Major New Report Calls on Chocolate Companies to Use Certified Cocoa

April 8, 2011

A research team from Tulane University that has been closely examining chocolate company efforts to eliminate child labor and forced labor in the cocoa industry has released a new report that calls on companies to increase the use of certified cocoa, like Fair Trade certification. As one of the only major chocolate companies that has not made any commitment to use certified cocoa, Hershey would be well advised to implement this recommendation.

The Tulane research team has been working for the past four and a half years under a contract from the U.S. Department of Labor to study the progress of chocolate companies in addressing labor rights abuses in the West African cocoa industry. Their in-depth and independent research has been the only analysis of its kind and has included surveys of conditions on cocoa farms, interviews with children who had experienced trafficking from countries neighboring Cote d’Ivoire, examination of industry funded programs and much more. Last week, the team issued their final report which included a number of important recommendations for a range of stakeholders.

The years of research have led the Tulane research team to question whether it is possible for the industry to “self-regulate” human rights issues in their supply chains. The top recommendation in the new report is that “industry should continue to scale up its consumption — and publicly commit to new procurement targets — of product certified cocoa, specifically in the U.S. market.” Further, the report notes that “practicing traceability and/or Chain-of-Custody, which enables the enforcement of standards at the producer level and throughout the supply-chain, should be mainstreamed.” Product certification for cocoa, especially Fair Trade Certification, helps companies to better understand where their cocoa comes from and ensure that suppliers meet basic labor rights standards. The Tulane report is not alone in its recommendations as important shareholder analysts have called on chocolate companies to use certified cocoa and the U.S. Department of State has recommended that companies independently monitor and verify their supply chains to ensure that suppliers are complying with international labor standards.

This report and its recommendations are extremely important because it represents years of analyses of what promises from the chocolate industry to end abusive child labor have resulted in concretely. As Senator Tom Harkin stated, “Tulane’s report makes clear that although small progress has been made, our work must continue to address the problem of child labor in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa industries.”

The report recognizes the biggest chocolate companies in the world like Mars, Nestle, Kraft and Cargill that have all “demonstrated the market viability of product certification with their significant commitments to buy certified cocoa.” While the commitments made by these companies vary in their depth and accessibility to U.S. consumers, there is one top chocolate company that has not even started to respond to the Tulane report’s top recommendation: the Hershey Company.

Over 8,000 readers have asked Hershey to follow through with Tulane’s recommendations by beginning to source Fair Trade Certified cocoa. Hershey’s only response has been that it is giving money to fund some programs in West Africa, but Tulane’s new report states unequivocally that “industry’s and other funding of ICI [the International Cocoa Initiative] and other initiatives has not been sufficient in light of its commitment to eliminate WFCL [the worst forms of child labor] in the cocoa sectors of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire” and that sourcing certified cocoa is “a large step in the right direction.” Tulane’s last report also looked more closely at the shortfalls of many of the programs funded by Hershey in West Africa in addressing labor abuses.

Hershey needs to hear from consumers that we want to see this iconic US chocolate company catch up with the rest of the industry and not continue to be steps behind. Take action here to ask Hershey to listen to the Tulane University report and take a step in the right direction by committing to source Fair Trade cocoa.

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