Love Chocolate? How About Child Labor?

A lot of Americans refer to chocolate as a guilty pleasure, but many don’t understand the true extent to which they should feel guilty. Consuming extra calories has nothing on supporting an industry that is supported with child labor.

If you feel like you’ve heard that news before, that’s because it’s been an open secret since the 1990s. As the Washington Post recaps, all the major brands in chocolate quelled the scandal by making lofty pledges to tackle the problem, even setting periodic goals. Unfortunately, those routine goals have gone unfulfilled, and these failures have come with no consequences for the corporations.

Tell Hershey’s: No more child labor!

By the U.S. Labor Department’s best estimate, 2.1 million underage children work at cocoa farms in West Africa, the region where the U.S. gets a strong majority of its chocolate supply. That number of child laborers has grown since the previous estimate of 1.8 million a decade ago.

As far as child labor goes, cocoa work is considered some of the worst because daily tasks include deploying pesticides, chopping with machetes and lifting excessively heavy bags. Impoverished kids sent to work on these farms are subject to body-breaking work and do not attend school.

Per the Post: “Americans have become accustomed to reports of worker and environmental exploitation in faraway places. But in few industries… is the evidence of objectionable practices so clear, the industry’s pledges to reform so ambitious and the breaching of those promises so obvious.”

The root of this particular child labor problem seems to be that the chocolate companies themselves don’t have a handle on where their cocoa beans are coming from. Even the big names like Hershey, Nestlé and Mars can source back less than half of their supply to the farms where they were grown. Without that knowledge, it’s difficult to simply not do business with the farms that do recruit child laborers.

For that reason, chocolate companies have backed off their earlier goals of eradicating child labor from the industry entirely and instead settled for decreasing the total amount of child labor. That’s an improvement, sure, but saying “this chocolate is made with less child labor than in the past” is hardly comforting.

The situation could seemingly be improved if there was more oversight. The Post sent reporters to visit farms and had no trouble finding kids (who often lie about their age initially because they’re well aware of the laws against child labor) collecting cocoa beans. One farmer admitted to a reporter, “I admit that it is a kind of slavery – they are still kids and they have the right to be educated.”

As it stands, investigators charged with keeping tabs on labor standards have visited less than ten percent of the applicable farms in West Africa. The chocolate industry chips in about $8 million per year to fund these efforts, despite raking in a collective $103 billion.

Seemingly, the companies could spend more to keep kids out of the fields, but a consumer study indicates that chocolate-buyers would be willing to spend more on chocolate that’s guaranteed child labor-free if companies are concerned about their profit margins first and foremost.

Take Action!

Tell Hershey’s, the biggest name in American chocolate, to take responsibility for child labor once and for all. Let them know you won’t continue to eat their product without more serious action by signing this petition.

60 comments

Maria P
Maria P7 hours ago

petition signed

SEND
Chad Anderson
Chad Andersonyesterday

Petition signed!

SEND
Isabel A
Isabel A2 days ago

Signed, of course

SEND
Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson2 days ago

petition signed

SEND
Caitlin L
Caitlin L3 days ago

signed

SEND
Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill5 days ago

thanks

SEND
Leo C
Leo Custer5 days ago

Thanks for sharing!

SEND
Ben O
Ben O5 days ago

Fair Trade chocolate, thanks very much!

SEND
Tabot T
Tabot T6 days ago

Signed, thanks for sharing!

SEND
Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine A6 days ago

Signed, thanks for sharing.

SEND