Before you buy chocolate this Valentine's…

I spent two hours listening to our six-year-old son read to me from the Better World Shopping Guide yesterday morning.  Sounds weird, right?  I know.  But Simon has such an interest in finding out which companies we should support and which ones we should boycott.  I couldn’t help but chuckle, but inside, my heart burned with passion – the same passion I saw in my son’s eyes.  The start of a global awareness that in my opinion, should start at birth.

This is a topic we discuss often and the children are involved heavily with our purchasing choices.  I’m used to getting very weird looks at the grocery stores, while I stand mid-isle explaining quietly why, “…even though Kraft cheese is on sale, we don’t purchase Kraft – because they aren’t a responsible company.”
Yes, I’m THAT Mom.
So – it’s almost Valentine’s Day. 
Let’s talk chocolate.
I want to challenge the notion that chocolate = LOVE.
It’s hard to know where to start when cautioning about the purchase of chocolate.  The majority of cocoa beans are grown and harvested in very poor countries.  The cocoa bean industry is one of the most abused and exploited by the West.  Big name companies buy their cocoa from small companies where child labor and slave labor is always present.  In fact, the cocoa business was built on the backs of slaves.  YOUNG slaves.
Every time we take a big bite of chocolate from the West’s biggest brands, we are literally savoring the taste of child labor. 
Hard to swallow, isn’t it?
If I claim to walk in love, if I claim to care about the children of this world, how can I give my financial support to companies who are allowing child and slave labor to continue?  I can’t.  It is so important that we think deeply about the purchases we make.  Just as we have the responsibility to love our neighbours and care for our fellow human – we also have the responsibility to use our finances wisely in this way.  We can choose to invest in companies (and by purchasing their products, you are INVESTING in them) that are doing good work and pledging to produce their goods ethically.
Before you buy your loved one or children chocolate this Valentine’s, I’d challenge you to consider where that chocolate came from.  Who is the face behind that sweet treat? 

It’s ironic and horrific that a ‘holiday’ supposed to be bent on LOVE is literally DIPPED in chocolate.  The very industry that has meant torture, pain, and inequality for far too many of our world’s children.  And this is love?

The top companies to avoid include- Nestle, Perugina, Crunch, Toblerone.  These were rated “F” in the Better World Shopping Guide with Nestle as the Corporate Villain because of aggressive take-overs of family farms and the use of child slave labor.

Others to stay away from – Hershey’s, Russell Stover, Lindt, Cadbury, Dove.

Chocolate companies who are ethically sound and free of child and slave labor include:

Endangered Species, Equal Exchange, Rapunzel, AlterEco, Divine.
From CNN:

Daloa, Ivory Coast (CNN) – Chocolate’s billion-dollar industry starts with workers like Abdul. He squats with a gang of a dozen harvesters on an Ivory Coast farm.

Abdul holds the yellow cocoa pod lengthwise and gives it two quick cracks, snapping it open to reveal milky white cocoa beans. He dumps the beans on a growing pile.
Abdul is 10 years old, a three-year veteran of the job.

He has never tasted chocolate.

During the course of an investigation for CNN’s Freedom Project initiative – an investigation that went deep into the cocoa fields of Ivory Coast – a team of CNN journalists found that child labor, trafficking and slavery are rife in an industry that produces some of the world’s best-known brands.
It was not supposed to be this way.

After a series of news reports surfaced in 2001 about gross violations in the cocoa industry, lawmakers in the United States put immense pressure on the industry to change.

“We felt like the public ought to know about it, and we ought to take some action to try to stop it,” said Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who, together with Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, spearheaded the response. “How many people in America know that all this chocolate they are eating – candies and all of those wonderful chocolates – is being produced by terrible child labor?”

Links I found:

CNN Freedom Project
Global Exchange
Organic Consumers


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *