I have previously reported on the ethical dilemmas posed by eating chocolate, due to the trafficking and exploitation of children in growing cocoa in West Africa (see My pleasure, their misery? and Easter eggs and slavery), and on the responses to my letters to chocolate manufacturers (see Fair Trade chocolate – report 1).
I have received some more replies, and have researched some more information, all of which is very revealing.
What the manufacturers say
I have received replies from three confectioners, and have researched a fourth on the web.
- As previously reported, Cadbury (Kraft) uses Fairtrade cocoa for its Dairy Milk range of products, and would like to expand that commitment to other products in its range, but is presently unable or unwilling to because of the small number of Fairtrade certified growers.
- Nestle Australia supports two “initiatives” – The Cocoa Plan, which is UTZ accredited and The Nestle Plan, which conforms to Rainforest Alliance & Sustainable Agricultural Network principles. Nestle says these programs provide for future sustainability of the cocoa industry and “acceptable labour practices”.
- Darrell Lea didn’t reply to my first letter, but replied to a second letter. Darrell Lea has “recently” joined the World Cocoa Foundation and sources cocoa from suppliers certified by FLO-CERT, the company that supplies Fairtrade certification, though this doesn’t necessarily mean certification to the same standard. Other cocoa suppliers are Rainforest Alliance certified.
- Ferrero Rocher has not replied to my letter, although, to be fair, the company has been the subject of an Easter campaign that may have generated a large amount of correspondence.
- Lindt has a lot of information on its website about “Social Responsibility”. Lindt sources its African cocoa from Ghana, where it claims a “progressive governmental cocoa organisation” facilitates tracking of all cocoa and just payments to growers. Lindt is also a member of the World Cocoa Foundation, but does not use Fairtrade cocoa because those sources cannot supply Lindt’s needs.
It is difficult to assess all this. The chocolate companies present their efforts in a good light, as you’d expect, yet nevertheless, child trafficking and near-slave labour are still (apparently) rife. I have tried to obtain a responsible and fair assessment of the confectioners’ efforts, and this is as far as I’ve got:
- Fairtrade appears to have more stringent labour requirements than Rainforest Alliance, UTZ and other certification schemes, but all these independent schemes guarantee better results than industry schemes.
- Chocolate companies have not, so far, been very open about exactly what their practices guarantee and how much (in dollar terms) they actually spend on improving labour conditions in West Africa.
- The money spent on poverty alleviation appears to be a small percentage of overall profits, and may be dwarfed by taxation avoidance by the same companies in West Africa. Stop the Traffik says: “10 years have earned the cocoa industry £600 billion. Only 0.0075% of this has been invested into improving working conditions in West Africa.”
- Much of the current action appears to be aimed more at improving production than in alleviating poverty, though it isn’t always possible to be sure.
It seems likely that the companies are making improvements, but probably less than justice demands and that they have previously agreed to do. Consumers who care should continue to advocate for further action, particularly companies using independent certification with clear criteria, as is provided by Fairtrade.
How much will you do to reduce child trafficking and slave labour? You can in conscience buy the following products which are independently certified (at least in Australia) – but check for the Fairtrade logo because not all products may be certified:
- Mars uses Rainforest Alliance certification on Mars Bars.
- Cadbury / Kraft uses Fairtrade in its Dairy Milk range and Green and Black’s products.
- Nestle uses UTZ certified chocolate for Kit Kats.
- Ferrero and Hersheys are yet to produce a certified product.
- Aldi Just Organic is Fairtrade certified.
- Alter Eco, Chocolatier Australia, Cocolo and Heritage Fine Chocolate all have Fairtrade certified chocolates.
You can find out more, even write in support of Fairtrade certification, at these websites:
- Stop the Traffik chocolate campaign.
- Fairtrade chocolate.
- World Vision guide to Fairtrade chocolate and coffee in Australia.
- Ethical consumers guide (includes more than just labour conditions).
- How to buy ethical chocolate.
- Chocolate makers’ websites: Lindt, Cadbury Australia, Nestle Project Africa.
Will you join in advocating via letter or your choice of products? We may not always choose Fairtrade chocolates, but we can choose more.
“I have received some more replies, and have researched some more information, all of which is very revealing.”
So they spilled the beans? : o )
Sorry, couldn’t resist. Anyway, it’s an interesting post. Which producers do you prefer?
LoL! I am a great fan of Lindt chocolate, and I love Darrell Lea’s Rocklea Road, but I will eat and enjoy almost anything – just about my only vice!
Hmm, I am not sure I know any of those brands from the shelves.
By the way, since you’ve blogged about climate change in the past I was wondering how renewable energy fares in Australia. Could you tell something about that?
Great efforts Uncle E! I should write a letter to Belgium company Côte d’Or (which I think is owned by Kraft now too). I love Alter Eco’s dark chocolates – they’re more expensive than Lindt or other brands but I think the quality is worth it. Savouring a square or two of really dark, silky, earthy tasting chocolate with a cup of tea is a treat. From the feedback you did receive from the companies part of the problem seems to be supply/demand – that there isn’t enough fair trade chocolate supplies for the demand. Surely this could be changed if unethical chocolate plantations saw the incentive (i.e. a good trade deal with a major company) to change conditions. Companies would need to commit to out right refusing to buy chocolate from unethical plantations too.
There is a great documentary on chocolate here too: http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/4809/The-Dark-Side-of-Chocolate
Yes, I think supply and demand is an issue. Lindt says supply of Fairtrade certified cocoa is insufficient for its needs, and we can’t expect them to lower their production until certified cocoa catches up. But if major manufacturers made clear they will give preference to Fairtrade cocoa, the impetus should help bring more and more growers into the fold.
[…] have previously reported how I have joined many others in writing to chocolate companies here in Australia asking them to […]
[…] Regular readers will know that one of my ’causes’ is ethical chocolate – chocolate that is grown by free farmers who are paid a fair wage, and not by trafficked children working more or less as slaves. (For background, see Ethical chocolate update.) […]