Make My Chocolate “Slave Free” Please

I was at my favorite coffee shop yesterday and this conversation ensued. I asked the barista what she was going to do for Halloween and we discussed costumes. Then someone else having coffee there started talking about the trick-or-treaters that show up in his neighborhood and the conversation veered off to what kind of candy to buy. I stepped back and listened. “I always buy the kind that I like because then I have it for later,” he said. Then they talked about how cheap the candy was in these huge packages you can buy at the store. “What a bargain.” Instead of launching into a suggestion about buying slave free chocolate, I left with my coffee instead.

I woke up at 4:00 a.m. this morning thinking about it and realized the blog I hadn’t written yet was about this. I don’t mean to ruin anyone’s fun, but it’s important to understand that the only reason chocolate is so cheap, when you buy it from the big chocolate producers, is because of the way that it’s produced and the labor that is used.

According to the Slave Free Chocolate website, 2.3 million children work in the cocoa fields of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.These children are vulnerable to brutal labor practices, including trafficking and slavery. Candy companies–including but not limited to Nestlé, Hershey, Cargill, ADM, and Barry Callebout–have admitted accountability and promised to remedy this situation. Sadly, 14 years has passed since this agreement and little has changed.The candy industry is a US 70-billion-dollar industry.  It should have changed.

Look for the label “Fair Trade” or “Rainforest Alliance.”  This will guarantee you aren’t buying chocolate produced by the unfair treatment of others. For a list of companies that make slave free chocolate you can go here

Think about how the products you consume are produced and, when possible, support those that are produced locally or engage in fair trade practices.  These products will not be relying on the slave labor of people around the world.  An interview with Kristen Hard, the owner of Cacao Atlanta who deals directly with growers from Brazil and Venezuela, says it best.  “Whatever you’re purchasing is funding something; it’s a choice that you’re making every day,” she says. “Buying fair trade can benefit the environment and the social status of the farmers. Or, you can do the opposite and promote child labor.”

I know it is really hard to be a conscious consumer all of the time, but I think it’s important to be aware so that we can make choices that align with our values. Someone I know just posted this statement from philosopher Karl Popper’s paradox of tolerance that I offer here for reflection. “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

When you have your chocolate, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you’re helping to make the world a better place? Have a conscious happy Halloween!