When one thinks of the most typical Valentine's Day gifts, chocolates immediately come to mind … and not just every day chocolates, but boxes of beautifully presented, specialty chocolates that, when given, will communicate love at best, or fulfill cultural expectations at least. According to a 2009 Nielsen report, Americans purchased around 58 million pounds (over $345 million USD) of Valentine's Day chocolates prior to the holiday!
Although chocolate has a long history of notoriety, there is a bitter side to its ‘sweet’ story. Just as slavery is known to exist in the production of cotton, steel, oriental rugs, diamonds and silk, cocoa production also lends itself to exploitative labor. Child labor and bonded slaves are often used in the harvesting of the cacao pods. According to a US government-funded study, over 1.8 million children work in West Africa’s cacao industry. Many of these children are subject to unsafe working conditions. This unsavory reality has stirred activists and businesses alike to seek solutions.
Consumers who wish to enjoy guilt-free treats now have many options available to them. Possibly the easiest way to ensure that your chocolate is ethically produced is to buy Fair Trade certified products. The Fair Trade certified label guarantees that the farmers who were involved in growing the raw materials in your chocolate receive fair prices for their crops. It also ensures that slave labor and child labor were not used during the production cycle. You can check out Fair Trade USA’s website for a list of chocolate manufacturers.
It is important to note, however, that there are companies making ethically sourced produces that, for financial reasons, choose to forgo the Fair Trade certification process. These companies may choose to develop relationships directly with farmers, monitor their own supply chain and label their products ‘direct trade’ or ‘ethically’ made. The benefit of direct trade, some argue, is that producers can pay higher prices to farmers due to the savings incurred by not going through the certification process.
While we at deliberateLIFE are strongly in favor of producers receiving the best possible price, we do encourage supporting companies that undergo external evaluation of their supply chain to maintain transparency.
Note: Organic products are definitely better for the environment and for one’s health, but it’s important to note that ‘organic’ is not synonymous with ‘slave-free’.