Where do we go from here: Fair 5 Challenge and Chocolate
As a mom living in the suburbs (and who enjoys convenience), the idea of going all out to demand better business and shop fair trade to prevent and end exploitation is daunting. The excuses are so easy to come by: Fair Trade is more expensive; how can we know if it really is fair trade and ethically sourced; who has the time to research all of that, anyway?
It may be easy, in our comfortable daily routines, to forget about just how much exploitation is around us. So consider the following: forced labor affects roughly 45.8 million people around the globe, according the the Global Slavery Index and of those an estimated 57,000 are in the United States. Some estimates say there could be as many as 2,472,000 trafficking victims just among unauthorized Mexican immigrants in the U.S. Exploitation is much closer to us than what we might think.
According Forbes and the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report, traffickers will target vulnerable workers everywhere along a supply chain. In the electronics sector, for example, human trafficking may exist in the extractive stages (mining for raw material), in the component manufacturing stage, and in the product assembly stage. The report also notes that although human trafficking is found in many trades, the risk is more pronounced in industries that rely upon low-skilled or unskilled labor–jobs that are dirty, dangerous, and difficult, typically low-paying and undervalued by society and are often filled by socially marginalized groups including migrants, people with disabilities, or minorities.
Ending human exploitation starts with a heart to care about others and understand our role as consumers in the lives of the world’s most vulnerable. It may be overwhelming to try and tackle this all at once, but what if we start with 5 things? Let’s take a Fair 5 Challenge to start becoming ethical consumers with 5 items. First up, Chocolate!
Fair 5 List: Chocolate
Chocolate is tasty for sure…and a luxury item, and thus we can help our wallets, and make a difference with what we buy. While I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, I almost always have cocoa around for chocolate banana smoothies (healthy and awesome by the way) or the occasional brownie bites (made in mini-muffin tin) when a craving hits. But the sad truth is that the major chocolate companies use child slave labor to produce our chocolate. Cocoa produced in west Africa is the worst culprit.
Food is Power reports that: “In Western Africa, cocoa is a commodity crop grown primarily for export; 60% of the Ivory Coast’s export revenue comes from its cocoa. As the chocolate industry has grown over the years, so has the demand for cheap cocoa. On average, cocoa farmers earn less than $2 per day, an income below the poverty line. As a result, they often resort to the use of child labor to keep their prices competitive.
Like coffee, are we willing to buy a cheap chocolate treat if we know that kids are being exploited to harvest the cocoa bean?
And this child labor isn’t always voluntary either. Food is Power also notes that some children end up on the cocoa farms because they need work and traffickers tell them the job pays while others are “sold” to traffickers or farm owners by their own relatives, who are unaware of the dangerous work environment and the lack of any provisions for an education. Often, traffickers abduct the young children from small villages in neighboring African countries, such as Burkina Faso and Mali two of the poorest countries in the world. Once they have been taken to the cocoa farms, the children may not see their families for years (if they ever see them again).
Here’s a couple of suggestions if you’re unwilling (as I am) to give up this guilty pleasure or sweet tooth:
- Buy less! Saving yourself some money and maybe your waistline.
- Then, when you buy–buy better! View the list of Ethical Chocolate — and note the names you are familiar with missing!
This is an area I need to work on as well. I love convenience and I want to go to the grocery store and get everything I need in one place. But then I think of the kid… and I realize that I want a better world for him and other kids like him. My convenience just isn’t worth a child’s life. And for the love, there is Amazon which I feel is more convenient!
This week I found Equal Exchange Cocoa on Amazon. Some of their products you can subscribe to and have them shipped to you automatically. Talk about convenience.
Your challenge: get some Equal Exchange products, or find ethical chocolate and cocoa online or locally and share it here and with your friends. Ready, go!