Hershey’s Chocolate Child Slave Labor Trade Begins to Melt

The Hershey Company, North America’s largest chocolate manufacturer, has announced a commitment to begin sourcing some of its chocolate from suppliers that are certified free of the common practices of child labor and exploitation, reports the company.

Less than a week after news that the International Labor Rights Forum was planning to air a Super Bowl ad that would have exposed Hershey’s rampant use of child labor in its cocoa supply chain, Hershey vowed to improve its cocoa industry relationships by purchasing Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa for its brand of Bliss Chocolate.

Pressure from “The Raise the Bar, Hershey!” campaign created by advocates for responsible cocoa sourcing (including Global Exchange, Green America and International Labor Rights Forum) began over the summer for “National S’mores Day” with a consumer advocacy campaign targeting the massive chocolate company that garnered more than 100,000 petition signatures and a Facebook sabotage campaign that jammed the Hershey fanpage with demands to improve its cacao sourcing policies and stop supporting child slave labor, a common industry practice.

The Raise the Bar, Hershey! Coalition plans to continue its efforts to end child labor and exploitation in the cocoa industry and specifically to push Hershey’s to improve its traceability and justice throughout its chocolate supply chain. According to author John Robbins’ website, “hundreds of thousands of children are being purchased from their parents for a pittance, or in some cases outright stolen, and then shipped to the Ivory Coast, where they are sold as slaves to cocoa farms. These children typically come from countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo. Destitute parents in these poverty-stricken lands sell their children to traffickers believing that they will find honest work once they arrive in Ivory Coast and then send some of their earnings home. But that’s not what happens. These children, usually 12-to-14-years-old but sometimes younger, are forced to do hard manual labor 80 to 100 hours a week. They are paid nothing, are barely fed, are beaten regularly, and are often viciously beaten if they try to escape. Most will never see their families again.”

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Image: Elaine Ross Baylon | Photography