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The Dark Side of Chocolate

September 6, 2011, 4:09 pm

Valentine’s Day is coming up and many of us will indulge in the classic Valentine treat of luscious, melt-in-your-mouth dark or milk chocolate. Yet this guilty pleasure is still plagued by a sordid history, especially if you are consuming chocolate made by Hersheys. At Oryana, most of our chocolate is Fair Trade and sourced from farms that do not use child slaves in production. Some of the brands we carry include Newman’s Own, Equal Exchange, Cocolove, Alter Eco, and Green & Blacks. But if you eat a Hershey’s bar, you are indirectly supporting the atrocious practice of child labor. The following is an excerpt from “The Real Corporate Social Responsibility Report for the Hershey Company” written by Global Exchange.

When people think of Hershey, they usually think of Hershey’s iconic chocolates—the Hershey Bar, Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—and Hersheypark. In the United States, Hershey conjures up innocent childhood pleasures and enjoyable snacks. However, halfway across the globe, there is a dark side to Hershey. In West Africa, where Hershey sources much of its cocoa, the scene is one of child labor, trafficking, and forced labor.

Despite almost ten years of commitments from Hershey and other major chocolate companies to take responsibility for their cocoa supply chains and improve conditions for workers, significant problems persist. Abusive child labor, trafficking, and forced labor continue to plague the West African cocoa industry. The farmers in this region, which supplies the majority of the world’s cocoa, live in poverty, while major chocolate corporations continue to amass large profits.

For years, a number of smaller chocolate companies in the US have been sourcing Fair Trade Certified™ cocoa and building relationships with cocoa farmers to ensure that these farmers earn enough to support their families, invest in their futures, and send their children to school. Additionally, many of the largest global chocolate corporations are increasingly sourcing cocoa beans that have been certified by independent organizations to meet various labor, social, and environmental standards. But there has been one major exception to this trend: the Hershey Company.

Hershey, one of the largest and oldest chocolate manufacturers in the United States, prides itself on its commitment to supporting its community and underserved children in the United States, yet it lags behind its competitors when it comes to taking responsibility for the communities from which it sources cocoa. Hershey has no policies in place to purchase cocoa that has been produced without the use of labor exploitation, and the company has consistently refused to provide public information about its cocoa sources.

Additionally, Hershey has made no move to shift to third-party certification for the cocoa that it sources from West Africa. No information is available from Hershey about how the money it has invested in various programs in West Africa has actually impacted reductions in forced, trafficked, and child labor among the suppliers of its cocoa. Finally, Hershey’s efforts to further cut costs in its cocoa production has led to a reduction in good jobs in the United States.

While Hershey’s CEO received an $8 million compensation package in 2009, many of the
farmers who grow cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana that ends up in Hershey products
are barely able to cover their costs, and as a result, use unpaid child labor and even forced
labor on their farms.

What you can do. Send Hershey an email telling them they must stop their antiquated, harmful practice of using child labor. You can also call Hersheys at 1-800-468-1714 to voice your disapproval.

Watch the movie The Dark Side of Chocolate. Tell all your friends NOT to buy Hershey’s chocolate for Valentine’s Day or for ANY reason.

Posted by Oryana at 4:09 pm
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