A Bar Too Far

Since learning of the widespread use of child slavery in the harvesting of cocoa in Western Africa, I’ve not been able to eat chocolate and I have to say that when I see anything made of chocolate, in my mind’s eye, I picture a 12 year old boy (same age as Jesse our Son) in a tree with a machete chopping cocoa pods and dropping them to the ground from Sun up to Sun down. These children are not being allowed to be kids, not getting an education, and worst of all, they’re not being loved – they’re just being used. And for this, we enjoy cheaper chocolate products and the chocolate producers enjoy lower production costs. Of course, not all chocolate is produced with an element of slave labor, but since the producers will not disclose the source of their cocoa, one is left to indict the entire supply chain of cocoa.

This is not an example of compassionate capitalism.

In this post, I’m singling out Hershey’s. This may not seem fair to them, but they are one of the largest users of cocoa as a raw material in the World, so, in my mind, this gives them a leadership position and a responsibility to use their influence and power as significant procurer of cocoa to ensure their industry is acting ethically and morally.

Recently, as a result of renewed focus on the use of child slavery for the harvesting of cocoa in Western Africa, the source of 65% of the World’s cocoa production, Hershey’s made an announcement that they were committing $10 million dollars over five years to “expand and accelerate programs to improve cocoa communities by investing in West Africa and continuing to work with experts in agriculture, community development and government to achieve progress with cocoa farmers and their families”. (Please see Link 1 below)

Many organizations advocating the elimination of slave labor applauded Hershey’s action several stating that Hershey’s announcement was a step in the right direction and that it sends the right message saying that it was a good start. (Please see Link 2 below) If you read the linked information and study their Websites, I think you’ll come away as I did thinking these organizations whimped out a bit.

Hershey’s Press Release below is worth careful study with a critical, discerning eye. In this post, I could pick apart the corporate public relations and Orwellian doublespeak sprinkled through the first 15 paragraphs of the press release, but the real moral indictment and co-conspiracy is buried in paragraph 16 of the release in the following statement: “In addition to the initiatives announced today, Hershey is a founding member of a public-private partnership involving the global cocoa and chocolate industry and theU.S. Department of Labor. The partnership has created a new Framework of Action to significantly reduce the worst forms of child labor in Ghana and the Ivory Coast by 2020.”

Significantly reduce the “worst forms of child labor” by 2020. Say what? Come again? Reduce (not eliminate) the worst forms (not all forms) of child labor over the next eight years! I would challenge anyone to suggest that this is an acceptable goal or even remotely moral or ethical.

Does Hershey’s have the resources to eliminate slavery this from their supply chain?

Let’s look at some of Hershey’s numbers:

  • 2010 Sales – $5,671,009,000
  • 2010 Net Profit – $509,799,000 9% profit (a fair profit, but ample to help the industry to fund a program to eradicate the need for slave labor)
  • $10 million over the next five years or $2,000,00 per year
  • $2M of $5.7B = .035267% (this is not 3% of total revenue, it’s .035% of revenue)
  • They have on-hand $884M in Cash or cash equivalents

If we added the other producers into these numbers, we would quickly deduce that the industry as the financial resources to develop a comprehensive program to eliminate all forms of slavery in their supply chain and to do so quickly, they simply lack the will or haven’t been properly motivated.

Hersey’s actions and commitment to the integrity and morality of their supply chain is not an example of compassionate capitalism. And to be fair, Hershey is not alone as most of the chocolate producers of the World are complicit in this as well, along with our own Federal government and the governments of Ghana and the Ivory Coast, among others.

We, too, the consumers of products that use raw materials harvested by or are manufactured by human beings enslaved or indentured, also are not practicing compassionate capitalism.

We need to change this and we can before the current child slaves become adult slaves in 2020.

We must tell the companies that produce chocolate products that we want to buy only products that are made of ingredients that are harvested by people who are treated with respect, paid a fair wage and treated with dignity. We need to also tell them that we will not be buying any of their products until they can demonstrate that the cocoa and other ingredients used in their products are purchased from sources that do not use any form of human slavery.

We will have to accept that chocolate products will cost more to make and they will cost more to buy. I would think that producers could share the cost increase by absorbing 50% of the increase and passing 50% of the increase on to the consumer – the price of chocolate products would go up for us and the producer’s profits would go down. Compassionate capitalism is not going to be easy and or cheap.

If anyone is interested in obtaining a list of the names of the largest corporations involved in the use of cocoa and the name of their CEO, please reply via a post and I’ll e-mail the list to you.

Someone must speak for these children, we should with our purchasing decisions and our voices.



© 2012 Michael L. Henderson. All rights reserved.

Link 1 – Hershey’s Press Release: http://www.thehersheycompany.com/newsroom/news-release.aspx?id=1653877

Link 2 – CNN News Release – http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/31/hershey-pledges-10-million-to-improve-west-african-cocoa-farming-fight-child-labor/

Link 3 – Hershey’s Annual Report for 2011 – http://www.hersheys.com/assets/pdfs/hersheycompany/TheHersheyCompany_10K_20120217.pdf

This entry was posted in Consumer Responsibility, Corporate Responibility. Bookmark the permalink.

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