Love chocolate? Next time you bite into your favourite bar, consider this: what might have cost you just a dollar may well have cost a child working in the cocoa fields of West Africa his or her entire childhood.
Chocolate is big business.
About 70% of the cocoa beans used to make the world’s chocolate comes from West Africa. Over the last decade or so, the international media has begun to expose the use of child labour in the cocoa industry.
Research undertaken by Tulane University found that from 2007 until 2008, almost 2 million children were working on cocoa-related activities in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Nearly 50 percent of these children reported that they had sustained injuries from their work.
Child trafficking has also been reported within the industry. Criminal networks have been caught moving children across regions and international borders to work on cocoa farms. These children are forced to work long hours on cocoa farms, carrying heavy loads and working with fire, chemicals or knives. They receive little or no pay and most have no hope of ever going to school.
The Harkin-Engel Protocol
In September 2001, global chocolate companies, the United States and the Ivory Coast signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol, a move aimed at eradicating the worst forms of child labour from cocoa supply chains.
The Protocol's success has been mixed. The US government commissioned Tulane University to report on progress on the Protocol from 2006 to 2011. The University found that none of the Protocol’s six articles calling for action had been fully implemented, and the required industry-wide reform in the cocoa sector had not taken place.
The Australian chocolate industry
In Australia, a number of chocolate manufacturers have moved to use ethically-sourced cocoa in some of their chocolate products. A few are investing in their own initiatives to address cocoa community development issues.
While these are all worthy steps, no major chocolate company can yet say that they source 100% ethical cocoa. The chocolate industry must make timetabled commitments to eradicating forced, child and trafficked labour from their supply chains and transparently report on their progress. They must ensure that their supply chains are independently monitored by a third party.
For more information about World Vision’s recommendations for Australian chocolate companies, read our report: "Our Guilty Pleasure: Exploitative Child Labour in the Chocolate Industry" (PDF).
How you can help. Be an informed chocolate consumer!
You can make a difference right now by informing yourself and others about this issue - and by supporting companies that use ethical cocoa!
- Read our Chocolate Scorecard (PDF) to compare the progress different chocolate companies are making.
- Read the truth about Chocolate’s Bitter Taste (PDF) - and then share it with others!
- Buy ethical chocolate. Use the Ethical Shopping Guide to help you.
- Send a letter to your favourite chocolate company, asking them to do more to end this exploitation.
- Make your own ethical Easter eggs!