I am a certified chocoholic. I still remember being wowed by the first Whitman’s Sampler I saw as a kid. And through the years I discovered M&Ms and Hershey’s chocolate bars and Godiva and See’s Chocolates – to name just a few.
The “dark side” of chocolate
So I was dismayed to learn from Green America about how much cocoa production involves child slave labor. The global chocolate market is $83 billion a year, of which the cocoa farmers get a pittance.
This past Christmas was the first where my family skipped our usual boxes of Godiva’s and See’s. My daughter was not happy, but as a high school student she is old enough to understand that feeding our “sweet teeth” should not come at the expense of children.
Since learning about this issue, I’ve paid attention to some of the big chocolate companies. I was underwhelmed by Hershey’s response, which was to drag their feet for years and then announce in 2012 that they would source 100% Fair Trade cocoa by 2020. That’s an 8 year lead time. In the life of a child, 8 years is an eternity. And who really “recovers” from being a slave?
But there is some recent good news to share:
- Harry Potter fans persuaded Warner Bros. Studio to source ALL of the cocoa for their chocolates from Fair Trade sources by the end of 2015. That’s this year. If you’ve read the Harry Potter books, you know that magical chocolate frogs figure prominently.
- Hershey just announced that they are ahead of schedule in sourcing their cocoa from Fair Trade sources. “30 percent of their globally sourced cocoa was independently certified and verified in 2014—this reflects an accelerated pace for achieving its goal of sourcing 100 percent of its cocoa supply from certified and sustainable cocoa farms by 2020.” That’s still not fast enough, but it’s better.
I’ve often wondered why can’t we grow cocoa beans here in the US. There’s huge demand for it, it’s healthy for you in moderation, and we’d eliminate the emissions that currently arise from shipping beans by boat across the Atlantic. I’m sure there’s an agricultural scientist out there who knows why that won’t work. But if urban dwellers can grow their produce on their apartment walls, then there must be opportunities to grow the much-beloved cocoa bean in news ways and places.