Tag Archives: child labor

An Examination of Unethical Practices in the Cocoa Industry

An Examination of Unethical Practices in the Cocoa Industry

(Food Empowerment Project)

Introduction

This semester we looked intensively at the use of slave labor in the chocolate industry, and the responsibility of chocolate companies to do their part in ensuring that the chocolate they sell is not coming from unethical child labor. Top chocolate selling companies like Nestle and Hershey have all taken accountability for their role in the problem and pledged to fight to eliminate child labor in the production of cocoa.  In fact, a couple of years ago, Nestle made the news with its pledge that its iconic KitKat bars would be made with cocoa that has been verified by third party agencies to ensure that it was supplied from ethical sources. Yet, KitKat is only one type of bar that Nestle makes, and no statement was issued regarding whether or not the rest of their chocolate products would be subjected to this new guideline. This small step was not highly regarded by those looking for chocolate companies to take legitimate steps towards fighting this issue. Although Nestle hoped that their pledge would take some pressure off of them, it had no such effect. In 2018, a U.S. federal appeals court reopened a lawsuit filed by a group of former child slaves accusing Nestle of perpetuating child labor in the Ivory Coast. (Bellon) Nestle was also sued by a legal firm who alleges that they deceived consumers about the use of slave labor to provide cocoa for their brands Crunch and Butterfinger. This same legal firm has also opened a lawsuit against Hershey and Mars on similar grounds. So, the three largest chocolate companies in the world, are all facing lawsuits over using chocolate that is the result of slave labor. Anyone who is familiar with the horrors children face on cocoa farms would surely be angered and disgusted. Due to the history of this country, the term slavery should be enough of a trigger word alone to dissuade any company from wanting to be associated with any product that is the result of slave labor. This, coupled with the fact that chocolate companies are consistently being sued for their role in perpetuating slave labor on cocoa, makes me wonder why chocolate companies are not doing more to distance themselves from these unethical cocoa farms. 

Background

First, let’s take a look at some statistics that contribute to the problem. There are about 5 to 6 million cocoa farmers in the world, and another 40-50 million who depend on the cocoa industry for their livelihood. (USDOL) Almost 70% percent of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa. Nearly 40% of the Ivory Coast’s population is involved in some form of cocoa farming and 60% of the Ivory Coast’s export revenue is funded by the cocoa industry. (USDOL) As you can see, West African countries heavily depend on the cocoa industry for economic stability. For many of them, it is their most consistent and stable form of income for the country. Thus, it makes sense that they want to minimize their costs as much as possible. The typical cocoa farmer in the Ivory Coast and Ghana is paid an average of $2 per day. This forces many farmers to turn to the cheapest form of labor possible, child/slave labor. Because many in West Africa live in poverty, children are often forced to start working to help support their families at very young ages. This makes them a lot more susceptible to being trafficked, kidnapped, or sold into slave labor. The children can work up to 100 hours a week and perform a number of dangerous tasks such as: operating a machete, carrying bags of cocoa pods that weigh over 100 lbs, and operating in close proximity with chemicals without protective gear. (slavefreechocolate) If they try to escape or aren’t working fast enough, they are beaten and whipped. Some of the children involved in slave labor are as young as 5 or 6 years old.

 (International Labor Rights Forum)

Chocolate Companies’ Role

With the knowledge of all the horrors children face in the cocoa industry, it would seem that everyone, including the major chocolate companies, would want to fight to end this issue. Yet, chocolate companies have been largely idle. In 2001, the US House of Representatives decided to take action and voted to consider a bill which would require all chocolate companies to confirm that they were child labor free and to label their products this way. (Willow) American chocolate companies responded with a fierce lobbying campaign against this law. They argued that there was no way for them to control what happened on cocoa farms across the world, and that cocoa supply lines were usually so long and complex that it was nearly impossible to verify that the cocoa they receive came from a farm that did not make use of child labor. Because of the lobbying efforts of American chocolate companies, the protocol the house wanted to vote on was watered down and released in 2001 as the Harkin-Engel Protocol. (Willow) The Harkin-Engel protocol did not require companies to verify that their chocolate is not supplied by slave labor, and the issue of labeling seemed to be completely forgotten. We are almost 20 years removed from the release of the protocol and almost nothing substantial seems to have been accomplished. Even KitKat’s gesture is not even close to the type of support needed to spark real change in the industry. This was a major win for chocolate companies, whose response to the original protocol is indicative of the fact that they just don’t have any real interest in solving this issue.

(Bellon, 2018)

 There are a couple reasons the chocolate giants are disinterested in putting forth any real effort towards solving the child/slave labor issue we have examined so far. One, as stated earlier, is that it would require effort on the part of the chocolate companies to ensure that their cocoa is produced ethically. Supply chains in the cocoa industry are long and complex, and because of the enormous child labor problem in Western Africa, it would take a lot of verification on their end to determine that the companies they are buying from are using ethical practices. However, second and probably most important, is the fact that it would require chocolate giants like Hershey and Nestle to sacrifice some of their profit. According to the Prime Minister of the Ivory Coast, chocolate companies will have to pay around 10 times the current price of price of cocoa if they want to end the use of unethical child labor there. This would obviously drive up the price of their products, and cut into a big percentage of their profits. Any strategy that encourages corporations to sacrifice profit in the name of morality is one that is flawed. So, let’s look at some alternative ways to end dangerous child labor on the Western Africa cocoa farms.

Causes

The biggest reason that this situation exists is poverty. The West African economy depends so heavily on the cocoa industry, however there is not even a minimum wage or minimum price for farmers to sell their cocoa. This was not the case until the cocoa industry was privatized in 1999. Once the industry was privatized, cocoa prices fell drastically, poverty became widespread, and the government stopped spending money on necessities such as healthcare and education. (USDOL) This all came at the expense of the cocoa farmers who work in isolation on small farms with no way to communicate with each other about market cocoa prices. World cocoa prices have been well below the price of production costs since the industry was privatized. Some countries refuse to buy cocoa from West African countries who they suspect of using slave labor on their farms. This causes West African farmers to have to sell their cocoa at an even lower price. Farmers do not even make enough money to afford trucks to transport their beans so they are forced to rely on exploitative middlemen, who give them cash for the beans and haul them away. Without the knowledge of the worth of their beans, farmers are unable negotiate better prices for them. Instead, they must just accept the prices that these exploitative buyers are willing to pay or risk not selling their beans at all. So, even if cocoa prices rise, the farmers themselves will not be able to benefit from it.

Solutions

A major step towards a solution would be for more advanced countries, like the United States, who purchase large amounts of cocoa from countries who use slave labor and are concerned about slave labor in Africa to invest in the farmers in those countries. Equipping farmers with something simple like trucks to transport their beans to markets would allow them to have an understanding of world prices, negotiate better prices for themselves, and cut out exploitative middlemen who take away a lot of their profit. This alone would increase producer surplus exponentially and allow farmers to be able to rely on more ethical forms of labor to produce their cocoa. Another possible solution would be a mandate of a minimum price for cocoa. Thanks to Fair Trade Certified producer groups, this is the case in some countries in Western Africa. These groups cover different nine African countries and represent thousands of farmers. Chocolate companies who buy from farms belonging to a Fair Trade Certified group pay the farmers the world market price plus a stipend that guarantees farmers have livable wages. (Food Empowerment Project) Farms that belong to these groups are inspected once a year and there is zero tolerance for unethical labor practices. Although only a small portion of the world’s cocoa is produced on Fair Trade Certified farms, they represent a possible solution to the problem. A more drastic approach would be to standardize groups like this, and to force all farms to join a group like this in order to be legally able to sell cocoa beans. This approach would likely be seen as problematic because the chocolate giants are not buying their cocoa from Fair Trade Certified farms. However, to combat that point, we must hold large chocolate-selling companies like Nestle and Hershey accountable. Countries who allow these chocolate giants to sell their products should pass legislation similar to that of the original Harkin-Engel protocol proposal. These companies should not be allowed to sell their products without verifying that their cocoa is supplied by ethical sources. This is extremely important because, like the farmers, these companies are looking to minimize their production costs. Changing the way the farmers do business won’t completely eradicate child labor if the chocolate giants are not forced to also make the switch to more ethical practices. Forcing the chocolate companies’ hand will ensure that the farmers are not the ones who suffer the consequences of changed legislation. Because, as we have seen, when the farmers suffer, they turn to cheap, unethical solutions.

Conclusion

West African countries depend heavily on the cocoa industry for economic success. Their reliance on this industry, cocoa farmers struggle to sell their product for a livable wage and chocolate companies refusal to acknowledge their role in the situation resulted in this large-scale slave labor problem that we see today. If we truly want to eradicate this problem in Western Africa, solutions like the one laid out in this paper are a good start. I hope that through this paper you have a better understanding of the horrors of slave labor on cocoa farms. However, I also hope that you are optimistic about the future, because solutions are right in front of us. We just have to hold the major players in this cruel game accountable.

References

Media Citations

  • International Labor Rights Forum, 2014

Overcoming a History of Human Rights Abuses: Cocoa’s Evolution from Contributing to the Slave Trade to Combatting Child Labor

The well-documented history of cocoa tells the story of an industry driven by greed. However, the picture that is often painted does not speak to how this has evolved.

Dating back as far as 1500 BCE to 400 BCE, the period spanning the Olmec civilization, discoveries and research have firmly validated the significant role that cocoa has long-played in both culture and religion (Coe and Coe, 2013). The same history speaks to a past whereby:

  • origins and producers were exploited by explorers, instigating and contributing to the slave trade for years;
  • industrialized nations seeking to dominate processing and control greater market share, sparked proxy wars with the imposition of tariffs on imports originating from colonies other than their own (present and/or former); and
  • saw industrialized nations assume a patriarchal stance that significantly limited powers and diminished the voice of producing origins (former colonies)—lost ground that would take them years to recapture.
Map of Mesoamerica – Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies (FAMSI)

The following seeks to detail cocoa’s dark past—one whose opacity perpetuated years of human rights abuses including forced and child labor. Having evolved as an industry, the following will also outline industry’s transition into an ever-increasingly transparent and responsible global industry that remains challenged by perceptions based on its past and wrestling to break free from its dark history.

Cocoa’s Sordid Past and Contribution to the Slave Trade

Spanning the Pre-Classic (2000 BCE to 300 CE) to Post Classic (900 to 1500 CE) periods, the number and diversity of explorers ballooned, ultimately leading to a dramatic shift in where and by whom cocoa was produced, as well as who (specifically which nations and companies) would profit from its trade, increasingly efficient processing, and mass manufacturing.

Due largely to voluntary and involuntary migration (i.e., the slave trade) the movement of goods and saw Theobroma cacao cultivation spread from its genetic origins of the Amazon Basin and cultural and religious roots which have been traced back to Mesoamerica (present-day Mexico through Central America) (Coe and Coe, 2013).

Global flow of goods and movement of people during the height of the slave trade.

In what is now present-day Central and South America, during the early 1500s, under the encomienda system, Spanish conquistadors were granted rights to force indigenous inhabitants to perform labor in their favor (Martin, 2019). This led to an irreparable deterioration of culture and loss of land (Martin, 2019). On the other side of the Atlantic, chattel slavery, the practice whereby people are treated as property, between 1500 and 1900, it is estimated that up to 15 million Africans were enslaved, of which 40 out of every 100 died in waiting or during transatlantic transport. In both cases, indigenous peoples were forced to cultivate cocoa while seeing little to no profit in return. In addition, favoritism played into economic positioning among industrialized nations as tariffs and quotas sought to control production and supply with demand (Leissle, 2018).

As cocoa’s production footprint broadened, applications and formulations evolved, popularity within consumer markets increased, and its importance as a traded commodity destined for processing units around the world surged.

As competition grew fiercer, regulation became an ever more critical element to ensure the crop’s viability. But most importantly, it was introduced to ensure economic stability for countries and operators who relied on the trade. This period gave rise to regulatory standards and voluntary certification programs in cocoa—both of which grew more diverse and exacting during the late 1980s present day.

Perhaps the most prolific shift, and marking industry’s acknowledgment that improvements were both possible and needed, with the enactment of the Harkin Engel Protocol in 2001, accountability, and requirements to proactively identify instances, address breakdowns, and prevent arrange of defined human rights abuses took center stage. When introduced, regulatory requirements and elements core to voluntary certification systems fundamentally changed how supply chain operators engaged producers, managed their businesses, interacted with the market, and reported.

During the same period, industry associations were established, and collective efforts launched. Among them were groups such as the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), and the Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG), all groups representing interests at every level from all sides.

In due course, regulations and certifications designed to promote best practices, ensure worker (producer), crop, and environmental protections, combat fraudulent claims, and ensure accurate reporting and labeling (i.e., of provenance, certification claims, production practices, quality, etc.) have improved, expanded, and been welcomed.

Adoption, adaptation, replication, and the proliferation of programs, as well as their capabilities and level of sophistication, continue to evolve rapidly. Not glued simply to factors related to compliance, conformity, or competitiveness, companies are investing significant amounts of resources to align with and exceed regulatory, consumer, and commercial standards and expectations. However, despite advances, and an elongating track record of progress and proactive effort, the industry is often chastised for not doing enough, investing enough, or sharing enough.

Stuck in the Past and Unable to Break the Cycle: The Vilification of the Cocoa Industry

Sampling of Collective Industry Efforts – Programs and Reporting

Seeking to address systemic constraints perpetuating or exacerbating breakdowns, the industry has demonstrated its willingness and ability to come to affect change.

For example, after launching, implementing, and learning from the original and subsequent iterations of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) Cocoa Livelihoods Program (CLP), after several years of complex negotiations (balancing risk, exposure, and financial implications), WCF and its member companies launched, and have developed good traction with Cocoa Action, one of several WCF initiatives designed, developed, and implemented with and through its members.[1] While they admit that it took more time to lay the groundwork that they had initially anticipated, they ultimately emerged with a thoughtful and thorough platform that continues to progress well.[2]

Additionally, since its founding in 2002, the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) has significantly influenced positive movement on all fronts concerning child labor, including the development of new tools, systems, and metrics to measure progress. This includes the consultative process that led to the development of standards for collective and individual Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems (CLMRS).

Recognizing that they can only harness so much, Industry has teamed with governments, international standard-setting bodies, research institutions, and others to advance efforts to combat forced and child labor, address its root causes, and improve reporting practices to bolster transparency.

Sampling of Individual Company Efforts – Programs and Reporting

Having worked inside and alongside the world’s leading cocoa companies, I recall several meetings where heads of responsible sourcing and on-the-ground activities expressed concern that not enough was being done to address the root causes. Without taking on migration, land, voting, and school registration issues, efforts would continue to face challenges. To do this, the group discussed land ownership and migratory movements of Burkinabe to Côte d’Ivoire, their inability to secure land, and in many cases, to register their children in school. While it was not the first, and certainly not the last, this was a good reminder that addressing the child labor issue was not as clear-cut as many often like to think.

Beyond programs that tighten controls, incentivize parents for producing school registration certificates, third-party certification audits that verify adherence to specific standards and practices, and collective and individual company efforts to refine and expand CLMRS, the industry continues to improve the technical scope of their programs.

The following list provides a snapshot of reports detailing global efforts to address a wide range of unique challenges faced by cocoa farming communities—including child labor. These are offered in response to comments made during the recent film screening and panel discussion “Examining Brazil’s Cocoa-Chocolate Supply Chain.” – May 2019 Discussion

Key takeaways from the May 2019 discussion [and report] aligned with similar panels and studies that point to:

  1. The complexity and scope of the issue;
  2. range and number of actors and implications along the value chain at each stage;
  3. need for leaders, officials, and representatives from all sides (public and private), and on all levels (municipal, regional, national, and international) to work together to develop and enact responses that effectively address root causes; and
  4. calls for greater transparency.

Specific to claims around the lack of transparency and access, deficiencies noted during the discussion included the following:

  1. Visibility into supply chain monitoring plans, geographical scope, findings, and improvements; and
  2. the number, frequency, and quality of public disclosures of internal reports.

In practice, the following are evident:

  1. Companies are proactively and thoughtfully engaged in addressing child and forced labor—not merely in response to regulations or calls from consumers or international bodies;
  2. companies are leading in investments in certification programs, traceability systems, coordinating industry-wide efforts and policy formulation; and
  3. the quality and frequency of reporting are there despite claims that it is absent of lacking.
Excerpt from the Cocoa Life progress report outlining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

These are vital considerations to bear in mind when looking at the balance of what is being done, by whom, how it financed, and what is being said about those leading the way and reporting on it as appeals for greater transparency play into the vilification of cocoa companies instead of praise for their role in realizing progress.

While there is much more to bring into the frame, the above does tell speak to the other side of the story—one that is rarely shared.

Things have come a long way; however, despite grand efforts to date, many forms of forced and child labor still exist, and the number of instances of human rights violations are still far too prevalent. To that end, much more can and will continue to be done. Going forward, stakeholders must move forward together with the mindful that this is an ever-evolving and continuously improving process in terms of design, implementation, and measurement.

So while independent company activities and collective industry-wide efforts have evolved and improved with learnings over the years, there are programmatic gaps and blind spots that must be proactively and constructively addressed.

Works Cited

Casara, M., Dallabrida, P., Martin, Carla D. “Examining Brazil’s Cocoa-Chocolate Supply Chain”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. April 24, 2019. Film Screening and Discussion.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor”. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. March 6, 2019. Lecture.

“Child Labor in the Production of Cocoa”. March 22, 2018. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs. Accessed April 30, 2019. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/child-labor-cocoa.

“Child Labor in the Production of Cocoa”. March 22, 2018. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs. Accessed April 30, 2019. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/child-labor-cocoa.

“Cocoa Life 2017 Progress Report”. 2017. Mondelez International. Accessed April 28, 2019. https://www.cocoalife.org/~/media/CocoaLife/en/download/article/Cocoa_Life_Progress_Report_2017.pdf.

“How We Measure Progress”. Mondelez International. Accessed April 28, 2019. https://www.cocoalife.org/impact#.

“Assessment of Forced Labor Risk in the Cocoa Sector of Côte d’Ivoire”. Verité, 2019. Accessed April 23, 2019. https://www.verite.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Verite-Report-Forced-Labor-in-Cocoa-in-CDI.pdf.

“Nestle Cocoa Plan, Tackling Child Labour 2017 Report”. Nestle. 2017. Accessed April 29, 2019. https://www.nestle.com/asset-library/documents/creating-shared-value/responsible-sourcing/nestle-cocoa-plan-child-labour-2017-report.pdf.

Picolotto, A., Giovanaz, D., Casara, J., Loth, Laura W., Lambranho, L., Casara, M., Dallabrida, P., Sabrina, R., and Kruse, T. “Cocoa Supply Chain: Advances ad Challenges Toward the Promotion of Decent Work”. 2019. International Labour Organization (ILO), Public Labour Prosecutor’s Office (MPT), Papel Social. https://cocoainitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Cocoa_EN.pdf.

“2017 Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group Annual Report”. United States Department of Labor. 2017. Accessed April 23, 2019. https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ilab/CLCCG2017AnnualReport.pdf.

“Harkin-Engel Protocol”. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs. 2001. Accessed April 24, 2019.

https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ilab/Harkin_Engel_Protocol.pdf.

“Examining Brazil’s Cocoa-Chocolate Supply Chain: Film Screening and Discussion, Part 1” [Multimedia Video]. Retrieved from the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute YouTube Channel. April 27, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKr2_0egfzA.

“Examining Brazil’s Cocoa-Chocolate Supply Chain: Film Screening and Discussion, Part 2” [Multimedia Video]. Retrieved from the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute YouTube Channel. April 27, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKr2_0egfzA.

“Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) in the Société Coopérative Ivoirienne du Négoce des Produits Agricoles (SCINPA) Cooperative”. Olam International. 2017.

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd Edition, Thames & Hudson, 2013.


[1] Initiatives, World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), https://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/initiatives/

[2] CocoaAction 2017: What We Have Learned, World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), https://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/2017cocoaactiondata/

From Exploitation to Empowerment: Reforming the Labor Practices in the Cocoa Industry

There has been a long history of European powers using exploitative practices in order to build wealth. These practices stemmed from the notion that individuals of a darker skin tone were inferior and less refined than those from Europe and white ancestry in general. This hierarchical system created by the Western world influenced how Europeans approached their interactions with the indigenous people in the Americas and African populations. Due to their cultural and racial differences, both of these groups of people were trapped into forced labor systems, where they had no rights and were given no compensation. The result was two-fold: Native Americans died at alarming rates from disease and harsh working conditions and Africans, while not affected as heavily by disease, were continually exploited and were exposed to the most inhumane conditions and treatment in the history of the Americas. Even though slavery has been legally abolished across the world for over 100 years, it produced a lasting residual effect on prevailing labor practices across the African continent. These exploitative practices have led to cacao farmers being paid pennies compared to the billions of dollars in profits that American and European companies are making from the cacao plant and cheap labor. In addition, child labor has continued to be a common practice that has not been abolished, due to the fact that African farmers cannot afford to pay their workers substantive wages. A few bean-to-bar chocolate companies have recognized these issues and have made strides to institute practices that reverse the trend of exploitation of African farmers. In particular, Divine Chocolate, a chocolate company headquartered in Washington D.C., has taken meaningful steps to evaluate how their practices can mirror the ethical standards of fair trade and non-exploitative business transactions.

The existence of modern slavery, pertaining to the production of cacao, is centered around the exploitative practices that took root in São Tomé and Príncipe in the early 1900s. Slaves from Angola were sent to São Tomé and Príncipe and were stationed on the Portuguese plantations that were scattered across the islands. Amanda Berlan states, “Anti-Slavery International (2004) reports that the use of slaves from Angola was common on Portuguese plantations on the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe from the 1880s; according to Clarence-Smith, forced labour in cocoa production continued there until 1962” (1092). While the rest of the world assumed that slavery had been completely abolished, it was very much a part of the everyday culture in São Tomé and Príncipe, mainly because of the growing demand for chocolate all around the world, and the fact that the infrastructure of the islands lent itself to a plantation system. As Lowell Satre describes, “There were about 230 rocas (plantations) on São Tomé and 50 on Príncipe, some owned by individuals, others held by corporations” (10). While the economies of São Tomé and Príncipe were dependent on the production of cacao, Angola’s economy also benefited from these islands’ demand for free labor. However, Angolans were not all keen to the idea of slavery, and some of the native Angolans that potentially were not opposed to the institution of slavery itself were convinced that Angola needed the labor for economic development rather than São Tomé and Príncipe. Satre states, “Though some were disturbed over the institution of slavery, many in Angola complained that labor essential for the development of the province was going to instead create wealth for rich plantation owners on the islands” (8). For the rest of the world, the reality of the continuance of slavery was hidden from the public eye until large corporations that specialized in chocolate became exposed.

Angolans who were forced into slavery in São Tomé and Príncipe.

Source: “São Tomé and Príncipe.” Rhodes House Archive.

Many of the largest chocolate corporations like Cadbury were buying cacao beans at ridiculously low prices in Africa, and Cadbury in particular was purchasing a significant amount of cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe. According to William A. Cadbury, the company had no idea that the cacao beans it was buying came from slave labor. Satre states, “In early 1901, when William A. Cadbury visited Trinidad…he was told that slave labor was used on the island of São Tomé. Shortly thereafter, this unsubstantiated comment was given credence when the Cadbury company received an offer of a plantation for sale in São Tomé that listed as assets two hundred black laborers” (18). Cadbury’s exposure to these exploitative practices was massive; the company bought 45 percent of its cacao beans from São Tomé each year, confirming that almost half of Cadbury’s revenue was obtained via slave labor. In addition, the details of the offer for the plantation give insight into the scope and magnitude of slavery in São Tomé, given that the island had 230 plantations with thousands of slaves in total. The written work of Henry Nevinson and Joseph Burtt were two of the first forms of documentation that depicted the coerced labor in São Tomé and Príncipe to be distributed across the globe. As a result, many British corporations in the chocolate industry boycotted the cacao in São Tomé and Príncipe and searched for a new area that would supply large amounts of cacao for low prices. All eyes turned towards Ghana, which was then referred to as the Gold Coast, and Côte d’Ivoire.

One of Cadbury Chocolate’s advertisements, which depicts the exploitative practices used for cacao production in West Africa.

Source: “Cadbury’s Cocoa Essence.” Cadbury Chocolate.

Even though production of cacao grew significantly during the early 1900s, initially, most cacao farming was small scale; however, when the production of cacao in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire grew at an almost exponential rate, both countries grappled with their own issues surrounding the quality of working conditions. Various aspects of cacao production included clearing the trees, planting the cacao seeds, spraying fertilizers and pesticides, transporting the cacao pods, and slicing open the cacao pods. These duties were completed in environment that proved to be hazardous and dangerous for even adults. The cacao farmers suffered from various diseases, injuries, burns, and lacerations, coupled with the fact that many of them did not have access to clean water, food, or cleaning spaces. Not only did cacao farmers have to work in hazardous conditions, but they also received extremely low wages, which were subject to unpredictable fluctuations throughout each year. The income of each farmer was directly tied to that year’s profits. These farms were being exploited by the major chocolate corporations in Europe and the United States, receiving less than a penny on every dollar these companies made selling chocolate. Given the exploitative power dynamic between companies and farms, farmers were drastically affected financially: each farmer only received a very small percentage of each farm’s revenue. Carol Off states, “By the end of the millennium, Côte d’Ivoire was one of the most indebted nations on earth, even as it supplied almost half of the world’s cocoa to the multi-billion-dollar industry and helped to satisfy the world’s addiction to chocolate. Cocoa farmers slid deeper and deeper into poverty” (118).

The use of child labor for cacao production in Côte d’Ivoire.

Source: Lowy, Benjamin.”Young Boy Uses a Machete to Break Cacao Pods.” Fortune.

The low and inconsistent wage that adult farmers received was one of the main reasons child labor became commonplace in both Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Low and inconsistent wages meant that families were forced to remove their children from school to provide the additional income they needed to live at a subsistence level. As Ryan describes, “One interviewee in a British documentary suggested that as many as 90 percent of Ivorian farms used slave labor. This implied there were hundreds of thousands of slaves in Côte d’Ivoire. A BBC report suggested that 15,000 children were in slavery on these plantations” (48). The statistics pertaining to child labor reveal how central it was to the production of cacao. Children working on cacao plantations were at a greater risk than the adult farmers: “hazardous work…is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children. On the cocoa plantation, this is generally defined to include work which involves dangerous machinery, equipment or tools, the handling of heavy loads and exposure to pesticides or chemicals” (Ryan, 48). Children started working and dropping out of school at a very young age and were exposed to tasks that were dangerous for adults to perform. Child labor was essential to the production of cacao and children were very active in all of forms of work in the field. Berlan states, “Of children aged 5–17 years, 39 percent are known to be engaged in economic activities, of which 57 percent are engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing and 88 percent are unpaid family labour or apprentices” (1090). In addition to the risky activities that children took part in on the cacao plantations, some of them were placed under physical duress by their superiors; this violence put a strain on the children physically, socially, and emotionally. Off’s account provides an example of how child labor was connected to the emergence of child trafficking: “The farmers, or their supervisors, were working the young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunk-houses that were locked during the 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” (121). Children from areas surrounding the cacao plantations and even in neighboring countries were at risk to be kidnapped and forced to produce cacao. Ryan states, “Traffickers preyed on children at bus stops in Mali, promising riches on cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire. Once children got to the farm, they survived on little food, little or no pay and endured regular beatings” (44). These conditions that children had to endure are correlative to the experiences of slaves. Children were separated from their families, forced to work for long periods of time, and stripped of their own dignity while they were still in the developmental phase of their lives. Ryan states, “There were no chains and no irons, but, unable to leave their place of work, they were effectively slaves, harvesting the beans that were the key ingredient for chocolate” (44). Slavery continued to persist and it arose due to the demand of the American and European populations and the greed of the large chocolate corporations that desired to obtain the highest possible profit.

The inhumane conditions that children were forced to work in.

Source: “Child Slavery.” The Independent.

Given these horrific work conditions, government policies and initiatives were created to combat the inhumane treatment of the adult and child farmers. The International Labour Organization set standards of appropriate labor practices and detailed the worst forms of child labor. Even though these standards sent a message that child labor was not acceptable, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire were and have remained in violation of them. In fact, over 500,000 children in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire were in violation of the guidelines set by the International Labour Organization. Policies were also put in place with the goal of eventually eradicating the worst forms of child labor and coerced labor in the world. One of the policies is the Harkin-Engel Protocol, which is a voluntary agreement that included governments, chocolate companies, cocoa farmers, and other entities. Off states, “The Harkin-Engel Protocol…would be one of the first fully voluntary arrangements for regulating industry in U.S. history and certainly the most ambitious. The cocoa companies agreed to accept a six-point program designed to eliminate child slave labour in the cocoa chain” (144). In Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the goal of the protocol was to diminish the worst forms of child labor by 70 percent by 2015. However, this goal was not achieved, so the deadline was extended to 2020. Various organizations, such as the International Cocoa Initiative and the International Cocoa Organization, have been created to further the mission of the Harkin-Engel Protocol: reduce the worst forms of child labor and forced labor. The International Cocoa Initiative raises awareness around the experiences of children enduring through the harsh working conditions that accompany the production of the cacao plant. It also administers trainings on child labor and the impact it has on the communities in West Africa, working closely with all entities that interact within the world of cacao production and consumption. The International Cocoa Organization serves both cacao consuming and producing countries, allowing for meditation and the recognition of collective interests. In addition to the creation of international initiatives and organizations, major corporations in the chocolate industry have pledged to become more socially responsible regarding their business transactions with cacao farmers. Many corporations have received certifications and label their products as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Utz Certified, etc. in order to emphasize to consumers their adoption of new practices.

Goals established by the Harkin-Engel Protocol.

Source: “Eliminating Child Labor from Cocoa.” United States Department of Labor.

Divine Chocolate is a chocolate company that has exceeded the efforts of many other major chocolate corporations to improve labor conditions. Divine Chocolate partnered with a co-operative of farmers in Ghana called Kuapa Kokoo, which has significant autonomy over the trading and selling processes of the cacao it produces. Unlike most co-operatives, Kuapa Kokoo actually owns a large percentage of the shares of Divine Chocolate: “Divine Chocolate is the only Fairtrade chocolate company that is also co-owned by cocoa farmers. Kuapa Kokoo farmers benefit not only from the Fairtrade premium on the sale of their beans, but also receive the largest share (44%) of Divine’s distributable profits giving the farmers more economic stability, as well as the increased influence in the cocoa industry” (Divine Chocolate). Instead of cacao farmers receiving less than a penny on every dollar of profit from their product, the members of Kuapa Kokoo are able to increase their income at a rate that far exceeds all other cacao collectives in Ghana. As a result, the farmers are able to live with more stability and begin the process of building wealth. Because the low wage that cacao farmers in Ghana were paid was a central cause of the industry’s heavy dependence on child’s labor, the adoption of this new framework, which raised wages, gave farmers the necessary resources to do without child labor entirely. Because Divine Chocolate is Fairtrade Certified, it empowers the cacao producers by establishing a minimum price for the products they produce and a premium for the products that are sold. Each of these reforms of the Fairtrade system give cacao farmers the ability to improve their living standards, their business, and their community (Divine Chocolate). Another important aspect of Divine Chocolate’s mission is its focus on women’s empowerment: “Projects supported by the [Producer Support and Development Fund] are aimed particularly at empowerment of women, maintaining good governance, and testing different farming techniques — and include an adult literacy and numeracy program, and a model farm project” (Divine Chocolate). Divine Chocolate recognizes the significant role that women play in the production of cacao in Ghana and aims to equip them with the tools to become better professional leaders and more advanced business people. With these ambitious programs and practices, Divine Chocolate is actively trying to revolutionize the cocoa industry. Unlike many large chocolate corporations, which are mainly concerned with how much profit they attain at the end of each quarter, Divine Chocolate has proactively addressed issues surrounding exploitation of African farmers, child labor, forced labor, and the silencing of women’s voices in the cocoa industry. In addition, Divine Chocolate has made an active effort to ensure that the farmers that produce cacao for Divine Chocolate are not only rewarded but are included in the process of building wealth and economic stability. There is more work to be done, but Divine Chocolate has been one of the companies to lead the way in changing the culture of business and chocolate.

Divine Chocolate’s commitment to women’s empowerment.

Source: “Women Cocoa Farmers: Hear Our Voice.” Divine Chocolate.

Works Cited:

Berlan, Amanda. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development Studies. vol. 49, no. 8, Feb. 2013, pp. 1088-1100.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet, New York, The New Press, pp. 1-336.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa, London, Zed Books, 2011, pp. 1-175.

Satre, Lowell J. Chocolate on Trail: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business, Athens, Ohio University Press, pp. 1-199.

“Cadbury’s Cocoa Essence.” Cadbury Chocolate.

“Child Slavery.” The Independent.

Divine Chocolate, Divine Chocolate Limited, http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/about-us

“Eliminating Child Labor from Cocoa.” United States Department of Labor.

Lowy, Benjamin.”Young Boy Uses a Machete to Break Cacao Pods.” Fortune. Brian O’Keefe. 1 Mar. 2016.

“São Tomé and Príncipe.” Rhodes House Archive.

“Women Cocoa Farmers: Hear Our Voice.” Divine Chocolate.

Child Labor in Ivorian Cocoa Production: An Economic Problem

Children join farmers in breaking cocoa pods on an Ivory Coast farm (Lowy 2016).

In the 1990’s, evidence of child trafficking in the cocoa–producing sector of Africa came to light. The issue gained global notoriety in 2000 when BBC released a documentary on the use of enslaved children on cocoa farms in some of West Africa’s top cocoa-producing countries. Outraged at this injustice, a strong movement to end child slavery rose in response. Bills such as the Harkin–Engel Protocol were passed, global powers pressured West African governments to intervene, and consumers began to demand chocolate made with ethically sourced cocoa beans or boycotted the good altogether. As researchers and reporters began to scrutinize the issue, however, it became clear that child labor was a far more complex problem than originally depicted. In 2009, a study conducted by Tulane University revealed that of the millions of children working on cocoa farms in West Africa, less than 0.5% were coerced into employment by a non–relative (Satyarthi 2016). While any form of child slavery is unacceptable, this study shows there is more to the issue of child labor than the purely malicious and immoral abuse of children.

Child labor in Cote D’Ivoire’s cocoa farming sector is an economic problem for two reasons. Most children in Cote D’Ivoire are “employed” on the farms of their own families. Cocoa farming is extremely labor–intensive, but the margins earned on cocoa beans are very slim. Cocoa farmers have come to rely on help from their children as cheap or free labor to survive on the little profit they are able to derive from production. Working on the family’s cocoa farm is seen as a much more beneficial use of children’s time than a formal education not only for the family’s economic needs but for the child’s future as well. It is a traditional practice to teach children the skills they need to one day take ownership of the family’s cocoa farm. This essay argues child labor is an economic problem on two fronts. Ivorian cocoa farmers need help from their children to meet the family’s financial needs, and the skills children gain from working on cocoa farms is seen as the best way parents can prepare their children for economic success in the future.

While cocoa farming requires intensive labor and maintenance, cocoa does not earn much revenue. Cocoa production is dominated by millions of smallholder farmers across the globe. Most cocoa is supplied by farmers in West Africa. In particular, Cote D’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer of cocoa, growing 40 percent of the global cocoa supply (Leissle 2018, 4). While the global market value of the chocolate industry is valued at $100 billion, the cocoa industry is only valued at $12 billion (7). Split between millions of farmers growing limited yields of cocoa, West African cocoa farmers have been found to make as little as $0.84 per day (117). While price levels might be lower in West African countries than more developed countries such as the US, the differential is not so great that living on such a small amount of money per day does not mean living in poverty. To further illustrate this point, a study found that cocoa farmers tend to be less well off than the general population in Cote D’Ivoire, and poverty is higher among cocoa farmers than in the general population across all measures tested (Katayama et al. 2017, 9). The economics of cocoa farming and financial challenges that often arise in cocoa production has made cocoa farming fertile grounds for child labor.  

Income from cocoa farming is seasonal and very volatile, placing rigid liquidity restraints on cocoa farmers. Cocoa farmers typically only receive income twice a year, which is once during the main harvest and once during the light crop season. Farmers therefore earn as much as 80% of their earnings from cocoa at one point in a year. Women in the family can often earn petty cash in the off-seasons through selling subsistence goods or homemade crafts in local markets to supplement the lack of cash flow in the rest of the year. The main source of income is from the main harvest of cocoa, however, making budgeting and saving very difficult (Leissle 2018, 106). In addition, the revenue a farmer makes per year is also variable due to differences in annual yields and prices. Both yields and prices are subject to environmental factors such as rainfall, temperature, and crop disease. Cocoa farmers are also extremely vulnerable to income shocks. Farmers have low credibility due to income volatility and low cash flow for a majority of the year, and few people in rural Cote D’Ivoire use or even have access to bank accounts. Farmers must often resort to shark loans with interest rates as high as 100% to pay for hospital bills, making debt accumulation a dangerous yet common financial hardship for cocoa producers (Ryan 2011, 60). Due to tough liquidity constraints and few ways to smooth consumption, cocoa farmers often live hand–to–mouth in constant economic uncertainty.

In Cote D’Ivoire, the “pisteurs” purchase cocoa directly from the village and bring the beans to a warehouse in a regional city. The beans are then sold to exporters. The offloading of beans at the middleman’s warehouse is pictured here (Neuhaus 2006).

On top of the inconsistency of earnings, cocoa farmers have little market power and live off extremely low profit margins. The cocoa market in Cote D’Ivoire is an inverted pyramid made of many local farmers, middlemen, and exporters. To sell cocoa, farmers must package cocoa beans and take the produce to the village middleman. These middlemen, who are licensed by the government, are used because it is illegal in Cote D’Ivoire for exporters to interact directly with farmers. A study on Cote D’Ivoire’s cocoa market reports while there are nearly one million cocoa farmers in the country, there are only 1,000 licensed middlemen, creating a huge distortion of market power (Kireyev 2010, 5). The study finds Ivorian producers received, on average, no more than 41 percent of the world price for cocoa in 2001–2009, which is the lowest share in West Africa and plausibly the world (8). Most cocoa farmers grow small farms of 3 hectares with yields as little as 137.5 kg per hectare (Ryan 2011, 59). Coupled with depressed prices, cocoa farming revenue is extremely low.

A young boy uses a machete to break cocoa pods at a farm in eastern Cote D’Ivoire (Lowy 2016).

Cocoa farming is also an extremely labor–intensive business. Farmers must harvest cocoa by climbing cocoa trees, hacking down and breaking open pods with the brute force of a machete to obtain the valuable beans inside. Kilograms of beans must be carried from place to place while they are fermented, dried, and packaged for sale. Even outside of harvesting, cocoa farms must be meticulously maintained and protected by weeding the soil, pruning and fertilizing trees, and planting new seedlings. This labor is not only physically demanding but costly. Cocoa farmers must also pay for capital such as fertilizers, drying racks, and new seedlings. With little revenue to begin with, the costs of capital and labor are high relative to total earnings. Cocoa farmers need the cheapest workers possible, which is often their own family and children, to keep up with the labor demands of cocoa farming (Ryan 2011, 59–60). There is therefore immense economic pressure on cocoa farmers to resort to child labor to cut costs enough to survive. Liquidity constraints, low revenue, and high costs of production have not only made living on cocoa extremely difficult but also limited farmers’ options on how they can make cocoa production economically sustainable.

Many cocoa farmers also believe it is more beneficial to their children’s future economic success to have the children work on the family’s cocoa farm than to have them receive a formal education. In Cote D’Ivoire and many African countries, work is seen as a rite of passage for children, especially young men, and as a tool for socialization. Much of the work assigned is seen as appropriate for the child’s age. For example, the youngest children work by helping to maintain the home or cultivate a farm plot. This work, called “child work,” is considered an “acceptable” participation in subsistence and training for the child’s future life. In Cote D’Ivoire and many developing countries in general, parents and grandparents have often not received a formal education. They therefore place emphasis on learning through work rather than school because they know for sure that children will receive the skills and training they need to successfully work on the farm, and the child is guaranteed a job working on the farm in the future. Meanwhile, receiving a formal education does not necessarily lead to a good job or guarantee a job at all (Buono and Babo 2013). Child labor is therefore not considered an issue in most African countries but a social norm. In fact, Kielland and Tovo (2006) and Guessous (2002) argue that child labor is perceived by parents as a sure guarantee for their future.

Since life in rural Cote D’Ivoire is very difficult, the first imperative of most families is to teach children the skills they need to be autonomous and not dependent on any family members from as early an age as possible. The mortality rate in rural Cote D’Ivoire is high, and parents want their children to be able to survive in the event that there is no one to care for them. In this vein, the work of the land represents and remains the most effective protection against hunger. According to Buono and Babo (2013), “It is one of the rules that the adult teaches the child: ‘to sit’, to do nothing, is to die of hunger,” while growing food or cash crops such as cocoa and rubber that can always be sold for money is guaranteed to provide sustenance and income. It is not that cocoa farming and rural families in general see no value in formal education, however. In an ideal situation, most families want their children to both go to school and learn by working on the farm. These families acutely realize how valuable a formal education is (Buono and Babo 2013). One Ivorian farmer who was unable to attend school due to work demands at home stated, “Being an illiterate has cost me in so many ways…. I feel I am missing a lot” (Ryan 2011, 46). If a child does not attend school, oftentimes it is because the child is desperately needed to work at home. Additionally, if a choice must be made between formal schooling and learning farming skills, knowing how to work the land is seen as a much higher imperative, as this is most important survival skill a child can learn. Child labor is present on cocoa farms because learning how to work the land is seen as an imperative part of a child’s upbringing and a necessary skill for survival.

Halima, 10, used to work in the cocoa fields. Now, she’s in her first year of school and dreams of becoming a teacher (Vigneault-Dubois 2014).

The issue of child labor in Ivorian cocoa farms is extremely complex. In the first place, one must define how child labor is an issue, as many children are employed not only to help their families but also ensure their own survival and success in the future. Berlan (2013) defines child labor as an issue when working on the farm prevents the child from receiving a formal education or the work is harmful or hazardous to the child’s health. In most cases, children are prevented from receiving an education due to economic constraints. Cocoa farmers not only need the children’s help to sustain the cocoa farm but also cannot afford to send them to school. To help combat this conflict of interest, in 2010 UNICEF and the Government of Côte d’Ivoire launched a program covering the school fees of children of struggling cocoa farmers. As seen above, this program has met with significant success (Vigneault-Dubois 2014). Similar programs have been implemented by other major players in the cocoa industry. The World Cocoa Foundation and chocolate manufacturing giant Mars, for example, implemented a program in several cocoa farming villages in Cote D’Ivoire that incentivized cocoa farming families to enroll their children in formal education by providing children free lunches at school (PR Newswire 2015). While many of these programs are still small and new, they have proven to be very effective solutions to harmful child labor.

Examining Brazil’s cocoa–chocolate supply chain gives insight into how child labor arises and potential solutions to stop it.

Child labor in cocoa production is not a phenomenon unique to Cote D’Ivoire. Many cocoa–producing countries around the globe suffer from this issue. Brazil, for example, is the second–largest producer of cocoa beans in South America and has as many as 8,000 children working on cocoa farms (Picolotto et al. 2018). As discussed in the video above, child labor is a problem in Brazil for similar reasons as it is in Cote D’Ivoire. For example, one of the reasons why child labor is prevalent in Brazil is because of the low price paid to producers by middlemen and families’ economic need for children to work on the cocoa farm rather than attend school. Several solutions to this issue are proposed, including shortening the chocolate supply chain and improving producers’ coordination and organization to ameliorate the disparity in market power. Just as the issue and economic drivers of child labor are not unique to Cote D’Ivoire, successful programs implemented in Cote D’Ivoire might also work in Brazil. Similarly, the solutions proposed in this video could viably be applied in Cote D’Ivoire. The issue of child labor is complicated, but by better understanding the economic problems that drive harmful child labor, more effective solutions can be derived and implemented to eventually eradicate the worst instances of this issue.

Bibliography

Berlan, Amanda. 2013. “Social Sustainability in Agriculture: An Anthropological Perspective on Child Labour in Cocoa Production in Ghana.” The Journal of Development Studies 49 (8): 1088-100.

Buono, Clarisse, and Alfred Babo. 2013. “Travail des enfants dans les exploitations de cacao en Côte d’Ivoire. Pour une réconciliation entre normes locales et normes internationales autour du « bic », du balai et de la machette.” Mondes en developpement 163 (3): 69–84.

Grier, Beverly. 2004. “Child Labor and Africanist Scholarship: A Critical Overview.” African Studies Review 47 (2): 1–25. http://dx.doi.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/10.1017/S0002020600030833.

Guessous, Chakib. 2002. L’exploitation De L’innocence : Le Travail Des Enfants Au Maroc. Casablanca: EDDIF.

Katayama, Roy, Andrew Dabalen, Essama Nssah, and Guy Morel Amouzou Agbe. 2017. “Welfare and Poverty Impacts of Cocoa Price Policy Reform in Cote d’Ivoire.” 29625. World Bank Other Operational Studies. The World Bank. https://ideas.repec.org/p/wbk/wboper/29625.html.

Kielland, Anne, and Maurizia Tovo. 2006. Children at Work: Child Labor Practices in Africa.

Kireyev, Alexei. 2010. “Export Tax and Pricing Power: Two Hypotheses on the Cocoa Market in Côte D’Ivoire.” IMF Working Papers 10 (269): 1. https://doi.org/10.5089/9781455210763.001.

Leissle, Kristy. 2018. Cocoa. Resources (Polity Press). Cambridge, England; Medford, Massachusetts: Polity.

Lowy, Michael. March 1, 2016. In “Inside Big Chocolate’s Child Labor Problem.” http://fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/.

Neuhaus, Tom. 2006. OFFLOADING BUSH BEANS. San Pedro, Cote D’Ivoire. https://www.projecthopeandfairness.org/gallery-category.php?id=12.

André Picolotto, Daniel Giovanaz, Julieta Casara, Luara Wandelli Loth, Lúcio Lambranho, Marques Casara, Poliana Dallabrida, Raquel Sabrina, and Tulio Kruse. 2018. “COCOA SUPPLY CHAIN ADVANCES AND CHALLENGES TOWARD THE PROMOTION OF DECENT WORK: A situational analysis.” ILO Working Papers. https://cocoainitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Cocoa_EN.pdf.

PR Newswire; New York. 2015. “World Cocoa Foundation and Mars, Incorporated Team Up to Provide School Lunches in Cote d’Ivoire Cocoa Communities,” July 17, 2015. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1696890536/abstract/A4E8B3D5D9D04362PQ/1.

Ryan, Orla. 2011. Chocolate Nations : Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. African Arguments. London : New York, NY: Zed ; Distributed in the USA Exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan.Satyarthi, Kailash. 2016. “It’s up to Us All to End Child Labour.” Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD Observer; Paris, no. 308 (June): 1B,2B,3B,4B,5B. http://dx.doi.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/10.1787/1ce14148-en.

Alter Eco Bean To Bar Chocolate

Chocolate is a product whose production is too often ambiguous and somewhat unethical. It is never one’s intention to consume a product made through an unethical venue unless one is an especially evil and demented person whose goal is to exploit another for their own satisfaction. Sometimes, a delicious bite of chocolate comes with an unknown consequence. Ever since the public has become more aware of the exploitative process of child labor, slavery, and unfair pay that sometimes accompanies making chocolate, some companies have risen to the forefront of responsible chocolate by ensuring their process does not take advantage of anyone and by using the bean to bar tactic. Alter Eco is one of these companies who makes responsible bean to bar chocolate. They directly source 100 percent of their products from small scale farmers. They responsibly pay their farmers through the fair trade act and even provide their farmers with assistance that goes beyond fair trade pricing. They ensure their chocolate is quality by producing it in a controlled environment so it can be delivered to one’s door guilt free.

To understand why Alter Eco is such a responsible and rare company in the chocolate business, one must understand the meaning of bean to bar and why it is so important in today’s chocolate making climate. Bean to bar is a simple concept but seems to not be as prevalent as it should be in the chocolate industry. Bean to bar refers to a model of trade in which the company making the chocolate controls every aspect in the production of the chocolate itself.(1) This means that the company does not use middlemen when buying cacao, and controls where and how the chocolate is made up until the product is finished.(2) A common misconception with bean to bar is that it is conflated with the chocolate being artisan high quality chocolate. Many bean to bar chocolates are in fact high quality artisan chocolate still, including Alter Eco’s fine chocolates. A common misconception with bean to bar is that it is conflated with the chocolate being artisan high quality chocolate.(3)Many bean to bar chocolates are in fact high quality artisan chocolate still, including Alter Eco’s fine chocolates.

Some of Alter Eco’s bean to bar Products

Problems plaguing the chocolate industry are extremely worrisome for the international community.  Chocolate is too often not a victimless product, and child labor that breaks international law such as close to 1.8 million children who are subject to the worst forms of child labor on the Ivory Coast alone is used to produce the cacao that is consumed in chocolate bars.(4)The amount of child laborers being used is much higher than acceptable, although this problem is much more complicated than one might think. A lot of families depend on their children to help them with bringing in the cacao beans in farming season, but this also is not considered the worst form of child labor. (5)Slavery was the foundation of cacao production from its inception from the encomienda system up to the triangular trade system, and has not fully left the cacao production industry.(6) From the Cadbury case after slavery was abolished in West Africa where the Cadbury company continually bought cacao from known slave using farms to the forms of child slavery and slavery in the Ivory coast of Africa, slavery has plagued cacao production. (7)Too often farmers are forced to sell to middlemen for below the fair trade price which is a set price that has been adopted by some chocolate companies they have agreed to pay cacao farmers. (8) According to Green America’s chocolate scorecard, Mars, Nestle, and Hershey do not purchase sustainable cacao from farmers- sustainable meaning cacao is sold at a price at which the farmers can live off of- at a rate of 100%. In fact, Mars only purchases 50% certified cacao, Hershey checks in at around 70%, and Nestle at 42%.(9)This means that three of the top chocolate producers are not paying their cacao producers prices that they can even live off of.(10) This is an atrocity that Alter Eco is trying to address in their bean to bar process.

Alter Eco directly deals with their cacao farmers unlike many bigger corporations such as the Mars company who only used 50% certified cacao in 2017, and was given a C grade in the  Chocolate scorecard which grades companies on where they get their cacao from, how much of it is certified and sustainable for farmers, and the programs that company has in place to help improve the cacao farmers situations.(17)Alter Eco received an A grade on this.(18) Alter Eco values their relationships with their small farm farmers, and they make it possible for small-scale, farmer owned cooperatives to be able to invest their profits directly into improving the quality of life and the quality of products in their communities.(19)All of Alter Eco’s products are 100% fair trade certified, which means that all of their farmers are paid fairly for their cacao and other products being bought from them.(20) This price ensures sustainable production and living conditions for the farmers and their families, and comes with a premium to help support the growth of cooperatives in the community.(21)This is much different than other larger chocolate corporations. These larger corporations have more capital and influence, yet do not wield it as well as Alter Eco does. For example, many larger companies buy cheap cacao through middlemen rather than directly going to the source like Alter Eco.(22) This is unsustainable cacao and Green America does a good job of measuring just how much sustainable cacao larger corporations purchase- not a lot. This is irresponsible on the part of these larger companies because of the potential of good they could do for the farmers- who on average are three times their yearly income in debt- if they just tried to be more conscious of social issues surrounding cacao production and chocolate production as Alter Eco is.

This is why chocolate companies should buy fair trade chocolate

Not only does Alter Eco buy directly from small farmers at fair trade prices, but they provide assistance to their farmers past just a simple economic deal. Alter Eco supports programs that train members on the farms with programs ranging from agricultural workshops all the way to entrepreneurial workshops and education workshops for the children of the farmers. This is a long way from buying cacao from farms that employ children for little to no pay or even use child slavery.(23)They also provide medical exams for the farmers and their families, help to provide reforestation in the regions in which they buy chocolate, and even provide the farmers and their families with new stoves to combat the poorly ventilated stoves that a lot of cacao farmers typically have in their homes.(24)They also provide financial loans to their farmers if required which helps the farmers -who are often struggling financially- to be able to provide for their families in seasons that do not produce as much cacao as they might have hoped for.(25)Alter Eco clearly is socially responsible and has the people, not the payout on their mind as they go about buying their cacao beans straight from the source. This is why they received the high mark of an A from one of the most reputable social justice watchdogs in the food industry in Green America.

Once Alter Eco pays a Fair Trade price for their cacao that they buy directly from farmers that they have relationships with, they leave the beans to ferment for a week in a wooden crate.(26) This allows for the cacao’s pulp to liquify and for complex chemical changes in the bean itself to take place to enhance the flavor of the cacao.  Once this process is finished, the beans are laid out under the sun until their moisture content reaches approximately seven percent. This can take up to three weeks to complete. Once the beans are dried, they are shipped to Alter Eco’s chocolate manufacturer in Switzerland.(27) When the beans arrive to Switzerland, they are roasted for hours to which brings out the flavor of the bean, and then the roasted beans are broken down and their skins are taken off. (28) These broken down pieces of cacao are known as nibs.(29)The nibs then are put under a heavy stone and ground down.(30) This process brings out cocoa butter from the beans and leaves the remaining cocoa mass. (31)The cocoa butter and cocoa mass are then put into the conching process. This process consists of the cocoa products being slowly mixed into other ingredients while slowly being heated throughout the conching process.(32) This process takes multiple hours, and the longer the cacao and other ingredients are conched, the better and smoother the chocolate will be.(33)Once the conching process is done, the chocolate is molded and packaged to be sent out for chocolatiers to enjoy.

Bean to bar chocolate is often one of the most socially responsible ways to make chocolate, especially when Alter Eco does it. There are plenty of issues in the chocolate industry that can not be fixed all at once, but Alter Eco is doing everything they can to ensure that they are making a difference in an industry packed with powerful corporations who should be more socially responsible than they are. The chocolate industry is plagued with child labor and modern day slavery that dehumanizes people. Farmers are not paid as well Alter Eco buys straight from the farmers of their cacao at a sustainable price for the farmers 100% through fair trade, so the farmers can have an income that will support their family year round, even in down years. Not only do they pay sustainable prices, but they go the extra mile to ensure that the farmer’s families are healthy, ensure their equipment is safe, loan extra money if they need, and have outreach programs to advance the lives of the farmers’ families and improve the quality of their products. They go above and beyond for their farmers because Alter Eco believes in contributing more into the world than they get out of it. From purchasing the beans from farmers who they have a relationship with up until the cacao is sent to Switzerland to be made into fine chocolate, Alter Eco is the premier responsible chocolate making bean to bar company. They provide a blueprint for what larger companies ought to be doing and contribute to the community of chocolate by making the most responsible bean to bar chocolate in the world.

Footnotes

1: Yamada, Nicholas. “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: What Does This Label Really Mean?” Perfect Daily Grind, 16 Nov. 2018, http://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/12/bean-bar-chocolate-label-really-mean/.

2:Yamada, Nicholas. “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: What Does This Label Really Mean?” Perfect Daily Grind, 16 Nov. 2018, http://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/12/bean-bar-chocolate-label-really-mean/.

3:Yamada, Nicholas. “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: What Does This Label Really Mean?” Perfect Daily Grind, 16 Nov. 2018, http://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/12/bean-bar-chocolate-label-really-mean/.

4:“Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.

5: Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Google Slides, Google, docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-tCZfTFSi7EuZqb1dxrJatPuv–33tERRDYM0y_PZBg/edit#slide=id.g8c500cbc9_2_55.

6: Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Google Slides, Google, docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-tCZfTFSi7EuZqb1dxrJatPuv–33tERRDYM0y_PZBg/edit#slide=id.g8c500cbc9_2_55.

7:“The ‘Chocolate Slaves’ of the Ivory Coast.” End Slavery Now, http://www.endslaverynow.org/blog/articles/the-chocolate-slaves-of-the-ivory-coast.

8:“Fairtrade Chocolate – Fairtrade America.” Fairtrade Chocolate – Fairtrade America, fairtradeamerica.org/Fairtrade-Products/Chocolate.

9:“Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard.” Green America, http://www.greenamerica.org/end-child-labor-cocoa/chocolate-scorecard.

10: “Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard.” Green America, http://www.greenamerica.org/end-child-labor-cocoa/chocolate-scorecard.

11: “Our Story.” Alter Eco. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story.

12: “Our Story.” Alter Eco. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story.

13: “Our Story.” Alter Eco. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story.

14: “Our Story.” Alter Eco. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story.

15: “Vote Every Day. Vote B Corp.” Certified B Corporation, bcorporation.net/.

16: “Our Story.” Alter Eco. Accessed May 02, 2019. https://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story.

17:“Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard.” Green America, http://www.greenamerica.org/end-child-labor-cocoa/chocolate-scorecard.

18:“Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard.” Green America, http://www.greenamerica.org/end-child-labor-cocoa/chocolate-scorecard.

19:“Invest In Farmers.” Alter Eco, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/invest-in-farmers.

20:“Invest In Farmers.” Alter Eco, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/invest-in-farmers.

21: “Invest In Farmers.” Alter Eco, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/invest-in-farmers.

22: “The Dark Side of the Chocolate Industry.” Sierra Club, 21 Oct. 2017, http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/green-life/dark-side-chocolate-industry.

23:Posts, Blog. “You’re Not Only Buying Chocolate, You’re Supporting Communities around the World.” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 10 Oct. 2017, http://www.alterecofoods.com/blogs/blog/youre-not-only-buying-chocolate-youre-supporting-communities-around-the-world.

24:Posts, Blog. “You’re Not Only Buying Chocolate, You’re Supporting Communities around the World.” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 10 Oct. 2017, http://www.alterecofoods.com/blogs/blog/youre-not-only-buying-chocolate-youre-supporting-communities-around-the-world.

25: Posts, Blog. “You’re Not Only Buying Chocolate, You’re Supporting Communities around the World.” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 10 Oct. 2017, http://www.alterecofoods.com/blogs/blog/youre-not-only-buying-chocolate-youre-supporting-communities-around-the-world.

26:Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

27: Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

28: Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

29:Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

30: Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

31:Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

32:Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

33:Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

34: “Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.

Works Cited

Ambert, Antoine, and Antoine Ambert. “How Is Our Chocolate Produced?” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 16 Apr. 2018, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/how-is-our-chocolate-produced.

Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry.” Food Empowerment Project, foodispower.org/human-labor-slavery/slavery-chocolate/.

“Child Labor in Your Chocolate? Check Our Chocolate Scorecard.” Green America, http://www.greenamerica.org/end-child-labor-cocoa/chocolate-scorecard.

“Fairtrade Chocolate – Fairtrade America.” Fairtrade Chocolate – Fairtrade America, fairtradeamerica.org/Fairtrade-Products/Chocolate.

“Invest In Farmers.” Alter Eco, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/invest-in-farmers.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Google Slides, Google, docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-tCZfTFSi7EuZqb1dxrJatPuv–33tERRDYM0y_PZBg/edit#slide=id.g8c500cbc9_2_55.

“Our Story.” Alter Eco, http://www.alterecofoods.com/pages/our-story. Accessed 2 May 2019.

Posts, Blog. “You’re Not Only Buying Chocolate, You’re Supporting Communities around the World.” Alter Eco, Alter Eco, 10 Oct. 2017, http://www.alterecofoods.com/blogs/blog/youre-not-only-buying-chocolate-youre-supporting-communities-around-the-world.

“The ‘Chocolate Slaves’ of the Ivory Coast.” End Slavery Now, http://www.endslaverynow.org/blog/articles/the-chocolate-slaves-of-the-ivory-coast.

“The Dark Side of the Chocolate Industry.” Sierra Club, 21 Oct. 2017, http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/green-life/dark-side-chocolate-industry.

“Vote Every Day. Vote B Corp.” Certified B Corporation, bcorporation.net/.

Yamada, Nicholas. “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: What Does This Label Really Mean?” Perfect Daily Grind, 16 Nov. 2018, http://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/12/bean-bar-chocolate-label-really-mean/.

Media Works Cited

Balch, Oliver. “Child Labour: the Dark Truth behind Chocolate Production.” Raconteur, Raconteur Media Ltd., 22 June 2018, http://www.raconteur.net/business-innovation/child-labour-cocoa-production.

celticross89. “Why Buy Fair Trade Chocolate?” YouTube, YouTube, 31 Oct. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NZv8FX4wPc.

Chung, Elizabeth. “5 Innovative Programs Changing the Social Sector | Classy.” Best Practices, Tips and Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits, Classy, 29 June 2018, http://www.classy.org/blog/5-innovative-programs-changing-social-sector/.

Yu, Douglas. “Alter Eco Founders on NextWorld Evergreen’s Acquisition: Chocolate Consumers Want a Story.” Confectionerynews.com, William Reed Business Media Ltd., 18 Dec. 2017, http://www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2017/12/18/NextWorld-Evergreen-acquires-Alter-Eco.

An Ethnographic Analysis of the Taza Chocolate Company

Chocolate as a consumable commodity dates back all the way to 1500 B.C. when the Olmec civilization discovered the beans that would go on to become one of the most sought-after foods in the world.  The history of the cacao industry is as rich as its products taste. However, it also possesses a dark past ― one that is rooted in grave issues, such as child labor, unfair trade, and extremely harmful side effects.  As chocolate’s popularity has continued to grow in the 21st century, assisted by commercial advertisements and more widespread manufacturing, new companies are entering the market and attempting to combat the industry’s problems.  While these companies tend to be smaller and produce more expensive chocolate, they provide hope for the future of the chocolate industry.

The Unsettling History of the Cacao Industry

Slavery is a historical scourge that has unfortunately played a significant role in the chocolate industry.  Institutionalized slavery was widespread all throughout the global continents, from the Spanish encomienda system, where conquerors demanded tribute and forced labor from the indigenous inhabitants, to the system of chattel slavery, in which people were treated as the personal property of an owner and were bought and sold as commodities during the transatlantic slave trade (Martin, 2019).  The slaves were forced to work under intense heat, sometimes for 18 hours a day, in conditions that were so extreme that the life expectancy for slaves brought to the Caribbean and Brazil was only seven to eight years upon arrival. A key example of post-abolition slave labor occurred in West Africa in São Tomé and Príncipe, a Portuguese colony that produces chocolate for the Cadbury Chocolate company.  In 1905, Reporter Henry Nevinson uncovered and publicly exposed the exploitation of slaves, however, it wasn’t until a decade later that major British companies formally boycotted the cocoa (Martin, 2019). Slavery in West Africa was utterly inhumane ― people were being traded for guns and other commodities and many died on the ships before making it to their future destination (Satre, 2005)

Child labor has also been at the forefront of the immoral issues that plague the chocolate industry.  Currently, 2.3 million children are working in the cocoa fields of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire (“Slave Free Chocolate,” n.d.).  Although the majority of these children are working for their family plantations, they are doing so without much choice and many without receiving an education ― in both Ghana and the Ivory Coast, 40 percent of children aged 5 to 17 cannot read or write a single sentence (Ryan, 2011).  A 2007 report revealed that 15,000 children worked in conditions of forced labor picking beans in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. These individuals were trafficked from extremely poor countries, including Mali and Burkina Faso, and worked on some of the 1.5 million small cocoa farms in West Africa (Aaronson, 2007).  In one case study, Carol Off calls attention to the trafficking that occurs from Mali to the Ivory Coast.  These children are living in brutal, harsh conditions ― working countless hours in extremely humid heat, toiling on the farms with not even the slightest understanding of the concept of chocolate (Off, 2008).  As Off notes, “Everyone looks tired and hungry” because these children are underfed and overworked (Off, 2008).  She writes that, “The farmers, or their supervisors, were working the youngest people almost to death.  The boys had little to eat, slept in bunkhouses that were locked during the 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 effects of physical abuse” (Off, 2008).  Despite the tireless efforts of advocates like Diplomat Abdoulaye Macko, who works against the government to try to bring hundreds of children in the Ivory Coast to safety (Off, 2008), child labor is still common worldwide and must be eliminated.  

The United States has attempted to address this issue by enacting legislation that would reduce the occurrence of child labor.  Under the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, the U.S. Customs Service is supposed to refuse entry to any goods manufactured using forced labor (Aaronson, 2007).  However, this government agency very rarely investigates or interdicts such products (Aaronson, 2007).  While this legislative act may appear to be beneficial on paper, if it is not enforced, then it might as well not exist.  

In 2001, cocoa producers, traders, suppliers, governments, unions, and civil-society groups agreed to a solution spearheaded by Congressmen Eliot Engel, who introduced a legislative amendment to fund the development of a “No child slavery” label for chocolate products sold in the United States.  Tom Harkin, a Senator from Iowa, later signed on to support the amendment (Harkin Engel Protocol, n.d.).  The Harkin-Engel Protocol was created to ensure that the growing and processing of cocoa beans was done in a manner that complies with the Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, which pledges to abolish child labor and adult forced labor on cocoa farms in West Africa (Harkin Engel Protocol, n.d.).  The protocol was signed by the eight largest chocolate companies, two U.S. Senators, one U.S. congressman, the Ambassador to the Ivory Coast, and a few NGO and industry alliance representatives (Harkin Engel Protocol, n.d.).

Yet, five years after the protocol was passed, children were still picking cacao in unsafe and unjust conditions.  In 2006, BBC reporter Humphrey Hawksley conducted an in-depth investigation of the conditions of cacao plantations in the Ivory Coast and found little evidence that industry efforts were changing longstanding farm conditions (Aaronson, 2007).  He concluded, “No one is in charge of the efforts put in place under the Cocoa Protocol. There’s no place the buck stops. In the cocoa belt, it’s only a short drive to find children working with machetes amid some of the worst poverty anywhere in the world” (Aaronson, 2007).  This demonstrates the ineffective nature of a sector-specific strategy in addressing the broader cultural, social, and economic factors in West Africa that are responsible for child labor.

The industry’s promise to reduce child labor in the Ivory Coast and Ghana by 70%, in response to the 2001 protocol, had not been met by the 2015 target date, so the deadline was simply extended to 2020 (“Behind a bittersweet industry,” 2016).  Continuously pushing back the deadline to experience a feeling of accomplishment when met is not a viable solution when millions of West African children are still doing the dangerous and physically taxing work of harvesting cocoa.  The solution lies in acting now.

Slavery and child labor are not the only issues that haunt the chocolate industry.  Fair trade is a labeling initiative aimed at improving the lives of the poor in developing countries by offering better terms to producers and helping them to organize (Dragusanu, Giovannucci, & Nunn, 2014).  This movement creates price levels that provide a livable wage for producers that and establishes a price floor which ensures a minimum price for which a Fair Trade-certified product can be sold to a Fair Trade buyer (Dragusanu, Giovannucci, & Nunn, 2014).  With Fair Trade regulations, certain harmful chemicals are prohibited for Fair Trade production, helping to eliminate the use of less-desirable agrochemicals and replacing them with natural biological methods (Dragusanu, Giovannucci, & Nunn, 2014).  This approach creates greater economic stability, as illustrated through a sample of 228 coffee farmers from Nicaragua.  Researcher Christopher Bacon examined this population and found that the Fair Trade farmers report being less concerned about losing their farms in the coming year than conventional farmers (Bacon, 2005).

It is evident that implementing Fair Trade will work towards rebuilding the chocolate industry’s ethical foundation, however this method has not been widely integrated into societies where chocolate is grown, leaving many farmers with barely enough money to get by and leaving the environment in ruins.  As of 2010, there were 62 cocoa-growing cooperatives in the U.S. Fair Trade system. That year, the number of Fair Trade- certified cocoa products in the U.S. increased by 67 percent from 2009 (De Neve, Peter, Pratt, & Wood, 2008).  However, this is still a very small percentage of the total market for cocoa product, meaning that the vast majority of companies are still not employing fair trade practices.  A similar trend is evident in the coffee industry ― Fair Trade-certified coffee exports were only 1.8 percent of global exports in 2009 (Dragusanu, Giovannucci, & Nunn, 2014).  In order to improve these sales, it is essential that companies not only enact change, but that the general population be educated on what Fair Trade policies entail so that they can be conscious of buying these products in stores.  Only 34% of Americans even understand what the concept of Fair Trade requires (De Neve, Peter, Pratt, & Wood, 2008).  Without a greater public awareness, Fair Trade policies will not be adopted by corporate chocolate companies that care more about their profits than the ethics of their product production.  A global movement advocating for the payment of higher prices to exporters and improved social and environmental standards, cannot succeed if people are completely unaware of this initiative.  

While the primary problem of Fair Trade is that it is not practiced widely enough, there are issues with the concept of Fair Trade itself.  U.S. products which have as little as 11 percent of Fair Trade-produced chocolate can be labeled as Fair Trade chocolate (Brown, 2013). This allows larger companies that meet the minimum requirement to receive the Fair Trade label with a limited investment and without necessarily supporting the moral objectives associated with producing chocolate in this manner.  Maintaining such a low minimum requirement shifts the focus towards branding and detracts from the value that comes with raising salaries for farmers and establishing more beneficial environmental regulations. One of the major upsides to the chocolate industry is that this highly-sought-after commodity is affordable to all. However, Fair Trade chocolate is more expensive to sell, thus creating a higher financial decision for consumers.  Although Fair Trade does not solve all of the problems within the chocolate industry, it is a step in the right direction.

The Solution: Taza Chocolate

Taza Chocolate was founded by Alex Whitmore after he took his first bite of stone ground chocolate while traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico (“About Taza,” n.d.).  Whitmore was so inspired by the rustic intensity of the flavor that he decided to create a chocolate factory in his hometown of Somerville, Massachusetts (“About Taza,” n.d.).  In 2005, he officially launched the Taza Chocolate company with his wife, Kathleen Fulton.  The two were the first chocolate makers to establish a third-party certified Direct Trade Cacao Certification Program (“About Taza,” n.d.), meaning that the company maintains direct relationships with their cacao farmers and pays a premium above the Fair Trade price, ensuring that these workers are treated with the utmost respect, thanked for their efforts, and receive a living wage.  Through the direct trade approach, Taza Chocolate is committed to establishing real, face-to-face relationships with growers who respect the environment and fair labor practices (“Taza Direct Trade,” n.d.).  They pledge to visit their partners in Pisa, Haiti; Oko Caribe, Dominican Republic; Finca Elvesia, Dominican Republic; Alto Beni Cacao Co., Bolivia every year (verified through E-tickets), pay a price premium of at least 500 USD per metric ton above the market price for their partners’ cacao beans, source the highest quality beans (defined by having at least a 75 percent fermentation rate and dried to 7 percent moisture or less), and work exclusively with USDA Certified Organic cacao farms (“Taza Direct Trade,” n.d.).

Taza not only pledges to carry out these actions, but it also publishes an annual transparency report to provide proof.  This pioneering company works to address all of the unethical issues plaguing the chocolate industry ― there is no child labor, the process of harvesting chocolate does not harm the environment, farmers are guaranteed livable salaries, and growing partners are visited at least once a year to establish a strong relationship.  As a result of publishing the first transparency report back in 2012, other companies, such as Dandelion Chocolate and Askinosie chocolate, decided to follow suit and implemented this same production method. Madecasse Chocolate decided to take it a step further and adopted a direct trade program in 2016 in addition to publishing annual transparency reports (“Taza Direct Trade,” n.d.).  Hopefully, in the years to come, more companies will feel pressured to release these reports and guarantee that they are using exclusively ethical practices throughout the entire chocolate manufacturing chain.  Taza’s most recent report from 2018 can be found here.  The company also released a visual summary of the current year’s progress, so visitors to their website can immediately begin to understand how Taza is transforming the chocolate industry.  This chart is last year’s summary:

     Source: https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2018-transparency-report

As the report indicates, Taza Chocolate makes a tremendous effort to guarantee a strong relationship with their growing partners.  This company works to connect all aspects of the supply chain and eliminates all disconnect between producers and manufacturers. Gilbert Gonzales, who visited the farm in Pisa, expresses that “Our objective in getting the cocoa is to create a different dynamic in the chain. The relationship with the farmers is a direct one. We go to the farmers, we talk to them.”  Taza released a video of their sourcing in Haiti in which the employees are seen spending significant time with their growing partners and allowing them to try the finished product. The Taza visitors will spend 15 hours a day in the field meeting with their partners in an attempt to make “the northern part of Haiti smile more by seeing their success and being able to send their children to school.”

Taza Chocolate strives to ensure that the company never partakes in slavery or child labor and maintain its core value of developing a strong relationship with its farmers and operating on the most ethical grounds.

Big 5 Who? Taza Reigns Victorious

If someone were asked to name a chocolate brand, they would probably only be able to recall those that control the majority of the industry’s revenues ― Mars, Nestlé, Hersheys, Mondelez, or Ferrero.  Although these companies might be successful with their marketing and financial strategies, they lack high ethical standards. Companies, including Nestlé, Hershey, Cargill, ADM, and Barry Callebout, have admitted to buying cacao beans from fields that utilize child labor, and they vowed to remedy the solution.  Unfortunately, very little has changed in the 14 years since these companies agreed to no longer exploit children for their labor (“Slave Free Chocolate,” n.d.).

Some of the Big 5 chocolate companies have done research to determine if their products are ethically sourced and produced.  Nestlé found that more than 3,000 children are working on the cocoa farms that produce its chocolate (Wilk, 2018).  Mars has also acknowledged the practice of child labor in the harvesting of its chocolate and stated that by 2020, none of its chocolate will be produced using child labor (Wilk, 2018).  This claim feels like an empty promise and, given the history of these companies extending deadlines because they couldn’t be met, I would not be surprised if Mars pushes back the deadline to a later year.  However, one redeeming quality of this company is its effort to implement Fair Trade practices. In January of 2010, Kit Kat converted its bar to use Fair-Trade certified cocoa (Pride, 2012).  Hopefully, Mars can begin to replicate this practice across its product lines and work towards earning all of its offerings the Fair Trade label.

The Hershey Chocolate Company is the leading chocolate manufacturer in North America, controlling 42 percent of the U.S. chocolate market and generating more than $6 billion in revenues.  Despite the undeniable success of this company, Hershey’s falls into the trap of needlessly exploiting children for its benefits. In 2011, nearly two million children, including an estimated 819,921 in the Ivory Coast and 997,357 in Ghana, worked illegally on cocoa farms (Manza, 2014).  Only five to ten percent of these children actually worked for any pay and the rest were forced to assist with their families’ farms (Manza, 2014).  Similar to Mars, Hershey’s pledged in 2012 to use only 100 percent Fair Trade-certified cocoa by 2020 (Nieburg, 2012), but its current and previous practices provide little indication that this will transform into a reality.  Hershey’s was one of the companies that refused to participate in the São Tomé and Príncipe boycott and continues to take advantage of child labor.  However, reducing child labor and implementing serious reforms in West Africa is more complicated than it appears on the surface. Farmers describe the efforts of these larger companies to improve the ethics of the chocolate industry as more akin to intimidation than to education.  The farmers don’t understand that the exploitation of their labor is wrong and “People are worried that America will not buy our cocoa anymore,” says Julien Kra Yau, the director of a farmers’ cooperative in Thoui (Parenti, 2008).  Getting the larger companies on board and enabling them to turn to smaller companies, such as Taza Chocolate, for guidance is crucial in bringing about a full reformation of the chocolate industry within the next few decades.

Getting up Close and Personal with Taza:

While researching the strengths of Taza in contrast to the flaws of the chocolate industry as a whole is effective in formulating a complete ethnographic analysis of this company, I decided to take it a step further and experience Taza first hand.  My roommate’s parents had shipped a selection of Taza chocolate as a consolation for not being able to fit this class into her schedule, and I tried it myself. As someone who typically prefers milk chocolate that is high in sugar, I actually enjoyed the richness of the Mexican dark chocolate.  Its smooth texture enhanced my experience and the chocolate left a pleasant aftertaste in my mouth. After spotting Taza Chocolate at a bagel shop in Ithaca a few weeks ago, I also started to recognize that Taza Chocolate is extremely accessible and gathered a brief collection of photos of Taza in various locations.   

Source: Collegetown Bagels, Ithaca, NY
Source: http://www.tazachocolate.com
Mailed to my roommate from her parents in Seattle, WA

Source: Fairway Market, New York, NY; Photo taken by my mother

I reached out to the company via email and had a brief exchange with Jesse Last, the Director of Cacao Sourcing & Strategic Initiatives for the company.  I initially asked him what he thought were the biggest problems in the cocoa industry, and how Taza works to address them. This was his response:

“The cocoa industry is notoriously opaque, and this lack of transparency translates into a lack of accountability on issues ranging from deforestation to child labor to poverty. Rather than ignore these issues or hide behind a certification that may or may not make a difference, Taza welcomes transparency and shares our Direct Trade approach to sourcing cacao in a way that’s seriously good and fair for all. Some of our specific sourcing strategies include paying higher prices for higher quality cacao beans, building honest and open relationships by visiting our Direct Trade partners and having them visit us, and agreeing on clear environmental and social standards for growing and trading cacao beans. It’s not that at Taza we have all the answers, but we have an outsized impact because we openly share our questions and our learnings with the rest of the industry.”

I also wanted to know more about how Taza can work to inspire other companies, such as the Big 5, to follow suit in being more transparent and utilizing direct trade practices.  This is what Mr. Last had to say:

“High level though, we work to inspire others by publishing our Annual Transparency Report, sharing our Direct Trade Standard Operating Procedure (basically, our sourcing playbook) with other companies including chocolate makers that wish to become Direct Trade certified, and collaborating with other chocolate companies that share our values and vision for a more sustainable cacao industry.”

And finally, I was interested to know what his experience was like visiting the growing partners, to which Jesse Last responded:

“I have been, and the experiences were different from one another in many ways but similarly important to building a personal relationship with the farmers and the cacao processors with whom we partner. Here are a few blog posts that give an idea:  Haiti, Bolivia, DR, and Ghana.”

Combining extensive research and personal insights provides a complete analysis of how Taza Chocolate succeeds as a leading force in working towards remedying the issues troubling the chocolate industry.  Although these issues are extremely complicated and will not be resolved overnight, Taza provides hope that future companies will adopt its practices and help create a fair, ethical, and affordable chocolate industry.  

Works Cited

Aaronson, S. A. (2007). Globalization and child labor: the cause can also be a cure. YaleGlobal Online, Yale Centre for the Study of Globalization, available at: http://yaleglobal.yale. edu/display.

About Taza. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/about-taza

Bacon, Christopher. 2005. “Confronting the Coffee Crisis: Can Fair Trade, Organic, and Specialty Coffee Reduce Small-Scale Farmer Vulnerability in Northern Nicaragua?” World Development 33(3): 497–511

Behind a bittersweet industry. Fortune. 1 March 2016. Retrieved 7 January 2018.

Brown, K. R. (2013). Buying into fair trade: Culture, morality, and consumption. NYU Press.

De Neve, G., Peter, L., Pratt, J., & Wood, D. C. (Eds.). (2008). Hidden hands in the market: Ethnographies of fair trade, ethical consumption, and corporate social responsibility. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Dragusanu, R., Giovannucci, D., & Nunn, N. (2014). The economics of fair trade. Journal of economic perspectives, 28(3), 217-36.

Harkin Engel Protocol. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/harkin-engel-protocol

Manza, K. (2014). Making chocolate sweeter: How to encourage Hershey Company to clean up its supply chain and eliminate child labor. BC Int’l & Comp. L. Rev., 37, 389

Martin, Carla. (2019). AFRAMER119X: Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor, week 5, [Course Presentation]. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1-tCZfTFSi7EuZqb1dxrJatPuv–33tERRDYM0y_PZBg/edit?usp=sharing

Nieburg, O. (2012). Hershey stuns critics with commitment to source 100% certified cocoa by 2020. Confectionery News.

Off, Carol. 2008. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. pp. 1-8, 119-161

Parenti, C. (2008). Chocolate’s bittersweet economy Seven years after the industry agreed to abolish child labor, little progress has been made. Fortune Magazine, 15.

Pride, W. (2012). Marketing 2012. Cengage Learning.

Ryan, Orla. 2011. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. pp. 43- 62

Satre, Lowell. 2005. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. pp. 1-32, 73-99

Slave Free Chocolate. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/

Taza Direct Trade. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/taza-direct-trade

2018 Transparency Report. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.tazachocolate.com/pages/2018-transparency-report

Wilk, A. (2018). 5 Major Chocolate Companies That Use Child Labor. Retrieved from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/5-major-chocolate-companies-child-labor




“Sustainable” Chocolate

What Does it Mean to be Sustainable?

Today, many companies use the term “sustainable” to describe their products or their industry. But what does it mean to be sustainable? The term is used so often that the significance has become ambiguous. According to John C. Long, the former Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Hershey’s and 2008 chairman emeritus of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), – he served as a representative for Hershey’s despite his retirement from the company earlier in that year – the definition of sustainability was not just ambiguous for the consumer but for the company, as well. In his article published in Wiley InterScience, From Cocoa to CSR: Finding Sustainability in a Cup of Hot Chocolate, Long states that “sustainability covers such a wide range of areas touching on all aspects of business…[it’s] hard to know where to begin” (Long 316). However, one thing is clear, Long says: “…sustainability is directly related to being able to succeed as individual businesses and industries” (Long 316). Therefore, if sustainability is tied with success, then there should be a definite definition. With the “heightened level of attention” surrounding sustainability, one would think that the definition would be exactly the same across all industries or companies within the same industry; and yet, Long, a former executive of one of the largest chocolate companies in the world, is clear that this is not the case: “…the definitions range from a narrow focus on preserving natural resources and the environment to broader quality-of-life visions encompassing economic opportunity, diversity, and access to health care” (Long 316). In either perspective, sustainability should theoretically lead to the betterment of the world and society. However, this has not been the case for the cocoa industry due to a variety of different issues: lack of understanding of the meaning and requirements to effectively create a plan for a more sustainable industry.

“[it’s] hard to know where to begin” (Long 316)

The Rise in Sustainability “Awareness”

With increased consumer awareness of the concept of sustainability, companies such as Hershey Co. were quick to react and offer a plan. This concept of “‘doing well by doing good’” was quickly adopted into “mainstream business practice” (Long 315). By 2008, a survey found that “47.7 percent of companies considered sustainability and corporate responsibility an important driver of innovation” (Bonn and Fisher 5). This means that nearly 50% of companies – not specifically in the cocoa industry – found sustainability to be “an important driver of innovation” and yet there was not a definition that thoroughly explained what this concept meant in relation to industries.

According to Dr. Ingrid Bonn – Associate Professor of Strategy at the School of Business, Bond University – and Dr. Jose Fisher – Associate Professor of Management at the School of Business, University of New England, Australia –  “becoming a sustainable organization is a long and arduous process” that requires “continuous capability building and management attention and the need to integrate all sustainability initiatives so they they form a cohesive whole” (Bonn and Fisher 12). However, they also recognize that a large part in being effectively sustainable comes from the true understanding that there are three components: environmental, economic and social sustainability. This highly contrasts from Long’s claim that sustainability is a “focus on preserving natural resources” or “improving quality-of-life” (Long 316). This highlights the problem, primarily within the cocoa industry, which focuses on just one aspect of sustainability, rather than all three. Therefore, companies such as Hershey Co. cannot claim to be fully sustainable if their focus lies solely in one of the three pillars of sustainability – as shown in Figure 1 above.

Sustainability in the Cacao Industry

With the clarification as to what it means to be sustainable, it is important to analyze how this is evident within a specific industry – the cacao industry. In 2008, Long blamed the lack of a unanimous definition across the cocoa industry on the lack of effective plans in countries such as Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Despite this awareness of the problem, this issue has continued throughout the years. In a short documentary by Al Jazerra English – as found on Youtube – reporter Nazanine Moshiri travels to the Ivory Coast in 2011 to highlight the conditions of the cocoa farmers. Her interview with some of the farmers reveals that even on a fair-trade certified farm, the government should regulate and fix the price of cocoa to be $1.50 per kilogram. However, buyers usually show no respect for this price and often pay only a little over a dollar per kilogram (Al Jazerra English). Because of this, farmers are not making a profit and are forced to abandon their farms or plant other supplies, which then leads to an increase in the price of cacao. This would then impact the consumer who would have to pay more for the luxury of their chocolate bar. As a result, companies have created a series of plans to improve the conditions within the cocoa industry to ensure that the price of chocolate remains low for their consumer and improves the livelihood of farmers. (For more information, please refer to the video below.)

The Cocoa Farmer

Education and Resources

In order to come up with a plan, companies needed to follow the same path as Nazanine Moshiri did as a reporter: investigate the conditions on the farms. Most of these investigations were conducted in West Africa, where “70 percent of cocoa is produced on small family farms” (Houston and Wryer). In regions such as Ghana or the Ivory Coast, farmers have a “limited access to resources” and a “multitude of social issues, such as low levels of adult literacy…and lack of quality education” (Houston and Wryer). These issues worsen when the price of cacao lowers or when farmers have “low yields attributed to pests, aging trees, and diseases that attack the trees” (Houston and Wryer). While pesticides and fertilizer could increase the yields of cacao, thus increasing the amount the cacao farmer gets paid – as their income stems from their cacao yield – farmers are unfamiliar with “modern farming techniques” (Houston and Wryer). Despite the possibility of increasing resources for farmers – which could create an environmentally sustainable farm – the “low levels of adult literacy” makes it hard for cocoa farmers to effectively learn how to use these supplies or “modern farming techniques” (Houston and Wryer). This proves that without a focus on social sustainability to improve the conditions and education of the cocoa farmers, there cannot be environmental or economic sustainability.

“Multitude of social issues, such as low levels of adult literacy…and lack of quality education” (Houston and Wryer)

In order to come up with a plan, companies needed to follow the same path as Nazanine Moshiri did as a reporter: investigate the conditions on the farms. Most of these investigations were conducted in West Africa, where “70 percent of cocoa is produced on small family farms” (Houston and Wryer). In regions such as Ghana or the Ivory Coast, farmers have a “limited access to resources” and a “multitude of social issues, such as low levels of adult literacy…and lack of quality education” (Houston and Wryer). These issues worsen when the price of cacao lowers or when farmers have “low yields attributed to pests, aging trees, and diseases that attack the trees” (Houston and Wryer).

Simplistic Solutions

Despite the complexity of this issue, some of the biggest companies in the chocolate industry create simplistic solutions. This mostly stems from the lack of a concise definition among these organizations and a lack of focus on all three components (environmental, economic, and social) that make up sustainability. Kerstin Roos critiques this by highlighting the supposed solution that “farmers need only increase productivity” (Roos 5). She points out that “poverty has many dimensions” (Roos 5). T

The reality is that a solution that “increase[s] productivity” cannot target “chronic poverty, child labor, soil degradation and deforestation” without analyzing the root causes of each issue. She continues her argument by stating that increasing productivity is not enough and “development based on growth actually creates more inequalities” (Roos 7). This perception that growth, or productivity, can reduce poverty is reflects a misunderstanding that  “all people benefit when the economy grows” (Roos 5). Therefore, simple stating that sustainability is achieved through increasing productivity reflects a genuine lack of understanding; in fact, it also reflects a lack of planning that will only impact the top layer of a deep rooted issue.

Rapid Solutions

To continue this point, it is important to point out that the simple solution of increasing productivity not only stems from a lack of understanding as to what sustainability needs and requires, but also from a lack of organization and planning. In other words, companies were quick to respond to the “heightened level of attention” surrounding sustainability with a simplified plan that was rather ambiguous in nature (Long 316). The simplified response was a direct result of a company’s rapid timing to provide a solution to target deep issues. John C. Long also criticizes this by highlighting that solutions for problems as big as child labor, poverty, and low yields of cacao do not result from quick-timed responses: “It doesn’t happen by itself, and it doesn’t happen overnight” (Long 317). Long, having been an employee of Hershey Co., recognizes that companies such as Hershey Co. have been guilty of simplifying a large scale problem. However, he is also quick to point out this is issue is larger than just one company. In fact, even if one company recognizes all three pillars of sustainability and takes the time to investigate and create a thorough plan, “it does not happen by itself” (Long 317). In a billion dollar industry, “corporations cannot address the challenges of ensuring a truly sustainable supply chain without working in partnership within their particular industry” (Long 317). In other words, in order to create a sustainable industry, there needs to be systematic change that occurs not only within the governments of the countries in which the cacao farms are located, but within the companies themselves.

“It doesn’t happen by itself, and it doesn’t happen overnight” (Long 317)

Current Conditions and Failed Plans

Without this systematic change that spreads through the entire industry, sustainability efforts will continue to fail. In a news article for Candy Industry, a magazine that provides “in-depth news analysis and comprehensive profiles” of the candy industry, Crystal Lindell – Editor for Candy Industry – provides a detailed report on the failed efforts within the chocolate industry. Her piece titled, Cocoa Sustainability: Goals shift to 2025, she presents coverage of the 2018 Cocoa Barometer – “a biennial review of the state of sustainability in the cocoa sector” (Lindell). Lindell selects certain portions of the report that she deems important to analyze including the following:

  • “More than ninety percent of West Africa’s original forests are gone” (Lindell)
  • “Child labor remains at very high levels in the cocoa sector, with an estimated 2.1 million children working in cocoa fields in the Ivory Coast and Ghana alone” (Lindell)

Without this systematic change that spreads through the entire industry, sustainability efforts will continue to fail. In a news article for Candy Industry, a magazine that provides “in-depth news analysis and comprehensive profiles” of the candy industry, Crystal Lindell – Editor for Candy Industry – provides a detailed report on the failed efforts within the chocolate industry. Her piece titled, Cocoa Sustainability: Goals shift to 2025, she presents coverage of the 2018 Cocoa Barometer – “a biennial review of the state of sustainability in the cocoa sector” (Lindell). Lindell selects certain portions of the report that she deems important to analyze including the following:

She raises criticism by making evident that “…efforts in the cocoa industry to improve the lives of farmers…are having little impact” (Lindell). In fact, the “proposed solutions do not even come close to addressing the scale of the problem” (Lindell). This is a direct consequence of the lack of planning and understanding surrounding sustainability. The irony within this fact stems from the knowledge that companies have the investigative research and information to make a change- as proven by Long’s statements in 2008. The fact that it has been over ten years since Long released his journal on sustainability and the need for change within the industry, reflects the ineffectiveness of the efforts made by the companies – even Hershey Co.

“…companies have the investigative research and information to make a change”

New Proposal, New Solutions

That being said, there are solutions that – if applied to the entire industry – can make an impact. Lindell continues in her coverage by highlighting the goals that should be achieved by 2025 that starts with an increase in “urgency and ambition to reflect the scale of the problems” (Lindell). By simplifying solutions down to measuring productivity, the industry will not be fixed. More awareness and a grasp on the meaning of sustainability could bring an end to an issue that has plagued the cocoa industry for decades. Because of this Lindell recognizes the complexity of issue at hand: “…sustainable cocoa is not an easy fix” (Lindell). The fact that this issue is difficult, however, should not deter companies; rather, the urgency for sustainability should serve as an incentive – just as the companies claimed productivity should incentivize the cocoa farmers.

Consumer Awareness

Despite the failed efforts to achieve sustainability, one thing is clear: the consumer has a direct impact on the industry. While some may read this and choose to boycott chocolate all-together, this does not have to the case. In fact, this may hurt the industry even more and take away the small income the cacao farmers make. This does mean that consumers should be more aware of where their chocolate comes from and what the labels on chocolate bars mean; as consumers, we should also be aware of what it means to be sustainable and whether or not a company knows and reflects this policy.

With an industry with expected sales “to reach $225 billion by 2025,” the need for systemic change is necessary more today than ever before (Roos 32). The increase in profits are not reflected in the incomes of cocoa farmers, who make up “5 million households that farm cocoa” and rely on it for “60 to 90 percent of their income” (Houston and Wryer). In 2017 alone, the prices in cacao dropped and farmers saw “incomes drop by 30-40%” (Roos 3). All of these numbers reflect just how unequal the playing field is between the industry and big companies in relation to the cacao farmers.

Chocolate is not just a guilty pleasure in regards to health, as some might think, but in the impact it holds. As consumers, we can choose to be aware of our own impact on the “economies of developing countries” and advocate for more to be done. Current sustainability plans have not abolished child labor, unstable incomes, environmental diseases, and more. This should be enough incentive to make a change for the “better livelihoods at the farm level, increased resources and investment at the national level, and a safer, more secure environment for smallholder farmers that supply the bulk of coca production for the world’s consumers” (Houston and Wryer). As consumers, we are directly involved in the efforts made for sustainability. The problem cannot be simplified, but the first step comes in adopting a uniform definition for sustainability that recognizes the three pillars: economic, environmental, social. By taking this definition as using it as the foundation to take the time and create a thorough plan, there can finally be a sustainable cocoa industry. Until then, a true sustainable chocolate bar or company simply does not exist.

Sources

Scholarly Articles

Bonn, Ingrid, and Josie Fisher. “Sustainability: the Missing Ingredient in Strategy.” The Journal of Business Strategy, vol. 32, no. 1, 2011, pp. 5–14.

Houston, Holly, and Terry Wyer. “Why Sustainable Cocoa Farming Matters for Rural Development.” Why Sustainable Cocoa Farming Matters for Rural Development | Center for Strategic and International Studies, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 6 Sept. 2012, http://www.csis.org/analysis/why-sustainable-cocoa-farming-matters-rural-development.

Long, J. C. (2008). From cocoa to CSR: Finding sustainability in a cup of hot chocolate. Thunderbird International Business Review, 50(5), 315. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/10.1002/tie.20215

Roos, Kerstin, “Cacao Together: A Model for True Sustainability in the Chocolate Industry” (2018). Capstone Collection. 3138. https://digitalcollections.sit.edu/capstones/3138

Multimedia Sources

News Articles

English, Al Jazeera. “Ivory Coast’s Bittersweet Cocoa Industry.” YouTube, YouTube, 13 Dec. 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA-dm0TSmpk.

Lindell, Crystal. “Cocoa Sustainability: Goals Shift to 2025; Cocoa Suppliers and Manufacturers Made Big Promises for Sustainability Efforts That Mostly Come Due in 2020–but as the Deadline Gets Closer Many Are Now Looking to 2025.” Candy Industry, vol. 183, no. 11, 2018, p. 18.

Images

Figure 1: KTucker. “Nested Sustainability.” Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia, 19 Oct. 2011, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nested_sustainability-v2.svg.

Figure 2: “Sustainable Cacao Farming.” Chocolate Connoisseur, Google, http://www.chocolateconnoisseurmag.com/corruption-in-the-chocolate-chain-deadly-deforestation-and-cacao-part-two/sustainable-cacao-farming/.

Figure 3: Kirubi, Mwangi. “Cocoa Farmer Ghana.” Flickr, 25 May 2017, flic.kr/p/2ahtX3d.

Figure 4: “Cocoa farming holding collection of fermented cacao beans in both hands while surrounded by cacao beans in the background.” UVM Bored, Google, https://uvmbored.com/event/presentation-the-cocoa-campaign/

Figure 5: Neptune, Bobby. “Turning Cocoa Beans into Chocolate.” Flickr, 4 Dec. 2013, https://flic.kr/p/jy7EfA

The old, the new, and the fight against injustice

Since chocolate was first discovered and loved by the Europeans, slave labor has been used to grow and harvest cacao. Slaves had to deal with horrific working conditions, malnourishment, and poor treatment from their owners—which caused life expectancy to be incredibly low. Even though slavery was abolished across the globe, many issues of forced labor and child labor still exist today. Cocoa farmers, especially in West Africa, have been depicted as either the exploiters—through their use of child labor and slavery like conditions—or the exploited—by big chocolate companies and the global market (Martin, Lecture 7 slide 23). For example of the exploiters, in Bitter Chocolate, the author points out that “Macko learned of another category of labour that he couldn’t quite fathom. What his informers described sounded a lot like slavery, and what made the stories even more horrifying was that it seemed the slaves were children” (Off 120). In regards to the exploited, when talking about the villagers who farm cacao, the author claims that “their primary activity here is to produce cocoa for the international market. As such, they earn just enough money from cocoa sales to pay for rice and cooking oil. There’s usually nothing left over” (Off 5). However, neither depiction is entirely accurate. There are much deeper issues than this simple binary suggests. According to Video 1 below, the number of child laborers more than doubled in Côte d’Ivoire from 2010 to 2015 to 1.6 million, and the government and big chocolate companies’ efforts to curb the issue have not worked. Also, as is seen in Figure 3, farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana receive only $0.50 and $0.84 per day, respectively—showing a huge divide between the compensation of the farmers and the profit of large chocolate companies. As is evident from these passages, there are major issues that surround the current marketplace for cacao. But, as consumers become more and more socially conscious about what they buy, some chocolate companies—and world organizations—have made it their mission to protect workers, pay them properly, and give their customers an ethically sourced and delicious product.

CACOCO

One such company is CACOCO, a Santa Cruz, California based drinking chocolate company, started in 2014, that has made it their mission to provide ethically sourced chocolate to its customers, and to protect and help the Earth in the process. According to their website, “CACOCO is the purest form of cacao directly sourced from beyond-organic farms, that not only improve the health of the environment but produce a chocolate that showcases the finer nuances of well-maintained soil and cultivation and highlight the terroir of the region” (“About Us”). It is their stated mission to “source the Earth’s purest ingredients from regenerative food systems, provide customers healthy, safe and delicious products with uncompromised quality, service and integrity, [and to] create and implement the most sustainable methods and systems for our organization” (“About Us”).

In this course, we have raised many questions regarding the ethics of cocoa production. One of the main things we talked about is that some companies don’t know where exactly they are getting their cacao from, so they have no idea whether or not their product is ethically sourced. This means that they could be getting cacao from farms who use child labor or slave labor to grow and harvest their product. To counter this, all of CACOCO’s cacao is currently sourced from organic and regenerative farms in Ecuador (“About Us”). This way, they are able to know exactly where their product comes from, and they can more easily make sure that all of their cacao is produced and harvested the right way. Another main issue we discussed  was fair and steady compensation. It is no secret that a very small portion of the profit from a chocolate bar goes to the farmer, but as Figure 2 shows, it is actually the smallest share overall at only 3%. To make matters worse, as the price of cacao—a commodity—fluctuates, so does the income of farmers, meaning a drop in the price of cacao can have a drastic impact on the farmers and their families.

Fortunately, CACOCO’s cacao is Fair Trade Certified, which means that, according to Fair Trade USA, “producers and businesses we work with adhere to strict labor, environmental, and ethics standards that prohibit slavery and child labor and ensure cocoa growers receive a steady income, regardless of volatile market prices” (“Where to Buy”). Thus, given their certification, CACOCO checks the boxes for all these criteria—meaning that our worries of slavery and child labor, as well as unstable and unsustainable income that we discussed in class, are nothing to worry about when purchasing chocolate from CACOCO.

CACOCO even goes a step further in their efforts for ethically and sustainably sourced cacao by trying to help the Earth in the process, as all of their packaging is compostable and made from 100% recycled materials (“About Us”). Their website even claims that “each purchase you make of CACOCO Drinking Chocolate directly supports the vision of a planet where natural ecosystems are managed intelligently, resources are utilized respectfully, and people are treated well at each step of the process” (“About Us”). CACOCO is also working with Terra Genesis International (TGI) “to build a regenerative network of businesses committed to rebuilding supply chains based on regenerative principles” (“About Us”). Thus, CACOCO seems to be doing all it can to create an ethically and sustainably sourced chocolate product.

GHIRADELLI (LINDT)

On the other hand, some companies have been slow to change—or have yet to change much at all. One such example is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which is now owned by Lindt & Sprüngli. I want to specifically name Ghirardelli inside of the Lindt umbrella in order to emphasize how close to home these problems are—because Ghirardelli chocolate is everywhere in the US, especially in retail stores. According to Lindt & Sprüngli’s 2017 annual report, Ghirardelli ranks No. 3 in the US in terms of dark chocolate sales (Lindt). Ghirardelli also became the No. 2 baking brand in the United States in 2011 (“About Ghirardelli”). Thus, it is important to emphasize that when I discuss Lindt & Sprüngli, I am also discussing Ghirardelli (and vice versa).

Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was founded in 1852 in San Francisco, California. In 1865, “a Ghirardelli employee discovers that by hanging a bag of chocolate mass in a warm room, the cocoa butter drips out, leaving a residue that can be processed into ground chocolate. This is known as the Broma process and produces a more intense chocolate flavor than other techniques” (“About Ghirardelli”). Shortly thereafter, the company expanded their business from the western United States to the eastern United States, China, Mexico and Japan (“About Ghirardelli”). In 1965, Ghirardelli Square became an official city landmark, and later received National Historic Register status—solidifying itself as a staple of the Bay Area (“About Ghirardelli”). It has also partnered with Disney to create a Disney Studio Store in Hollywood, and continued to innovate with their famous Ghirardelli Squares—turning classic treats into best-selling holiday and dark chocolate candies (“About Ghirardelli”). They were acquired by Lindt & Sprüngli in 1998 (“About Ghirardelli”).

Ghirardelli chocolate, over the past one hundred and fifty years, has become an American staple in the chocolate industry. However, they have been slow to fight the injustices of the chocolate supply chain. They claim to “comply with high standard of ethics and sustainability in the procurement of our raw materials and in their processing into high-quality LINDT chocolate” (“The Commitment”). However, contrary to CACOCO, Lindt has no fair trade or labor certifications as of 2017 (Figure 1). Instead, they are “self-certified.” Although this beats no certification, their self-certification doesn’t hold them to the rigid standards of Fair Trade Certifications, and they aren’t accountable to anyone outside of themselves. But, in their defense, Lindt has instituted a program called the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program, which aims to “to trace ingredients back to their origin and support farmers according to their specific needs” (“Sustainably”). This program supports local farmers and helps them to apply “good agricultural, social, environmental and business practices in the management of their farms” (“Sustainably”). This allows Lindt to also verify social and environmental practices of the farms within the program in order to make sure their cacao is ethically and sustainably sourced (“Sustainably”). Lindt also aims to limit intermediaries—or “middle men”—between themselves and the farms to make sure they receive fair payment for their product (“Sustainably”).

According to their website, “over 85% of Ghirardelli cocoa beans are sourced through the Lindt & Sprüngli farming program” (“Sustainable Cocoa”). And, as of 2017, 79% of Lindt’s cocoa was certified (Figure 1). Although these numbers are higher than some chocolate companies, that means that 15% of the cocoa beans Ghirardelli gets have unknown origins (at least based on their website, which has no further mention of where the other 15% of cocoa beans come from) and 21% of Lindt’s total cacao in 2017 went uncertified. CACOCO sources 100% of their cacao beans from regenerative and organic farms in Ecuador—meaning none of the cacao’s origins are unknown. Thus, Ghirardelli doesn’t know whether or not some of their cacao comes from farms with poor working conditions, slave and child labor, or unfair wages. However, Lindt has made it their goal to go to 100% certified cacao by 2020—which would be a major step towards fixing issues of the cacao supply chain (Figure 1).

In addition to Lindt’s farming program, they have also introduced the Lindt & Sprüngli Suppler Code of Conduct Agreement and the Lindt Cocoa Foundation. The Code establishes “minimum standards, such as requirements regarding industrial wastewater treatment, air emission and environmental reporting” while also prohibiting the use of “corruption, bribery, discrimination and child labor” (“Sustainably Sourced”). The Code also “insists on freely chosen employment, fair compensation and working conditions, as well as freedom of association and obligates suppliers to pass these principles on to sub-suppliers” (“Sustainably Sourced”). Any purchase order made by Lindt requires the supplier to sign the Code of Conduct Agreement, and failure to uphold these obligations results in termination of the supplier contract (“Sustainably Sourced”). Secondly, the Lindt Cocoa Foundation’s job is “ to work towards achieving social and ecological sustainability in the cultivation, production and processing of cocoa and other ingredients used in chocolate production” (“Sustainably Sourced”). Thus, with these two initiatives, Lindt is trying to fix many of the issues that plague their cocoa supply chain—although without outside certification, it is harder for consumers to judge the strength and reach of these initiatives. Although this is a step in the right direction, Lindt has a lot more to prove to consumers that want to hold them accountable—and it starts with some sort of third-party certification, such as a Fair Trade Certification, and meeting their goal of 100% certified cacao by 2020.

Conclusion

Both companies are running initiatives to try to combat the problems of the cacao supply chain. CACOCO is a relatively new company that epitomizes the direction of which consumers are heading in regards to socially and environmentally conscious consumption. CACOCO is Fair Trade Certified, provides zero waste packaging, and preaches the importance sustainability, responsibility, and health—all in an effort to maximize consumer and producer happiness. Ghirardelli, on the other hand, is not Fair Trade Certified, but they are fighting injustice in other ways. Their farming program, along with the Lindt Cocoa Foundation and the Supplier Code of Conduct Agreement, are making steps towards a more transparent and equitable growing and harvesting environment in their cacao supply chain. With the completion of their goal of 100% certified cacao by 2020, they too would be well on their way towards creating a better, more equitable, and safer world in cacao farming.

As consumers, it is our duty to be as conscious as we can in order to create change. Companies that are doing the right thing, that are fighting the injustices of the cocoa supply chain, are the ones that should receive our money. As more and more issues are brought to light, it is up to us to hold these companies accountable for their sourcing of raw materials, and to make sure it is done as sustainably, and equitably, as possible—because we have as much of a duty to make a difference as they do.

Figure 1
SOURCE: Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 7).
Figure 2
SOURCE: “Is There Child Labor in Your Halloween Candy? Chocolate Scorecard Identified Good, Ghoulish Companies.” Green America, Green America, 11 Oct. 2018, http://www.greenamerica.org/press-release/there-child-labor-your-halloween-candy-chocolate-scorecard-identified-good-ghoulish-companies.
Figure 3
SOURCE: Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 8).
Video 1
SOURCE: Riggs, Ayn. “CREER-Africa Is Featured on News Story about Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector.” YouTube, Aljazeera, 12 Nov. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=64&v=2lk_OMPDlJc.

Works Cited

Scholarly

  • “About Us.” CACOCO, CACOCO, drinkcacoco.com/pages/about.
  • Lindt & Sprüngli. Annual Report 2017 NAFTA Markets. Kilchberg, Switzerland: Lindt & Sprüngli, 2017. Lindt & Sprüngli. Web. 2 May 2019.
  • Martin, Carla. “Lecture 7: Modern day slavery.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 27 March 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation.
  • Off, Carol. 2008. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet.

Multimedia

  • Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 7).
  • Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 8).

Corporate Social Responsibility Within the Chocolate Industry: Analyzing Nestlé

In an era where small batch chocolate producers have already taken effective steps in creating a more sustainable and equitable chocolate supply chain, larger corporations have also begun to take up the mantle and move in a positive direction. The large players in the chocolate market are perhaps the most crucial to making significant improvements to the system of the cacao production. Companies like Nestle have started focusing on sustainability, beginning to finally look at some of the core issues behind cacao sourcing. In analyzing the sustainability section in Nestlé’s annual report, I aim to evaluate their success in becoming a solution to the problems of the cacao-chocolate supply chain.

Creating Shared Value

Corporate Social Responsibility is a form of self-regulating business model that aims to create positive social and environmental impacts through managing shared risks and creating shared opportunities. It goes beyond just compliance and corporate philanthropy. Nestle seems to have a solid conceptual understanding of effective corporate social responsibility, stating a clear goal of ‘creating shared value’. While they still have a lot more room to make actual improvements in their supply chain and production, Nestlé still stands as a good example to begin leading other companies in the right direction.

The most salient and material risks I see for Nestle as a business are nutrition, rural development, human rights, and climate change. Several of these issues are ethical issues we’ve talked about in class and all of them have been touched on in their sustainability report. The fact that Nestlé recognizes such issues is a strong success in itself, but Nestle could be more effective in taking action on their goals.

Nutrition

Nutrition is a salient goal for Nestle because of the increases in obesity and other health problems among adults. In sweetness and power, Mintz argues that the desirability of sugar confronts the costs it poses to health and world systems. Sugar consumption has increased by 50% since the 1970s, and is a cause of increasing dietary problems. A large majority of Nestle products are high in sugar, making this one of the issues that core to their business and therefore most important to address in an actionable way. There is also a material opportunity for Nestle in this issue; There is a growing consumer base looking for healthier foods. Nestle acknowledges this in their own report, referencing a value add for investors of selling healthier options. The legitimacy of addressing this problem is validated by its inclusion into their strategic initiatives, but Nestlé could perhaps make it more core to their business strategy.

They mention multiple examples of new healthy offerings, but could use more work in increasing the healthiness of existing products. Most Nestle products still contain very high amounts of sugar and they only give anecdotal evidence of examples of sugar reduction. For example, on their website under the “Our Impact” tab, they discuss having already decreased the sugar content of the KitKat and plans to reduce the sugar content of it even further. To truly create value for a consumer base that is eating too much sugar, making more major changes to existing products is necessary in addition to just taking advantage of the material opportunity of providing new healthy options. Yet these small steps are important in leading large corporations towards making real changes to our system of sugar consumption. It proves that companies can still be economically successful even as they take steps to create a more sustainable relationship with their customers.

Social Inequality

Rural development and poverty reduction is another issue at the core of ethical considerations within the chocolate supply chain. Rural farmers receive only a fraction of the profits from chocolate production. They are in fact “the most poorly compensated for their efforts,” especially in relation to the amount of effort contributed (Leissle 129). The largest share of profits is 44.2% which goes to retailers, while only 6.6% goes to the farmers themselves (Leissle 129).

This issue of rural development and poverty reduction is touched on by Nestlé but perhaps more superficially than is necessary to affect the entire system of chocolate production. As one of the top three chocolate producers in the world, they have the ability to affect approximately 10% of chocolate sourcing (Statista 2016). As one of these top companies, taking charge to reduce inequity would force the hand of other chocolate companies to do the same. Instead, Nestlé emphasizes inconsequential initiatives like using cage free eggs and broadly touch on “responsible sourcing” in the major summary areas on “adding value to communities”. This in in lieu of talking about the fact that cacao farmers receive less than 10% of the profits from production. Nestle responds only to the material as opposed to salient points of the issue by creating training for farmers in order to achieve more effective cacao growth. Nestle could do a lot more to achieve higher percentages of responsibly sourced cacao and other raw materials.

Outside of their annual report, sustainability report, and information on the impact tab of their website, Nestlé has a separate website explaining their cacao plan. This plan explains the future goals Nestlé has for continuing to combat the inherent inequality in the supply chain. It points to solid initiatives of funding a co-op system that offers a higher premium for cacao to the farmers. This is an effective program but they could learn from small, mission focused chocolate companies to make such a system cover 100% of the cacao they source (as opposed to the portion it covers currently).

There are other problems within the supply chain as well. Human rights is an extremely important issue within Nestlé’s supply chain. Specifically, there is a salient issue of child labor within cacao supply chains. Carol Off references child slavery in the chocolate supply chain by explaining that “boys, some as young as nine, were working on farms where they had no relatives… [and] they weren’t being paid” (Off 121). There has been some success in combatting some of the more obvious forms of child labor, but without being paid enough for their beans, children often join in helping their families out of obligation and necessity. Again, Nestlé does a good job realizing the issue and drawing attention to it, recognizing that this salient risk is becoming more material to them as information becomes more readily globalized to their consumers. Despite this, their proposed plan addressing child labor is not comprehensive and the flier focusing on reducing child labor is highly focused on numbers of children, not percentages, which is very worrying. Nestlé is taking the right steps but similar to the community equity problems, they need to focus on higher percentages of responsibly sourced cacao.

Slide From Nestlé’s Tackling Child Labor Report

In general, Nestlé is very effective at realizing its most salient issues and creating ambitious and actionable goals to alleviate them by finding material opportunities. While their reporting is specific enough to lead to effective goals, Nestlé could increase its legitimacy by taking more immediate action towards those long term goals. They show strides in year over year growth but lack a comprehensive year over year plan. Nestle provides concrete improvements in the CSR space that can be compared to other companies within the food/beverage sphere, but even at the top of their class they ignore major issues by glossing over them with broad language and abstract intermediate goals.

Despite the need for continued improvement in sustainability strategy, I still feel that Corporate Social Responsibility has the opportunity to transform the cacao industry into a more positive space for all stakeholders involved. Small bean-to-bar chocolate companies are great examples of how companies can achieve a double bottom line of economic and social success, but they cannot change the system alone. Large corporations must begin to carry some of the burden through the process of creating shared value, a framework laid out by the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights. These frameworks lie outside of direct legislation but instead allow large companies to take some of the burden in fixing the critical problems within the cacao supply chain.

Work Cited

Leissle, Kristy. Cocoa. Polity Press, 2018. 

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of The World’s Most Seductive Sweet. The New Press, 2006.

 “How Sugar Consumption Is Changing America [INFOGRAPHIC].” Avail Clinical Research, 28 July 2014, www.availclinical.com/news/sugar-rush-how-sugar-consumption-is-changing-america-infographic/.

“U.S. Adult Consumption of Added Sugars Increased by More than 30% over Three Decades.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 4 Nov. 2014, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141104141731.htm.

 “Chocolate Companies: Market Share Worldwide 2016.” Statista, 2016, http://www.statista.com/statistics/629534/market-share-leading-chocolate-companies-worldwide/.

Links

“Home.” Nestle Cocoa, http://www.nestlecocoaplan.com/.

Nestle.com, www.nestle.com/csv.

Annual Review 2018. 2018, http://www.nestle.com/asset-library/documents/library/documents/annual_reports/2018-annual-review-en.pdf.