Child slavery still exists in the world, particularly in Africa’s Ivory Coast and in the industry of chocolate production.On Monday, Hershey’s made its first commitment to buy independently certified slave-free cocoa. It promised to buy Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa for its Bliss product line.
Hershey’s was bowing to pressure generated by a fierce social media campaign organised by a non-profit known as Raise the Bar, Hershey Coalition. That campaign was to culminate in a Superbowl commercial, largely paid for by pro-bono work that came about because of the group’s social media campaign.
The Rainforest Alliance validates that products like cocoa and coffee are grown in earth friendly ways with acceptable labour practices. Stealing children from their families and forcing them to work for free wouldn’t qualify an acceptable labour practice. But such practices do allow chocolate companies to buy cocoa at prices that are lower than the cost to produce the crop.
Hershey’s is known for being the worst offender in supporting farms using child slaves agrees Elizabeth O’Connell, fair trade campaigns director for Green America. Raise the Bar is a non-profit group supported by Global Exchange, Green America, and International labour Rights Forum.
Hershey’s isn’t the only one. Mars has also been called out but Mars bowed to pressure earlier and promised to buy all of its chocolate from independently certified suppliers by 2020, O’Connell told Business Insider.
It’s been 10 years since the last public outcry about child slave labour forced all the major players in the chocolate industry to promise they would end trafficking and child labour in the Ivory Coast. Hershey’s had made little progress on keeping those promises.
So Raise the Bar attacked via Facebook and Change.org. The group generated 50,000 signatures on Change.org and this gave them a list of supporters to organise for other actions, explains Amanda Kloer, Director of organising for Change.org.
For instance, they got their supporters to pile on Hershey’s Facebook page, flooding it with messages. They did “brand-jamming” to flood the Internet with photos and videos of Hershey’s products. They generated more than 100,000 letters to Hershey’s, got supporters to dress up in costume and deliver them to Hershey’s on Halloween.
Eventually their efforts were seen by an ad agency in Indianapolis who created a pro-bono Superbowl commercial. It was to play in the stadium during the game, said O’Connell.
With this concession from Hershey’s, Raise the Bar has agreed not to run the commercial at the Superbowl, but they want to see more action from Hershey’s.
“We are congratulating Hershey’s on a first step. But Bliss is only a very small percentage of Hershey’s chocolate sales,” says O’Connell.