Trick or Treat! Give me something good to eat! Chocolate is a staple for many American holidays: Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Christmas. The average American consumes 11.7 pounds of chocolate per year.. that’s a lot of chocolate!! Ever wonder where all this chocolate comes from?
The base ingredient of chocolate is cocoa; cocoa trees are grown on small farms within 15-20 degrees of the Equator. 70-75 percent of cocoa beans are grown on small farms in Africa, mostly in the country of Ivory Coast. Recently, the cocoa industry has been the focus of modern slavery. According to UNICEF nearly 500,000 children work on cocoa farms across Ivory Coast. The agency also reports that many children are trafficked across African borders and engage in the worst forms of child slavery, exploiting children as young as 6 years of age under extreme environment conditions.
There have been several nonprofit agencies rallying to change Africa’s cocoa industry. Many legislative measures have sprung up in response to the modern slavery happening in Africa. Pressure has been placed on the biggest chocolate companies to get rid of child trafficking in their supply chains. However, UNICEF reports that even with these measures, child trafficking and human slavery is still prevalent in the cocoa industry.
What can we do to as consumers?
To strive for a slave free chocolate product, consumers must first look at the origin of cocoa in the product. If the cocoa comes from African, most likely slavery or forced labor was involved. If the cocoa was grown in South America or Asia, chances of slavery labor are greatly reduced. Consumers can also look for certain labels such as the Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance symbols (shown above). There are also some great resources to help inform us consumers about our chocolate purchases: slave free chocolate directory of ethical companies, or fair trade app.
Want to learn more about the cocoa industry? Check out these websites:
During Jesse Eave’s lecture, he spoke about the amount of modern slavery that goes into American’s everyday products. It is alarming; many products are everyday uses for Americans. He mentioned a tool called Slavery Footprint. Slavery Footprint is a resource which people can track the products in their lives and how many slaves potentially work for these products in their supply chain. After hearing Jesse speak about the website, I had to take the quiz and analyze how many slaves work for my everyday products.
The quiz begins by asking about your demographics including city, state, gender and age. Then it prompts about your living status: rental, owner, college student or couch surfer. Then the quiz goes on to calculate your diet and food routine, contents of your medicine cabinet, pieces of jewelry, electronics, sporting goods and contents of your closet. (If you decide to take the quiz, be sure to tailor your responses on the left side of the website to get an accurate calculation.)
My results were: 31 slaves worked for my products. This modern slavery stemmed over 17 countries, including U.S. Malaysia, Brazil, China, Zambia, India and Uzbekistan. Products that affected my score the most were: underwear, dresses, jeans and car.
This resource heightened my awareness in my product purchasing choices. There are several other tools that exist to help consumers make more ethical product purchases. Free2Work is a great organization that does extensive research in supply chain slavery. It gives a grade to major brands and products, A to F, for their use of modern slavery in the product or brand supply chain. Slavery Footprint also offers a great app for a smart phone. Using this app, you can scan a product at the store or supermarket and see the product’s modern slavery grade. Both of these tools are useful for consumers trying to be more mindful about potential modern slavery in product purchases.
So how many slaves work for your daily products?
Last week, Austin Women of Vision hosted a community event in North Austin. This event was a hosted by a speaker named Jesse Eaves. Jesse resides in Washington D.C. and does an extensive amount of policy work around human trafficking and modern slavery. I really enjoyed Jesse’s speech, he was very knowledgeable . He spoke about policy surrounding human trafficking and modern slavery. Jesse explained the importance of the human trafficking movement, saying that this is a crucial point in the movement. Since a number of legislative measures have been passed, Americans face the most difficult part of eliminating modern slavery: sustaining the movement.
Although Jesse works a lot internationally, he spoke mostly about the prevalence of human trafficking here in America. He focused mostly on tomato farming in Florida. In early 2011, a documentary entitled “The Harvest” gained massive amounts of media attention and political focus. “The Harvest” is a documentary showing modern slavery in the tomato farming industry in Florida. Many Mexican farm workers trade farm work for the opportunity to come to America, most workers made one to two cents per pound of picked tomatoes. This low wage practice is possible because big buyers (such as large supermarket chains and fast-food restaurants) buy tomatoes in massive bulk amounts, leading to a much lower cost per pound.
After gaining an immense amount of attention, coalitions and community grass roots organizations began to collaborate to stop modern slavery of the tomato industry. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a community based organization of migrant workers, created the Fair Food Program. The Fair Food Program has made considerable progress in the unethical practices of the tomato industry. Participants of this program purchase 1 pound of tomatoes for an extra penny (literally, an extra $0.01). This extra penny goes a long way. It increases the salary and treatment of tomato farm workers. Other initiatives were started through the Fair Food Program, such as a hotline, to ensure safe confidential tips of modern slavery or unfair treatment of workers throughout the country.
I really enjoyed Jesse Eave’s lecture on modern slavery. He brought to light many instances of modern slavery that still take place in America’s back yard.
Check out these links below for more information: