Where's the Love, Hershey? On Chocolate and Labor

I don’t really care much about chocolate [gasp!], and I think Valentine’s Day is mostly a lamentable shakedown perpetuated to promote superfluous consumption.  All of which makes me an unlikely choice of authors for Ecocentric’s Valentine’s Day chocolate post.  I do, however, have one important qualification: I care about preventing slave labor.

Guess who doesn’t?  Hershey.  Turns out it’s easier and cheaper for the chocolate behemoth to cast a blind eye on extraordinarily unjust cocoa production practices than to make a modest effort to prevent gross human rights abuses.

Here’s the deal: Hershey sources much of its cocoa from West Africa, where working conditions are often abhorrent (think: forced labor, human trafficking and abusive child labor).  Other global and domestic chocolate makers have addressed this issue by purchasing cocoa beans that have been certified by third party organizations to ensure that they meet certain labor and environmental standards.  But Hershey (which manufacturers a staggering 42.5% of all chocolate in the US) appears to prefer profit over people.

Tell Hershey to Do the Right Thing

Think it’s important to prevent modern-day slavery in the chocolate industry?  Visit the Raise the Bar campaign to take action.  The site now includes a valentine that you can send to Hershey to encourage the company to trace the sources of its cocoa, eliminate child and forced labor and shift to Fair Trade certified cocoa.

Eat the Right Thing

Here at Ecocentric, we encourage readers to vote with their forks.  If you're into buying chocolate for Valentine’s Day, show some love for the cocoa farmers and choose a Fair Trade certified brand.  The label ensures that the chocolate is produced without forced and abusive child labor, that environmentally sustainable production practices are used and that farmers receive a price that allows them to meet their basic needs.  Find expert tasting notes on a few Fair Trade brands from last year’s office chocolate taste test extravaganza post.