The sweet, decadent taste of chocolate is a sensation that is enjoyed by millions of people around the world. However, what many people do not realize is the dark side of the chocolate industry that comes with the production and manufacturing of the product. The chocolate industry has been plagued with labor and human rights issues that are often swept under the rug by major chocolate producers.
The chocolate industry’s labor and human rights issues stem from the cultivation and harvesting of cocoa, which is the main ingredient in chocolate. The majority of cocoa is grown and harvested in West Africa, specifically in countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast, which supply approximately 70% of the world’s cocoa. The cocoa industry has been known for its use of child labor, forced labor, and hazardous working conditions.
Most of the cocoa farmers in West Africa come from impoverished backgrounds, where they struggle to make ends meet. They are economically vulnerable, and the only job opportunities available to them are often in the cocoa industry. Many cocoa farmers work under grueling conditions, with little access to clean water, sanitation, and healthcare.
The use of child labor in the cocoa industry has been a long-standing issue. Children are often trafficked or forced to work in hazardous conditions in cocoa farms. They work long hours with no pay, and are exposed to harmful chemicals and dangerous machinery. The International Labour Organization estimates that approximately 1.56 million children in West Africa are engaged in hazardous work in cocoa production.
Major chocolate producers such as Nestle, Hershey’s, and Mars have been accused of sourcing cocoa from suppliers that use child labor and forced labor. These companies have been slow to address these issues, even after being made aware of the problem.
In 2018, four major chocolate manufacturers, including Nestle and Mars, were hit with a lawsuit alleging that they had knowingly aided and abetted, and profited from, the use of child labor in their cocoa supply chains. The lawsuit was brought forward by former child slaves from Mali who had been trafficked and forced to work on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast.
The chocolate industry has made some attempts to address these issues, with initiatives such as Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certification. However, these certification programs have limitations, and there are concerns about their effectiveness in addressing the root causes of labor and human rights abuses in the cocoa industry.
As consumers, it is essential to be aware of the labor and human rights issues in the chocolate industry. We have the power to make a difference by supporting companies that are committed to responsible sourcing and fair labor practices. Supporting fair trade chocolate, which is produced under fair labor conditions and pay, is one way to contribute to a more just and ethical chocolate industry.
In conclusion, the dark side of industrial chocolate is a harsh reality that cannot be ignored. The exploitation of labor and human rights in the cocoa industry is a global issue that requires urgent attention and action from major chocolate producers, civil society organizations, and consumers alike. By demanding more transparency and accountability from chocolate companies, we can work towards creating a more fair and just industry for cocoa farmers and workers.