. The current labels provide no advantage to the already disadvantaged small-scale farmers, giving them little chance to pull themselves out of poverty. In order to fix this, Fair Trade needs to create a language that helps create a distinction between small-scale farmers and large-scale farmers so that consumers can know who they are supporting. A language could also be created to help differentiate between the varying degrees of Fair Trade ingredient use so as to provide a better representation of the product. Fair Trade could also increase the standards required to be considered Fair Trade certified for large-scale farmers to help small-scale farmers fair better in the market (Lindgren, 2015).

Lastly, in response to the lack of enforcement of the ban on child labor within the Fair Trade community, Fair Trade could implement a third party who would be observing the current labor practices with “a rigorous human rights lens” so as to be able to enforce the laws without a bias for the use of cheap labor through whatever means possible.

The Big Picture

Fair Trade’s efforts to confront unjust practices in the supply chain has consequently associated the brand’s mark with a commitment to high ethical standards. However, the organization may be getting more credit than it deserves. It is without a doubt a major step in the right direction to acknowledge the injustices that have plagued the success of small-scale farmers. However, there are a number of changes that must be implemented in the system if it is to have any significant effect on the lives and businesses of small-scale farmers. So is Fair Trade the answer? It may be the beginnings of an answer; however, it is one that currently remains incomplete.




Works Cited

Clifton, Helen. “Is It Time to Rethink Fair Trade?” Equal Times. N.p., 6 Nov. 2015. Web. 1 May 2016.


“Fair Trade Certified Cocoa Review.” Fair Trade Certified TM COCOA Review(2011): n. pag. Fair Trade USA, 2011. Web. 1 May 2016.


Galandzij, Anna. “Choose Fair Trade to Make a Positive Impact for Cocoa Farmers.” Fairtrade Foundation. N.p., 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.


Haglage, Abby. “Lawsuit: Your Candy Bar Was Made By Child Slaves.” The Daily Beast. N.p., 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 1 May 2016.


“Kupa KoKoo.” KUAPA KOKOO (2010): n. pag. Oxfam Australia, Apr. 2010. Web. 1 May 2016.


Lamb, Harriet. “There Is a Solution to the Looming Chocolate Shortage – Pay Farmers a Fair Price.” The Guardian. N.p., 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 1 May 2016.


“Why Fair Trade?” Kopali Chocolate. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2016.


Hello Cocoa



When we think of chocolate in America we often think about a bag of M&M’s or a Snickers bar or a Kit-Kat. Regardless of the specific image it probably makes your mouth salivate thinking about the sugary, chocolate taste we all have come to love. What we don’t think about when we hear the word chocolate are terms such as slavery, child labor, certification or transparency. Chocolate industry analysts predict the global chocolate market will experience annual sales of $98.3 billion by 2016, the result of an annual growth rate approaching 3 percent. The chocolate market is large and rapidly growing but it has also dealt with growing concerns regarding ethical issues in the cacao-chocolate supply chain. Large chocolate corporations are in an arms race with one another to break into emerging markets and produce more efficiently that they are often more concerned with profits than certain ethical issues.

The company Hello Cocoa is a small-batch bean to bar company based in Fayetteville, Arkansas that pride themselves on “connecting people with flavors and cultures around the world.” (8) As they say on their website, “through ethical and direct trade, we strive to create relationships with locals and friends abroad to create an excellent chocolate experience, all in effort to cultivate community around chocolate.” (8) Hello Cocoa is a socially conscious company that combats many of the issues facing large chocolate corporations today. This essay will provide an ethnographic analysis of Hello Cocoa and explain why they are part of the solution to changing the cacao-chocolate supply chain.


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Figure 1. The home page of Hello Cocoa’s website


The most publicized issue in the cacao-chocolate supply chain is the prevalence of child labor. Chocolate is a product of the cacao bean, which grows primarily in Western Africa, Asia and Latin America. In recent years, organizations have begun to expose the widespread use of child labor on cocoa farms in West Africa that supply to some of the industries largest companies such as Hershey’s, Mars and Nestle. In response to this finding, the industry has become incredibly secretive, making it difficult for journalists to access farms that exploit child labor and thus difficult to disseminate information to the public. To put things in perspective, 60% of the Ivory Coast’s export revenue comes from the cacao industry, however, the average cacao farmer earns less than $2 a day. In order to keep prices competitive they often resort to the use of child labor.

There are several obvious issues with child labor such as the long, intensive hours spent on a cacao farm and the day-to-day hazards of working with dangerous tools such as a machete. Above all else though is the deprivation of the rights of the children themselves that violate the International Labor Organizations Child Labor Standards. 40% of child laborers in the Ivory Coast do not attend school. Depriving children of an education is unjust but it also robs them of any hope of breaking the cycle of poverty. The industry has begun to eliminate what the ILO calls the ‘worst forms of child labor’, but they still have a long way to go to create any substantial change. The real transformation will occur when chocolate companies take it upon themselves to not tolerate child labor and refuse to buy beans that were the product of human rights violations.

Hello Cocoa is one company that is ahead of the curve on these issues. They write in their mission statement, “We are passionate about travel and meeting people; this is an essential foundation of the Hello Cocoa experience and was the original inspiration of our company. We want to introduce our fans and chocolate-lovers to friends, lifestyles, cultures & landscapes around the world. And it all starts with a simple greeting, hello.” (8) Since they prioritize human relationships and human connections so highly, they have absolutely no tolerance for farmers that use forced child labor. The mission statement of Hello Cocoa says everything you need to know about the direction this company intends to go. What if we could do a bit of good in the world one chocolate bar at a time? In an industry that is increasingly focused on turning a profit, Hello Cocoa is a leader in ethics and moral sustainability.

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Figure 2. A member of the Hello Cocoa team with farmers in Africa because real face-to-face interaction between the company and the farmers is a cornerstone of their company.


Fair Trade

Another topic that is widely debated in the chocolate industry has to do with fair trade. Fair trade is a certification process that helps farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities. The Fair Trade USA website claims, “Our rigorous social, environmental and economic standards work to promote safe, healthy working conditions, protect the environment, enable transparency, and empower communities to build strong, thriving businesses.” (7) Any company that is fair trade certified is mandated to comply with the following rules:

  • No child labor (forced or otherwise exploited)
  • No workplace discrimination (gender equity and freedom of association)
  • Regulations on product ingredients
  • Safe working conditions and reasonable work hours
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Traceability and transparency

There is no denying that the intention of Fair Trade organizations is to eradicate issues that trouble the chocolate industry, however, there have been a number of critiques questioning its effectiveness.

Critics of fair trade say that it hurts poor, non-certified farmers whereas it helps rich farmers. This is because the cost of being certified is very high and thus many small farms cannot afford to apply for the certification process even if they are abiding by the fair trade regulations. This means that a chocolate bar you buy at your local grocery store that is not fair trade certified could actually be produced in the same way as chocolate that is fair trade certified. This is harmful to small farms because retailers are willing to pay more for fair trade beans then for regular cacao beans. Further critiques say that the regulations and inspections done by fair trade committees are rather lenient and occasionally allow non fair trade ingredients in fair trade products.

Hello Cacao combats this fair trade issue by engaging in direct trade. “Direct trade is a form of sourcing practiced by some coffee roasters and chocolate companies, referring to direct sourcing from farmers, with standards varying between producers.” (9) Direct trade does a better job of promoting direct communication and price negotiation between buyer and farmer without having to deal with an intermediary. It is typically a more transparent process that places greater emphasis on the quality of production. Their website says, “By doing business with cacao distributors that uphold ethical and sustainable standards, we impart dignity to (or empower) cacao farmers. And when we engage in direct trade, we strive to empower farmers by paying a fair wage directly to the farmer, while also seeking to establish a long-term relationship from which both of us benefit.” (8) Hello Cacao also uses no preservatives, non-GMO pure cane sugar and organic cacao beans to ensure high quality chocolate.

Figure 3. This is the fair trade certification logo.



The first step that must be taken in order to eradicate these issues and reward companies such as Hello Cocoa who conduct their business responsibly has to do with transparency. As has been discussed in this essay the deception and covering up of illegal activity is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with by implementing punishments. In order to hold companies responsible for their actions, regulations have to be put in place that mandate the release of information to the public. Customers have the right to know what they are purchasing and the right to educate themselves. The majority of consumers would not purchase chocolate if they knew it was produced illegally or unethically, however, the majority of consumers today are in the dark regarding many of these issues. Hello Cocoa is one of the rare companies that relishes transparency because they have nothing to hide. Attached to this essay is a video found on their website that details the complete bean-to-bar process of making chocolate. They also outline whom they purchase their beans from and the relationships they maintain with each group of farmers. This is obviously easier to do since they are a small company but they have made it a priority in their business model to place greater importance on ethical chocolate production and that is why other companies in the industry should look to emulate them.


Works Cited

  1. World Cocoa Foundation. March 2012. “Cocoa Market Update.” http://worldcocoafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/Cocoa-Market-Update-as-of-3.20.2012.pdf. (2/27/14)
  2. Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer.  March 31, 2011. “Oversight of Public and Private Initiatives to Eliminate Worst Forms of Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.” Tulane University. http://issuu.com/stevebutton
  3. BBC. March 24, 2010. “Tracing the bitter truth of chocolate and child labour.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_8583000/8583499.stm. (3/01/14)
  4. Sackett, Marjie. “Forced Child Labor and Cocoa Production in West Africa.” Human Rights & Human Welfare (2008). https://www.du.edu/korbel/hrhw/researchdigest/slavery/africa.pdf. (3/01/14)
  5. Kramer, Anna. March 6, 2013. “Women and the big business of chocolate.” Oxfam America. http://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/stories/women-and-the-big-business-of-chocolate/. (3/04/14)
  6. Grossman-Greene, Sarah, and Bayer, Chris. 2009. “A History of Child Labor, Child Rights, and the Harkin-Engel Protocol.” Tulane University. http://www.childlabor-payson.org/meetings/Ghana_Consultative_Meeting_2010/Documents
  7. Fair Trade USA.” What Is Fair Trade? Fair Trade USA, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.
  8. “Our Mission.” Hello Cocoa. Hello Cocoa, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.
  9. Martin, C. (04/06/16). Alternative trade and virtuous localization/globalization. (Powerpoint Slides). Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_kGt6Sj1X5bYUY0UWg0Y1h2TTA&usp=sharing


Unethical Practices: Hershey Corruption Domestically & Internationally

The United States of America is one of the most powerful countries in the world: we have an established democracy protected by a series of checks and balances, a burgeoning universal health care system, social services aimed at helping the impoverished, and we rank among the wealthiest countries in the world. Our success and that of other first-world countries has lead to global partnerships aimed at reducing extreme poverty and its many dimensions. Corporate America plays a unique role in this philanthropic commitment, on one hand providing international support to various civil rights groups and on the other lobbying in Washington to ensure their businesses secure the most advantageous positions possible. These contradictory positions collide cataclysmically in the chocolate industry.

Hershey’s public image is inspiring: founded in 1894 on Mennonite ideals by Milton Hershey, the company is now “controlled by a multi-billion-dollar child-care charity for the poor” (Fernandez). In reality, however, the company’s economic power has allowed them to use the Trust how they please, with no concern for the orphans, as the Pennsylvania attorney general looks the other way. Hershey’s web page is covered in links relating to their philanthropic endeavors, with titles like “A World of Good: Our Vision for the Future,” “Nourishing 1 Million Minds by 2020,” and “1.7 Million Gallons and 10,500 Acres Saved.” But behind this calculated presentation lies a history of corruption traversing the Atlantic. Over the past two decades, countless reports have been published credibly documenting the widespread use of child labor in the countries from which the chocolate industries, including Hershey, source their cacao. Gubernatorial action, such as the Harkin-Engel Protocol, have proven useless in motivating Hershey to divest from its unethical supply chain and will continue to be ineffective until the government is able to successfully escape the grasp of Corporate America. By allowing Hershey’s domestic and international transgressions to go unnoticed by the public eye, the government has indirectly enabled the chocolate industry’s continued abuse of human rights.

Milton Hershey: History & (Intended) Legacy

Milton      &     Kitty     Hershey,     1910. Source: Hershey Community Archives

Milton Hershey was a man of humble beginnings. Born in 1857 to a poor family in rural Pennsylvania, Hershey dropped out of school after the fourth grade to apprentice in a confectionary shop. His first two candy businesses failed before he successfully founded Lancaster Caramel Company (D’Antonio). After attending the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Hershey became fascinated by chocolate-making and bought two chocolate making machines. After much trial and error, he was able to create a unique recipe using skim milk that allowed him to mass-produce chocolate, selling bars at prices afforded by all. Hershey sold the Lancaster Caramel Company in 1900 and used the proceeds to buy farmland near Derry, Pennsylvania where Hershey began constructing his empire, building a state-of-the-art chocolate manufacturing factory, houses, businesses and churches.

Hershey was particularly devoted to his wife, Kitty, who suffered from an unknown disease that left her chronically sick and in pain. Due to her disease, the couple were unable to have children, prompting the foundation of the Hershey Industrial School (D’Antonio). In an interview with the New York Times, Hershey is quoted explaining his decision to found the school: “Well, I have no heirs – that is, no children. So I decided to make the orphan boys of the United States my heirs” (Fernandez). The Deed of Trust created by the Hershey family specified that the boys attending the orphanage had to be “fatherless, white, healthy, between the ages of four and eight, and good companions”. The boys would live in group home and attend school while performing age-appropriate chores on the farms and in the houses.

Milton    Hershey    &    Milton    Hershey        School       students.  Source: Hershey Community Archives

In 1930, “Hershey put the entire assets of the Hershey company – along with the Hershey mansion, Cuban sugar plantation, thousands of acres of Pennsylvania and the town of Hershey itself – into the huge and sophisticated legal trust ‘exclusively devoted’ to his orphanage, that was to exist into perpetuity” (Fernandez). The Trust came to have the controlling share in the company and the board of the Trust was meant to ensure the legal stipulations specified by Hershey in the Trust were upheld.

Domestic Corruption

After Hershey’s death, profit at the Hershey company soared and by 1962 the total value of Hershey’s orphans’ fund was over $395 million. Many recommendations in accordance with the Deed were made to use the profit to improve the lives of orphans, including admitting more types of students (i.e. races, genders) and modernizing the tuition-free Junior College or converting it to a low-cost four-year university. However, the president of the board, Sam Hinkle, an alumni of Penn State, pushed for the funds to be used to build a medical university for the state college. This technically violated the Deed and would not have received the approval needed had the board not found a loophole. The attorney general at the time, Alessandroni, was looking to make a run for governor and the board privately presented their idea to him, emphasizing the thousands of jobs the medical center would create. Ultimately, the money was given to fund the medical university but the board did not follow official channels with no taken appeal, written opinion, or official reports (Fernandez). Throughout the next few decades, the board would repeatedly find backroom ways to use the Trust, that was to be exclusively devoted to the orphanage, to support the failing Hershey Entertainment and Resort Company. These purchases include the controversial Hershey Links Golf Course, purchased in the early 2000s for nearly three times its independently appraised value (Miller).

The board of the Hershey Trust all but neglected the orphanage, failing to update practices as new studies and research were done in child psychology. No members of the board were child-care experts and school enrollment began to fall. In a recent decade, more poor children dropped out or were kicked out for misbehavior than graduated (Fernandez). The Milton Hershey School has also failed to protect the wellbeing of its students: by 2013, the school had suspended at least thirteen children diagnosed with depression, including Abbie Bartels who was barred from her eighth grade graduation; Abbie later committed suicide (Eisenberg). In 2012, the school denied admission to a boy with HIV, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (CBS News). The school later settled out of court, paying the family $700,000. Despite being the wealthiest secondary school in the nation with an endowment of over twelve-billion-dollars AND a founding mission to assist the impoverished population with limited resources, the school felt they were unable to help these children.

Hershey Links Golf Course & Rear of Clubhouse. Source: Dan Gleiter

Attorney General Kathleen Kane began to investigate the board’s actions in allocating the Trust’s dividends but ultimately ruled publicly that they had not violated their fiduciary duty (Malawskey). The board did make minor changes before this statement was published, closing the golf course to build student homes on the land just eight years after declaring their plan to run a “championship-caliber golf course” in a press release. A spokeswoman of the Trust has said that the five-million-dollar restaurant and bar was build with the intention of repurposing it in the future for the poor students, although remains vague about what exactly those intentions are. It is interesting to note that Kane’s top aide is the brother-in-law of one of the Trust’s board members. The announcement of these modifications right before the ultimate decision of Kane’s two-year judicial review of the board is oddly coincidental.

Trouble in Africa

In the early 2000s, the documentary Slavery: A Global Investigation was released and the world began to take notice of the unethical practices of the chocolate industry. The film explores cacao plantations in Côte d’Ivoire, interviewing young workers who vividly explain the “beatings, starvation diets and foul living conditions” they are forced to endure to make the delectable treat so often taken for granted in the developed world (Off 134). One of the people interviewed, “Diabe Demeble, president of the Malian Association of Daloa, a major city in western Côte d’Ivoire in the heart of cocoa land, made the controversial (though not provable) statement that ninety per cent of the cocoa farms probably used child labor or slaves” (Off 134). The scenario presented in Côte d’Ivoire sounded eerily similar to the São Tomé and Principe scandal of the early 20th century, when the major chocolate manufacturers disregarded reports of forced labor that were ultimately verified.

Trailer for another documentary about child trafficking and labor, The Dark Side of Chocolate, released in 2010: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y882AajKo1s

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The Big 5 Chocolate Companies Source: Wikimedia Commons

A similar series of articles about the cacao plantations in West Africa, Knight Ridder, reached the desk of Congressman Eliot Engel in 2001. Concerned, Engel added a rider to an agricultural appropriations bill about to be voted on in the House of Representatives that proposed a “labelling system for chocolate that would proclaim the candy to be ‘slave free’ if it could be documented that the product hadn’t involved the work of exploited children” (Off 139). The rider passed easily in the House of Representatives but the chocolate industry quickly enlisted the help of lobbyists before it reached the Senate. On the behalf of the Big 5 chocolate companies, the lobbyists argued that the cocoa chain was outside of their control and that it was the government of Côte d’Ivoire’s responsibility to guarantee ethical cacao. Ultimately, Congress and the Big 5 settled on what is now known as the Harkin-Engel Protocol, a voluntary “six-point program designed to eliminate child slave labor in the cocoa chain by 2005” (Off 144). Congress warned that if “the industry failed to eradicate ‘the worst forms of child labor’ on cocoa farmers within that time,” they would reevaluate the the previously proposed ‘slave free’ labelling system (Off 145). Timing played an interesting role in this compromise: elections of 2002 were less than a year away and candidates needed money to finance their elections, much of which comes from big corporations. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate’s Agricultural Committee who championed the bill in the Senate, received sizeable donations from Archer Daniels Midland, sugar companies, and the dairy industry, all of whom would have suffered with the passage of the originally proposed labelling system.

“Their attitude surprised me… I thought they would say ‘We don’t think this is a problem but we’ll investigate.’ Instead it was all    about    the   bottom   line.” – Congressman Eliot Engel  Source: Off; US Congress

The chocolate industry had not met all of the requirements of the Harkin-Engel Protocol by the deadline in 2005 and the U.S. Department of Labor awarded a contract to the Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University to evaluate the cacao supply chain in 2008/2009 and again in 2013/2014. Between these periods, the amount of children working in hazardous work in cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana combined increased almost 20% to 2.03 million: Côte d’Ivoire individually saw a 46% increase in children working in hazardous work in cocoa production (School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine). Progress was made and lost in various hazardous activities in cocoa agriculture, with less children participating in land clearing, down 29% in both countries combined, but more children children working with agro-chemicals, up 44% in both countries combined. The Payson Center found a 51% increase in the overall number of children working in the cocoa industry and that 1.1 million children were living in slave-like conditions, a 10% increase from the 2009/2008 report.

Over a decade after the original deadline of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, the chocolate industry is still using unethically sourced cacao beans in their production. Hershey has made a commitment to source 100% certified cocoa by 2020 and is expected to hit 50% this year, a year ahead of schedule (Gunther). This commitment may not be enough to put an end to child labor and hazardous working conditions: certification must be attained by individual farmers and is very expensive. There is corruption in the system and a failure to monitor standards (Martin).

Moving Forward

How can we expect to eliminate unethical practices in the chocolate industry if Corporate America continually avoids accountability and the government constantly makes exceptions for them? Isn’t it ironic that even Hershey, a company ‘controlled’ by a twelve-billion-dollar child-care charity for poor kids, is unable to make a real commitment to an ethical supply chain?

This is not an easy problem to solve: there are many actors, internationally and domestically, enabling the unethical use of child labor in the chocolate industry. Holding these corporations responsible for their transgressions will not solve the problem overnight but it is a step in the right direction. Government, both federal and state, need to commit to their oath of office and let the law and morality dictate their decisions, not the checkbooks of Corporate America. These corporations are ‘bottom line driven,’ and protecting them not only allows them to evade monetary consequences in the form of fines but also prevents the public from becoming aware of the situation and possibly altering their buying habits away from dirty chocolate.


D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Print.

Eisenberg, Pablo. “Suicide Of An Expelled Student Raises New Questions About Hershey Trust”. Huffington Post, 2014. Print.

Fernandez, Bob. The Chocolate Trust: Deception, Indenture And Secrets At The $12 Billion Milton Hershey School. Philadelphia: Camino Books, Inc., 2015. Print.

“File:Cadbury.svg”. Wikimedia Commons, 2008. Web. 2016.

“File:Logo Ferrero.svg”. Wikimedia Commons, 2008. Web. 2016.

“File:Nestle textlogo blue.svg.” Wikimedia Commons, 2014. Web. 2016.

Gleiter, Dan. The Hershey Links Clubhouse Seen From The Back.. 2010. Print.

Gunther, Marc. “Hershey’s Uses More Certified Sustainable Cocoa, But Farmers May Not Be Seeing The Benefits”. The Guardian, 2015. Print.

Hershey Co. “File:Hershey logo.svg”. Wikimedia Commons, 2014. Web. 2016

Hershey Community Archives. Milton And Catherine Hershey, 1910. 2011. Web. 2 May 2016.

Hershey Community Archives. Milton Hershey And Milton Hershey School Students, 1923. 2011. Web. 2 May 2016.

Malawskey, Nick. “Attorney General Kathleen Kane On Hershey Trust Reforms: ‘A Great Step Forward'”. Penn Live, 2013. Print.

Mars. “Datei:Mars-Chocolate-Deutschland.jpg”. Wikimedia Commons, 2010. Web. 2016.

Martin, Carla. “Lecture 10: Alternative Trade And Virtuous Localization/Globalization”. 2016. Presentation.

Miller, Barbara. “Golf Course Rezoning For Milton Hershey School Homes Approved In South Hanover Twp.”. Penn Live, 2013. Print.

Off, Carol. “Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet”. New York: The New Press, 2008. Print.

School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Survey Research On Child Labor In West African Cocoa Growing Areas. New Orleans: Tulane University, 2015. Web. 3 May 2016.

United States Congress. “File:Eliot Engel, official photo portrait.jpg”. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 2016.

“Traffic-free chocolate”: advocating opportunities and education for children where cacao is sourced

Because there are so many challenging issues in the production and marketing of chocolate, and seemingly no simple solutions, it is therefore daunting to consider creating relevant chocolate advertising. Nevertheless, I focused on the farming and social justice piece within the cacao supply chain and considered how to offer advocacy. It is the communities and specifically the children affected by the global demand for cacao that I felt drawn to research more and to thoughtfully address. I tried to employ the little that I know of human brain science and advertising: people will filter information through frameworks that have emotional and cultural components, we are wired to act on those issues that are relevant to us, are more immediate, and we generally have less capacity and interest in acting upon long term and/or vague problems in the future. Therefore, for an advertisement about child labor issues in the cacao supply chain to have an impact, it needs to be compelling, visually intriguing, informative, thought provoking, focused, relatable, hopeful, action oriented advertisement that highlights at least a part of the supply chain that concretely links children with the need for advocacy. After noticing an advertisement, I want viewers to pause, read, reflect, and then be motivated to learn more and to get involved in traffic-free cacao aka cacao produced without abusive forms of child labor (and while holding companies accountable to realizing their social justice goals). I did this by attempting to tap into the storytelling techniques that the big chocolate companies have used and the nostalgia that accompanies their proud promotional videos. But the absence and/or underrepresentation of cacao’s origins can be unsettling; advertisements fail to depict the realities of cacao farmers’ lives and often neglect to represent laboring children— I wanted to offer a way into the troubling disconnect between those who consume chocolate and those who are responsible for producing cacao. While all aspects of labor and production can’t be addressed all at once, Figure 1 and Figure 2 essentially attempt to make children visible, real, and worthy of concern.

There seems to be a shadow of Colonialism evident in current social injustice issues in cacao production. The complexity of the cacao supply chain can make tracking traffic-free labor difficult (Berlan 2013, Off 2006, & Ryan 2011); however, as a priority and by pledging a commitment to achieving supply chain transparency, big chocolate companies including Mars, Hershey and Nestle, can make great strides. Some of the big chocolate companies may even identify the need and the company’s commitment to an ‘evolution of marketing’ for example as seen in Mars’ handbook on their Global Marketing Code for Food, Chocolate, Confections, and Gum. http://www.mars.com/global/assets/documents/MMC_Handbook.pdf . But these promises and purported commitments can be lacking and fall flat even when looking for meaningful representation of chocolate products’ supply chain and exploitation at the source. Mars also offers promotional videos for their commitment to buying 100% certified cacao http://www.mars.com/global/about-mars/principles-in-action.aspx#pia-our-supply-chain , We can read on their website that, “Mars will purchase 100% of its cocoa from certified sources,” and claims that “This will be an industry first,” and “Change is in progress! As of 2013, Mars purchased 30% of its cocoa from certified sources,” This video’s claims seem vague at best, and confusing as a consumer trying to find out what this goal really means and how their guiding principles are realized— “quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency, and freedom” (2016). Even this recent video reaches back to a romanticized notion of paternalism and reflects a noble and conscientious company that e.g. wants everyone within the global “family” to benefit. Noble but vague and ambiguous claims are also true of other big chocolate manufacturers. Hershey’s promotional video, “How it’s made,” leaves out the sources of their cacao and only the local Pennsylvania dairies are included in the heartwarming depiction of agricultural contributions to their chocolate products. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4O7gd3zq5U . Along with the proud history, “Chocolate is a happy flavor,” is the message that resonates. And though the video is dated, its message persists, and its play on pride and happiness is what I wanted to carry through to an improved socially conscious chocolate advertisement.

Big chocolate companies may be making efforts to keep pace with consumer concerns through commitments and certifications e.g. Fair Trade practices, etc. (Figure 3). However, these companies also seem to deny that they were founded upon coerced and slave labor while at the same time holding on to an ideal legacy. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to challenge this celebrated, romanticized, enduring ideal depiction and contrast a relevant current day issue along side it. Cadbury’s advertisements from the late eighteenth to early nineteenth hundreds are used in Figure 1 and Figure 2, however, in parallel ways could also reflect the same gap that all chocolate manufactures have had, and still have, in bridging consumption with the sources/origins where cacao is sourced. The paternalism and shadow of colonialism seemed to resonate even today and is why I chose to address past and present, juxtaposing their ‘proud’ historical depictions of innocence and purity with a push for meeting current social justice commitments. It’s not surprising that none of the companies promotions indicate the evil of the worst form of child labor, no images of forced child laborers carrying heavy loads of cacao pods, wielding dangerous machetes while harvesting, suffering with open wounds, or applying chemical pesticides, or felling jungle trees.

In closing, it’s difficult to create a positive tone in the advertisement while not inadvertently celebrating chocolate’s dark past, but not to alienate consumers either, nor get so diffuse in criticism as to loose a meaningful message of accountability and advocacy. Furthermore, I did not want to oversimplify issues nor promote western ideologies. It’s easier to analyze/criticize existing advertisements than to create an original and effective advertisement. Bottom line, advocacy needs to adequately push back against the idealized legacy and blindness/deafness of first world consumers. Accountability includes partnering with local communities and culturally sensitive agents while committing to transparency in the supply chain.

Word count: 999


The Guardian. (2015). http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jan/12/shellshock-                   cadbury-comes-clean-on-creme-egg-chocolate-change

Berlan, A. (2013). Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on             Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana. Print

Child Labour. (2015). Our commitment: eliminate child labour in key categories. Nestle.               Retrieved from http://www.nestle.com/csv/human-rights- compliance/child-labour

The Great American Chocolate Factory. Video. Available at                                                                       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4O7gd3zq5U

The dark side of the chocolate industry. Documentary. Available at                                                        http://www.africanglobe.net/business/hershey-investor-sues-cocoa-records-africa- farms-child-labor/

Hershey Investor Sues For Cocoa Records On Africa Farms That Use Child Labor. (2014,                  March). Editorial staff. Retrieved from           http://www.africanglobe.net/business/hershey-investor-sues-cocoa-records-africa-     farms-child-labor/

Mars: Global Marketing Code for Food, Chocolate, Confections, and Gum. Handbook                       available at http://www.mars.com/global/assets/documents/MMC_Handbook.pdf

Off, C. (2006). Bitter chocolate: investigating the dark side of the world’s most                                   seductive sweet. Print

Principles in Action. (2016). Our supply chain. Mars video available from                                            http://www.mars.com/global/about-mars/principles-in-action.aspx#pia-our-supply–        chain

Ryan, O. (2011). Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. Print

Wenau, J. (2015, July). Child Labor On The Rise in West Africa as Demand for Cocoa Grows.            The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from                 http://blogs.wsj.com/frontiers/2015/07/30/child-labor-on-the-rise-in-west-africa-as-demand-for-cocoa-grows/



Traffic-free chocolate and child advocacy: pushing back against socio-historical trends reflected in chocolate advertisement

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 12.01.57 PM.png

Figure 1: An advertisement appealing to consumers’ ethical concerns while encouraging advocacy for children and communities within the cacao supply chain. Placed within a socio-historical context, this advertisement highlights a trend that all too often disconnects the consumer of chocolate from sourcing and production of cacao. By pushing back against the enchanting charming illustration that cast a long shadow from its colonial origins, these contrasting images create a dialogue between past and present, consumer and producer, from illusions of purity to real accountability and transparency. Without ignoring or whitewashing the past, I want to rebrand chocolate with a more realistic and relevant focus and with a message of hope.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 12.49.28 PM.png

Figure 2: Similar to Figure 1, this is a positive ethical appeal for social justice within the cacao supply chain that focuses on children. By contrasting historical advertising illustration of white school children joyously released from school while grasping chocolate bars, with actual photographs of happy children in and at school in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire: historically imperial consumer communities versus current producer communities, storybook children with real children. This advertisement is intended to push back against the onesidedness/blindness too often promoted by big chocolate even today, to refocus a dilution of ethical trade efforts by big food, to include the global community of children while pushing Cadbury to up its commitment for supply chain transparency and specifically child advocacy.

N.B. I’m wary of the glorified depiction of a smiling happy farmers with clean clothes, but a hopeful message is key; as well I wanted to avoid, for instance, replicating some of the framing of the Fair Trade posters, though educational, fall short when they are too data and image dense for viewers to digest.

Figure 3:  Nestle states clear objectives on their website, and it is possible to appreciate the enormity of the task:


             “Complete action plans to reduce child labour in our cocoa,

               hazelnut and vanilla supply chains, with 60 000 farmers trained on

               child labour practices, 60 schools built or renovated, and 80% of

               co-operatives covered by a child labour monitoring and

               remediation system (100% by 2016).” (Child Labour, 2015)

From Slavery to Child Labor: chocolate companies and moral ambiguity

The surface area of the earth on which cacao is planted and harvested has expanded greatly over the last few centuries. Indeed, although the cacao plant originated in Mesoamerica, Africa (as seen in the map below) has become by far the largest cacao-producing region in the world. Nevertheless, controversy has accompanied this great growth. In the early 1900s, worries about slavery on the cacao plantations of the Portuguese colony of Sao Tome (off of Africa’s central west coast) eventually led some British chocolate companies to boycott the island’s cacao; one hundred years later, allegations of child labor led to calls for boycotts of companies that bought cacao from other West African nations (Sartre, 2005; Higgs, 2012; Off, 2008). This shift in controversy surrounding the labor used to harvest cacao (from slavery to child labor) is the result of public relations considerations by chocolate companies.

World Cocoa Production – Africa has 72% of worldwide production
Map of Gulf of Guinea – Sao Tome and Ghana are seen here


In order to retain favor in the court of public opinion, companies eventually had to cease purchases from Sao Tome plantations that used slave labor. Some might argue that the Quaker religion of many of the chocolate company heads meant that their religious faith and concern for the needy had pushed them to reject making chocolate using the labor of slaves. However, before the extent of the slavery was made known to the public, many chocolate companies were keen on staying in Sao Tome. One of these most famous British companies was the Cadbury chocolate firm. William Cadbury (the head of the company at the time) had heard and read credible rumors of slavery on Sao Tome by 1901 (Higgs, 2012). Yet, he did not stop buying chocolate from the Portuguese colony until 8 years later, after multiple voyages, investigations, and meetings with other chocolate-makers confirmed these rumors (Higgs, 2012; Coe and Coe, 2013; Sartre 2015). Cadbury’s evident hesitation and reluctance to end his company’s purchase of cacao produced by slaves, shows that the business and image of the company was more important than any ethical considerations.

Photo credit: https://hughcrosfield.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/introducing-the-dog-that-didnt-bark-in-the-night-time-quaker-chocolate-and-the-sao-tome-cocoa-scandal-1902-9/
Shackles used on slaves in Angola

Once the Cadbury Company, and other British Quaker chocolatiers, ceased purchasing cacao from Sao Tome, they looked to the British Gold Coast colony (now called Ghana) to satisfy the chocolate demand of their customers (Higgs, 2012). The Gold Coast provided a suitable alternative to Sao Tome and Principe because it had clear antislavery laws and relied on small landholders to grow cacao (Berlan, 2013). Although both Portugal and England had outlawed slavery by the early 1900s, the laws for the Gold Coast were clearer and stronger at the time (Berlan, 2013). This signaled to both the company and consumers, that Cadbury chocolates would not be made with slave labor. Another signal came from the labor practices in the Gold Coast. The reliance on small landholders meant that slavery (especially the plantation-style slavery present in Sao Tome and Principe) was very unlikely to develop (Berlan, 2013). Instead, farmers of smaller plots of land recruited family members and sharecroppers to work for them (Berlan, 2013). This resulted in controversy related to child labor.

Child labor

On one hand, child labor was seen as extremely exploitative. It is evident that many children working on the small plots of land on the Gold Coast and neighboring Côte d’Ivoire were mistreated (Berlan 2013). Most were not paid, they often missed school, and some were made to do strenuous, dangerous work (Berlan, 2013; Off, 2008; Ryan, 2011).

Child working on cacao farm

On the other hand, many reports about child labor seem to have been overblown, with great exaggerations in the numbers of children working in truly hazardous conditions (Berlan, 2013). Additionally, terms like “child slavery” and “child trafficking,” while certainly serious concepts and acts, are often misapplied to situations in which children are being trained to be the next generation of cacao farmers or undertaking a rite of passage to find work (Ryan, 2011). This broad categorization of child labor as a particular evil of the cacao industry also neglects to look at broader rates of child labor in society.

This ethical grey area of child labor differentiates it from slavery and makes it a much more manageable public relations issue. The move of the large, British chocolate corporations to Ghana, and then other West African countries, placed companies in a much more morally ambiguous position, where it was often difficult to know if child workers were truly being exploited. This allowed companies to deflect criticism – something that was not possible once evidence of the plantation slavery on Sao Tome had been revealed. By shifting away from buying cacao in an area where slavery was clearly present to an area where child labor was an issue, the chocolate corporations shifted from an illegal, negatively perceived practice to one where uncertainty abounded.


Works Cited

Berlan, Amanda. “Social sustainability in agriculture: An anthropological perspective on child labour in cocoa production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development Studies 49.8 (2013): 1088-1100.

Coe, Sophie Dobzhansky, and Michael D. Coe. The true history of chocolate. Vol. 29. London: Thames and Hudson, 2007.

Higgs, Catherine. Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery, and Colonial Africa. Ohio University Press, 2012.

Off, Carol. Bitter chocolate: Investigating the dark side of the world’s most seductive sweet. Vintage Canada, 2010.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate nations: Living and dying for cocoa in West Africa. Zed books, 2011.

Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on trial: Slavery, politics, and the ethics of business. Ohio University Press, 2005.

Ridding the World of Forced Labor

Theobroma cacao, otherwise known as the cacao tree, lies at the source from which all chocolate is produced. First used in South America by the Mayans and the Aztecs, cacao would be later introduced to Spain in 1528 and spread throughout the rest of Europe soon afterwards. For consumers, chocolate provided an almost magical experience, a treat that made life just a little but sweeter. But for those who were actually involved in the cultivation of cacao, the basis of chocolate, life was anything but sweet.

Large scale production of cacao began in the 1880s on Portugese plantations on the islands of São Tomé and Principe.  Between 1888 and 1908 it is calculated that more than 67,000 African mainlanders were sent to these two islands to work manual labor (Ant-Slavery 5). Along with the leadership of William Cadbury, the Fry’s, Rowntrees, and Stollwerk chocolate firm of Cologne teamed up to send Dr. Joseph Burtt to investigate the working conditions present on the islands and in Angola. The results of his studies were disgusting. Burtt came back with findings that the Angolan people were taken to the island “against their will, and often under conditions of great cruelty” (Anti-Slavery 5).

In the 1890s, the Duala elite set up cocoa plantations in Cameroon, ones that would become largely dependent upon slave labor as well as wage labor. It was believed that slaves on these plantations were afforded greater opportunities, than those on German plantations, with the granting of the ability to cultivate their own plots. After the French takeover of Cameroon, the Duala plantations soon became unprofitable due to the large lack of labor needed to uphold profitable production.

The problem with cacao production is that cacao cultivation is a very time and skill required job. The way the pods grown on the tree makes the removal of the pods extremely difficult. When removing the pods from the tree, one must be very careful not to damage neither the trunk nor the pods. Machines that have been designed to do such a job have failed, solidifying the need for human labor in this work.

A child laborer carefully cuts the cacao pod from the trunk of the cacao tree without damaging the integrity of the pod.

In order to keep costs down in the production of cacao, sharecroppers have turned to child labor. These children are sold by their parents to work the fields in the hopes that their children will return with profits to help out their family. Surveying has shown that many of these parents make this decision without the assumption that anything of great danger could happen to them. Unfortunately, many of these children never return with any of the things they had hoped for. They are unschooled and often brutally abused. Few will return with any earnings for their illegal work. The child labor cycle seems to be motored by those few children who come back with significant earnings, giving hope to the rest of the families in the villages they come back to.

Children forced to work for sharecroppers are often placed beneath abusive conditions, receiving no education during their time on the plantation.

Other forms of labor have also found their ways into the cacao business. These include paid laborers, enslaved laborers, and non-enslaved but exploited laborers. Regardless, most of these people live in abusive working conditions.

In 2001, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, conducted research in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria on the potential existence of human trafficking and child labor. The surveys commissioned reported that 284,000 child laborers work in dangerous working conditions. Surveys also showed possible evidence of around 2,500 child workers that have been trafficked to Côte d’Ivore and Nigeria to cultivate cacao (Anti-Slavery 58).

In efforts to eliminate child labor or any other forced labor from being used as a means of production, The Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO) was set up in 1997. Those belonging to this organization are permitted to use their label on products “where the ingredients, such as cocoa, are purchased either directly from producers registered with the FLO or from importers registered with FLO” (Anti-Slavery 41). The fairtrade standards for FLO include no abuse child labor, no other forms of forced labor, and labor must not inhibit one’s ability to acquire schooling. This system is upheld locally by members to ensure that these standards are being followed, making it incredibly difficult for any prevalence of slavery to exist. Most of West Africa has become covered by the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative in Ghana, which has membership of 35,000 farmers in 937 different societies (Anti-Slavery 42).

Further efforts to rid the cacao production business of slavery and human trafficking include the Initial Plan of Action against Trafficking Persons and the “First specialized Meeting on Child Trafficking and Exploitation in West and Central Africa” in 2001 (Anti-Slavery 62). These steps have focused an effort towards criminalizing human trafficking and using legislation to tackle the problem, Trafficking would be further tackled through the creation of an 8 country body to investigate child trafficking and provide information on the issue (Anti-Slavery 63).

Many big name chocolate makers have insisted that they have no responsibility in the means of labor of cacao cultivators. However, facing public pressure, the chocolate industry issued a four-year plan to eliminate child slavery in cacao production (Robbins). The agreement was signed by by the CMA and the World

Hershey’s is one of the major corporations to make strides to eliminate child trafficking.

Cocoa Foundation along with major chocolate producers/processors like Hershey’s, Mars, Nestlé, Blommer Chocolate, and Guittard Chocolate.

From a consumer standpoint, we can all make a difference. Look for foods stamped to indicate its part of the fairtrade movement. Fairtrade foods guarantee fair pricing, long-term trade relationships, living wages and no child labor, along with a list of other requirements. Informing oneself with the current issue and taking a stand to fight for what is right and for the betterment of the lives of innocent people starts with the individual.



Works Cited

Ribbons, John. “The Good the Bad and the Savory.” Global Exchange. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2016

“The Cocoa Industry in West Africa.” Anti-Slavery International. 10 Mar. 2016

Fixing (Child) Slavery: We Must Look Home

In lecture, Professor Martin stated that, “Labor rights issues in cacao production are nothing new. They are tradition.” This is exactly the problem with the historical narrative of cacao and chocolate: the labor rights and slavery issues have not changed significantly and in many ways the issue has increased in severity with reports of rampant child slavery. Unfortunately, looking back into cacao and chocolate’s history of slavery and the numerous efforts to banish slavery completely, and have those efforts be ignored and fail, is a cruel reminder of the difficult task advocators of clean chocolate face. However, there is one company that perhaps deserves a deeper look at in order to see how a big chocolate company can approach the scandal of slavery and work to see that it is abolished. This company is Cadbury, the British multinational chocolate company.

Founded in 1824, almost 192 years ago, by John Cadbury, the company has had a history of slavery. The troubles of the Cadbury slavery issues began in 1901, when William Cadbury, a nephew of George (son of John Cadbury who took over in 1861), visited Cadbury cocoa farms in Trinidad and hears reports about slave labor on the islands of Sao Tome and Principe. This was a shocking discovery given that the British Slavery Abolition Act abolished slavery throughout most of the British Empire in 1834, legally freeing almost 800,000 slaves in the West Indies (Martin, Lecture). While William was aware of the issues of slavery and their cacao farms in Sao Tome and Principe (STP), it was not until at least four years later, in 1905 that the Cadbury family sent Joseph Burtt, a relatively inexperienced researched to report and investigate the conditions of the Cadbury cacao farms in Africa and STP (Coe & Coe) Burtt confirmed what Henry Nevinson, a British journalist who investigated slavery in the early 1900’s, had been reporting on: slavery still existed although it was meant to be abolished.


The book published by Henry Nevinson on his discovers of slavery during post-abolish times in the 1900’s. His title sadly still applies to our society today – a modern slavery as child labor now. 

Here is where we can see the connections to cacao farming and child slavery in our modern age. It has long been illegal for child labor to exist, although more and more claims are being released and studied that call attention to the fact that child labor is very much still a large part of cacao farming. Most recently even, on March 1st of this year (this month), a reporter by the name of Brian O’Keefe reflecting on how big chocolate makers have made promises to end child labor in their industry but there still exists at least 2.1 million West African children working on cacao farms (O’Keefe). O’Keefe’s disappointment with the promises of big chocolate companies today speaks to the pace at which the Cadbury company slave scandal made it out to the general public scandal. It was only in 1909 that a report was published about Cadbury’s actions, almost a whole eight years after the clear evidence of slavery was found in STP. It took years to build up the voice and courage to attack a giant such as Cadbury’s. This, I believe, is what we still face today – a fear of attacking the giants, of being ostracized, as in the end, it seems like the big chocolate company always wins – as Cadbury did in the end, since Cadbury still exists today and relatively few know of it’s torturous past. While Cadbury was the first mainstream chocolate brand to become Fairtrade certified, we can’t help but think child labor slavery is looming in the background of the Cadbury Crème eggs, that Cadbury is hiding child labor now as it once did in the early 1900’s (Fairtrade.org.uk).


Cadbury ad advocating for the support of Fairtrade. However, just as before, we need to look further into Cadbury’s labor practices – consumer driven grass roots research would be “taking a step” as the ad focuses on. 

Brian O’Keefe, in his article, poses the important question: what will it take to fix the problem? I believe the problem cannot be left to reporters or companies researchers anymore, the problem belongs to the consumers. At Oxford in 1839, Herman Merivale wrote:

We speak of the blood-cemented fabric of the prosperity of New Orleans or the Havanna: let us look at home. What raised Liverpool and Manchester from provincial towns to gigantic cities? What maintains now their ever active industry and their rapid accumulation of wealth? The exchange of their produce with that raised by the American slaves; and their present opulence is as really owing to the toil and suffering of the negro, as if his hands had excavated their docks and fabricated their steam-engines…

Every trader who carries on commerce with those countries, from the great house which lends its name and funds to support the credit of the American Bank, down to the Birmingham merchant who makes a shipment of shackles to Cuba or the coast of Africa, is in his own way an upholder of slavery: and I do not see how any consumer who drinks coffee or wears cotton can escape from the same sweeping charge (Martin, Lecture).

We must look at home to fix cacao slavery. We must look at our chocolate bars and be responsible for finding out how it was made and speak up if we believe it to be made from child’s hands or from coerced workers.


This photo is from the FORTUNE magazine article by O’Keefe- child labor is the slavery of our modern time. 


Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. N.p.: n.p., 2013. Print.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. N.p.: n.p., 1986. Print.

O’Keefe, Brian. “Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem.” FORTUNE 1 Mar. 2016: n. pag. Print.