On January 31st 2012, The Hershey Company made an announcement regarding child labor in their supply line. Click here to read the whole statement. Simply, two commitments have been made :
1.“Over the next five years, The Hershey Company will expand and accelerate programs to improve cocoa communities by investing $10 million (Over the next 5 years) in West Africa and continuing to work with experts in agriculture, community development and government to achieve progress with cocoa farmers and their families”.
2. “Later this year, U.S. consumers will be able to purchase Hershey’s Bliss® products with 100 percent cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. Rainforest Alliance Certified farms have met comprehensive sustainability standards that protect the environment and ensure the safety and well-being of workers, their families and communities.”
Let me first say that I commend Hershey’s on stepping up as far as they have. Also, kudos to the NGO’s and people that put pressure on Hershey’s with various campaigns. What though does this really mean?
So let’s look at commitment #1, the $10 million. So that is $2 million a year. If you read the recommendations in the 4th and Final Tulane Report you will see that this isn’t enough. It really should be closer to $8 million a year per player (as in those that have signed the protocol). The ICI alone needs $1 million a year for overhead alone so you get the idea. But $2 million is more than zero. I will address this later as more unfolds.
Commitment #2- Rain Forest Alliance. Slave Free Chocolate is VERY pro Fair Trade Certified products. Also, at this point, it’s the only tool that the consumer can use to vote with their dollar. Simply, the principle behind the Fair Trade is a movement is to bring farmers and producers out of poverty by paying a higher price for their goods or commodities. Along with a higher price comes a co-op system where the farmers and producers receive education and help so that they can afford to fulfill the guidelines. These guidelines include rules of labor practices and in the case of children, the certification programs that align with the ILO convention 182.
Currently, fair trade products amount to around $6 billion dollars of commodities and goods sold around the world and it is rising about 22% every year. There are about 500 different fair trade labels.
Fair Trade programs though, don’t have in their infrastructure a program to re-mediate the worst forms of child labor. Meaning, there are no funds allocated in a fair trade co-op to find trafficked children, get them to authorities and fund their trip back home or to someplace that will take care of them. Although, ideally fair trade farms get paid more for their beans, it’s not enough of an increase to fund schools and hospitals for those kids working on these farms. Also, fair trade co-ops provide guidelines for the farmers to better prosper but not to police the farms.
Is the fair trade movement today perfect? No, nothing is. In fact, there is a lot of squabbling, splits and such going on right now. The movement, though , is based on good intentions and their problems can and will be ironed out in time. More will be addressed in a different article.
What I want to point out it that buying fair trade beans is one thing, cleaning up the situation is West Africa is another. Hershey’s soon to be announced Bliss Bar is all fine and dandy but it has nothing to do with getting these trafficked kids back home, getting the kids that fall under the worst forms of child labor back on a healthy track. That is what the $2 million is for and it is about 1/5 of where they need to be. They know that. They have copies of the 4th and Final Tulane report.
What we need is a certification program and/or Engel’s original legislation of “No Slavery Here” stamp that chocolate companies use in addition to their fair trade labels. Remember The Hershey Company is only one player in this. We believe the quickest way to get everyone’s attention is to demand that the wording on EO13126 get’s fixed to included “And its derivative products.”