The Western Australian Synod of the Uniting Church issued a statement pointing out unfair labor practices by one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world: The Hershey Company. According to a study released showing how different companies are combating child labor practices, Hershey placed among the lowest of the major manufacturers.
“From what companies have publicly disclosed, the Hershey Company is the chocolate company that appears to be putting in the least effort to ensure cocoa production in West Africa is free of forced and child labor”, said Dr. Mark Zirnsak, social justice spokesperson for the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania.
“They have not disclosed publicly how much cocoa they are buying that is subject to a certification standard banning forced and child labor, but it would appear to be less than one per cent of their total cocoa usage. Their funding of anti-poverty work in West Africa appears to be less than a fifth of what they pay their CEO each year.”
Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are two of the largest producers and exporters of cocoa in the world. It is estimated 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa. The most recent figures estimate that 1.8 million children in West Africa are involved in the industry.
A 2002 report by the US Department of State estimated there were 109,000 child laborers working on cocoa farms. Some of these children are being forced to work against their will, but the majority is children working on family farms. In most cases this work is considered to be some of the worst forms of child labor due to the potential to be extremely harmful.
“The idea of a scorecard is to encourage the companies to be more transparent about the efforts they are making and informing the public of these efforts. Consumers should be able to know who is not pulling their weight in addressing these problems,” says Zirnsak.
The scorecard, which grades chocolate companies’ efforts to address child and forced labor in cocoa production can be downloaded from: http://www.justact.org.au/chocolate-company-commitments/