Chocolate is a delicious treat that countless Americans enjoy. But in West Africa, the world's largest cocoa-growing region, 60% of cocoa farmers earn less than $2 a day, the international poverty line. Millions of children work on cocoa farms instead of going to school or enjoying a childhood. Despite the growth of Fair Trade, as well as the enormous resources the cocoa industry has invested in combating this issue for the past decade, the level of child labor has not gone down.
Problems in the Chocolate Industry
- Millions of small-scale cocoa farmers in the Global South take in only 6% of the profit from each bar of chocolate sold, earning under the poverty line of $1.90 per day.
- While the worldwide chocolate market is expected to grow from US$137.599 billion in 2019 to US$182.090 billion by 2025, one research shows cocoa farmers actually experience a decreased in their income due to the impact of COVID-19.
- 1.56 million children engage in child labor in cocoa production, with many involved in hazardous labor.
- Children exposed to agrochemical products, such as highly hazardous herbicides and pesticides, increased from 5% to 24% between 2008-2019.
- In 2020, 47,000 hectares of forest was lost in cocoa growing areas of Côte d'Ivoire.
- Lead and Cadmium: 285 of 469 chocolate products tested in a recent study by As You Sow contained lead and/or cadmium above California’s Maximum Allowable Dose Levels
Consumers Pressure Chocolate Companies to End Child Labor
In 2010, Green America launched the Raise the Bar! Hershey campaign with allies, demanding that Hershey take steps to address the issue of child labor in their supply chain. Thanks to sustained pressure from Green Americans and Hershey consumers, the two-year campaign culminated with a commitment from Hershey to move to 100% ethically sourced cocoa by 2020.
The Raise the Bar! Hershey campaign demonstrates how powerful a united consumer voice is. We must continue to build on the success of the Hershey campaign, and pressure other leaders in the cocoa industry to make serious commitments to end child labor.
Most major chocolate companies have commitments to source more sustainable cocoa. In fact, many of them have plans to have 100% certified cocoa in their supply chain by 2020. Although this is an important step in the right direction, certification programs alone are not enough to solve the underlying issues that contribute to child labor in cocoa, including farmer poverty and a lack of infrastructure.
What Can You Do