The Dark Side of Chocolate

This is a post that may be difficult to read for some of you.  I know it was tough for me to hear and really challenged how I live my life day-to-day.  This is a post about one of our favorite treats, chocolate, and the way it gets from the fields in Africa to grocery store shelves.  The method is one that is not pleasant to hear about, but I think that once you have heard what happens on the farms of cocoa fields, it will make you question your buying decisions.

Recently I viewed a documentary called “The Dark Side of Chocolate.”  It is a film directed by Miki Mistrati and U. Roberto Romano that follows a team of journalists as they investigate how human trafficking and child labor in the Ivory Coast fuels the worldwide chocolate industry. In 2001, the world discovered that there was a serious child slave trafficking industry booming in an area where most large chocolate companies (Hershey’s, Nestle, etc.) get their cocoa beans.

Eventually there was a compromise met that child labor on Ivory Coast Cocoa Farms would be ended by 2005.  This promise was not kept, and neither was the changed deadline of 2008 or 2010.  Through the investigation of the journalist in the film, we see that child labor is still used to pick them today. There are clips in the film of children working in the fields directly after the CEO of a major cocoa distributor is quoted saying there are no child slaves in Ivory Coast.  One quote says “a child can from Burkina-Faso be bought for 230 Euros, and that’s without haggling.”

I have personally made a pledge to only buy fair-trade chocolate from now on because it is not worth it to me to support child slavery just for chocolate.  When I told my mom about this documentary, she said “yeah, but chocolate is so good.”  This seems like a bad response, but really that’s what all of America is saying while the chocolate industry continues to make billions of dollars a year.

I encourage you to watch this documentary and become educated on the subject of cocoa trade.  Hopefully it can at least slow down the chocolate industry enough for it to take notice and truly end this modern-day slavery.

Be Aware and Act: Social Responsibility

Everything we do in our lives somehow affects someone else.  Each purchase decision you make impacts a long line from manufacturing to distribution.  Unfortunately, most of our society either isn’t aware of their impact, or doesn’t care enough to alter their day-to-day lives.  In this blog, I will be focusing on the idea that you can make a positive change for the world by just being a conscious consumer.  Throughout my time in college, I have been inundated with information regarding companies’ social responsibility or lack thereof.  Hopefully, by reading this blog, you will be made aware of the practices of certain companies, and maybe will change your purchasing habits to line-up with values of how humans should be treated.

Being aware of all companies’ worldwide social footprint can prove a daunting task, how can one possibly know how every company treats all of its affiliates and employees? To the rescue comes the book, Better World Shopper, and now website www.betterworldshopper.com.  This program has used over 5 years of extensive research evaluating the corporate social responsibility of 1000+ companies.  Better World Shopper ranks companies A-F regarding many facets of their social impact.  They rate them based on these 5 key factors:

HUMAN RIGHTS: sweatshops, 3rd world community exploitation, international health issues, divestment, child labor, code of conduct.

THE ENVIRONMENT: global warming, rainforest destruction, pollution, recycling, renewable energy, greenwashing, toxic waste, eco-innovations, illegal dumping, sustainable farming.
ANIMAL PROTECTION: factory farming, animal testing, humane treatment, wild animal habitat.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: family farms, local business support, volunteer efforts, sustainable growth, philanthropic donations, nonprofit alliances, establishing foundations.

SOCIAL JUSTICE : fair wages, fatalities, union busting efforts, health & safety records, discrimination based on: race, gender, age, ability, religion, sexuality, ethnicity.

So, to show how one can use this resource in a purchasing decision, lets say we are buying a staple in the fridge, beer.  Visit www.betterworldshopper.com and products are divided by categories.  It ranks numerous brewing companies, the highest being New Belgium Brewery out of Colorado.  It comes as no surprise that many of the large brands such as Busch and Budweiser are ranked pretty low, each receiving D’s.  If you want more information as to the reasoning behind each specific ranking, the author Dr. Ellis Jones recommends you purchase the book; however, even if you don’t do that the website creates a great jumping-off point for your own research into the subject.

As a citizen of this world, I believe it is our responsibility to know our purchasing power, and the effect each purchase has on society.  Over the rest of my posts I will be focusing on certain companies that have proven to be either good or bad corporate citizens.  Also, if I come across an interesting documentary tracking a companies social behavior I will make that known to all of you.

So now you KNOW, time to ACT!