Aired On:
March 30, 2021

In this episode, we head to York, England, where Nestlé’s UK KitKat bars are manufactured. Here, we speak with the campaigner who successfully brought international attention to Nestlé’s decision to drop Fairtrade certification.

When Nestlé first announced the decision, Joanna Pollard, Coordinator of Fairtrade Yorkshire, sent Nestlé a letter urging them to change course. She received no response. So, Joanna wrote another letter to Nestlé—except this one also included the signatures of over 300,000 people from around the world who were joining in solidarity with cocoa farmers. That letter received a response from Nestlé—and it also brought them to the negotiating table. While the fight is far from over, Joanna’s organizing efforts serve as a reminder of our collective strength when we join together in solidarity. When it comes to holding multinational corporations accountable, not one of us is powerful enough on our own, but when we organize together we can build that power.

Feeling inspired to take action? Add your name to our petition and help us send a resounding message to the world’s biggest chocolate companies: it’s time to end the systemic exploitation of cocoa farmers and address the root causes of child labor in West African cocoa.

Dana Geffner:
In our work, we talk a lot about multinational corporations and supply chains. For most of us, they’re place-less, faceless entities. They’ve got a logo, but most of the time, you don’t think about them having a home town. But in this episode that’s where we’re going: York, in the United Kingdom. That’s where the factory that manufactures KitKat bars for the UK market is located. It’s got a long history in the chocolate trade – and was the spot where some key conversations took place around Nestlé’s decision to drop the fair trade certification for their UK KitKat bar.

Last episode, we broke down the changes and challenges that fair trade has faced in the transition from movement to market. Ryan talked to Merling Preza of PRODECOOP in Nicaragua, a leader who’s been in the movement since the beginning. They talked about fair trade from a movement perspective – and how complicated that instruction to “look for the label” can get.

This episode we’re joined by Joanna Pollard of Fairtrade Yorkshire. She lives not too far from that Nestlé factory in York. And she’s one of the people who actually sat down with Nestlé representatives last summer in the aftermath of their decision to drop Fairtrade certification for their KitKat bar.

Anna Canning, Fair World Project’s Campaign Manager talked with Joanna to catch up on what happened after that decision – and the real complexities of her work as a fair trade campaigner.

Anna Canning:
Hi Joanna, thanks so much for joining us on For a Better World. To get started, can you just tell me a little bit about your organization?

Joanna Pollard:
So, I’m the coordinator for Fair Trade Yorkshire. Now, Yorkshire is a region of the United Kingdom with about five and a half million inhabitants, and we have 38 fair trade places in Yorkshire. The Fair Trade Towns movement started in the UK and there are more fair trade towns, places, sort of cities, boroughs, zones in the UK than in any other country, at the moment, but it’s moving certainly across the U.S. and all around the world. There are Fair Trade Towns. Fair Trade Yorkshire is an agglomeration of the 38 places in Yorkshire that identify as Fair Trade Towns, villages, and cities.

Anna Canning:
Oh, wow. Okay. So what does being the coordinator of that entail?

Joanna Pollard:
I act as a volunteer and my job is to sort of make sure that people are aware of things that are going on within fair trade. And I try and bring people together. That’s one of my passions actually is the idea that lots of people work within fair trade and they all have a subtly different way of wanting to do it. And so my passion is really to make people understand that whatever we want to do, however, we want to campaign for fair trade, that we can be a broad church and we can welcome everybody.

Joanna Pollard:
I’ve been a fair trade retailer for 15 years, so I’m really passionate about independent retail that really works within fair trade to highlight producers’ stories. So within the fair trade towns and fair trade cities, we have fair trade shops and schools and universities. I’ve worked within schools and universities, development, education, charities, and those sorts of things, and all of the people that want to achieve a fairer and better world that live in Yorkshire. That’s basically, my job is to make sure that we’re all talking to each other. And everything that we do is based on the idea that we can build back fairer.

Anna Canning:
Wow. That sounds amazing. I like that picture of you talking to everybody and sort of building that web of a different kind of economy. How did you get started as a fair trade campaigner then?

Joanna Pollard:
I started my business 15 years ago. I was actually visiting a friend who lived in Mexico at the time.

Anna Canning:
Joanna’s story is similar to that of so many people in the fair trade movement. She was traveling, connected with people making and selling incredible crafts. From there, she developed a small business based around those crafts.

Joanna Pollard:
But then I fell into a bit of a rabbit hole, discovered all of the other aspects of fair trade and all of these people doing amazing things all over the world.

Anna Canning:
That’s amazing. So are you still importing from that group in Mexico?

Joanna Pollard:
I’m not, no. Basically what I discovered was that we were doing it on such a small scale that the impacts that we could have were not big enough. I mean, that’s one of the interesting things about the, how I’ve ended up with the Nestlé campaign that I’m sure we’re going to talk to is that I realized that I wasn’t strong enough on my own to make enough of an impact, but then you go to the other end and you get enormous multinationals, or maybe they’re too big to be making the right sorts of impact. I think there’s a middle way.

Anna Canning:
So you mentioned that, the Nestlé campaign, so maybe we should get to that. So do you want to just take me back to when you first heard that Nestlé was dropping fair trade certification, how did you get that news?

Joanna Pollard:
I was approached by somebody from the Fairtrade Foundation who mentioned it quite early on last year, roughly this time last year, sort of February, March time last year, that it was a possibility. I live about 15 miles from the main Nestlé factory that makes KitKats. So, I was basically the closest kind of high-profile fair trade person to the place where the KitKats are actually made in the UK. And so I was sort of an obvious person to tackle them about it. So it was mentioned that they were thinking about that moving away from fair trade, and would I, as the coordinator of Fair Trade Yorkshire, and as somebody that lives in the area, get in touch with them to express our disappointment and to encourage them to think again. Now, at the time we were just at the very beginning of the pandemic starting…

Joanna Pollard:
And clearly we didn’t have any idea what impact it would have on the producers, but by the time Nestlé made the announcement that the KitKats were definitely going to stop being fair trade last June, we had a real sense of how bad COVID was going to be globally and how important it was that the support that we were giving those producers and the farmers and workers was some of it they were spending on COVID. And actually, I think had they known that the fair trade premium would be taken away from them. They might’ve had to make different choices about where the premium went.

Anna Canning:
So you got that news and you went and talked to Nestlé before—did you talk to Nestlé before we had the big announcement in June?

Joanna Pollard:
No, I’d written them a letter. And I didn’t receive a reply to my letter. This is something that’s happened one or two times. I know there are several other organizations that have written a letter to Nestlé and Nestlé have not replied until it became something that was in the public eye. That was very disappointing not to have anything at all from them. And so once it became clear that the decision had been made, then it was important for me to try and mobilize the support that I knew existed so that we could try and get a petition going and help Nestlé understand how important it is for the people that live in the UK and Ireland that like to buy KitKats, that like to know that they’re fair trade and just to try and tap into that groundswell of support for the farmers and workers in Côte d’Ivoire where the cocoa is made and in various other places like Fiji, where the sugar’s grown.

Anna Canning:
Yeah. So that petition that you mentioned, you ended up getting thousands of signatures on that. How did that get started? And then what was the moment that it really kind of took off?

Joanna Pollard:
We had one mad weekend where it went from about 50,000 to about a quarter of a million in the course of two or three days. And that was to be honest, quite a lot of that was thanks to Adjoa Andoh who is the patron of the Fair Trade Foundation in the UK. She’s an actress, she’s from Bridgerton.

Joanna Pollard:
This is before she became, you know, a multinational global superstar [but] she’s always been a superstar to us, but she basically pulled some strings and got in touch with some of the people that she knew. So Thandie Newton was a really big person that she managed to get, asked her to retweet the petition. And then we got celebrity chefs, like people like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who probably isn’t that famous in the U.S. But is very famous in the UK and people who have lots of followers and then everybody. There was a momentum building.

Joanna Pollard:
And then I think it started to go global, because Nestlé obviously being a global company, a multinational company, and there are lots of things that Nestlé has done over the years that lots of people have objected to. And so some of the people that we were getting on board were people who have really disliked the way Nestlé does business, and quite a lot of them were coming on board because they, they were cautiously optimistic that having a fair trade brand within Nestlé would make them move further towards more fair trade brands and disappointed that after 10 years, that that was not going to be the case anymore.

But yes, we ended up with 285,000 people signing the petition, which was absolutely astonishing. And I just want to say thank you to everybody who did, because it really hit the nail on the head.

Joanna Pollard:
And at the point when we reached 200,000, that’s the point that Nestlé reached out to me because they wanted to have a conversation about what they were wanting to do and why it couldn’t be done within the fair trade system that they’d been using up until now, which, you know, obviously I was pleased to meet them and I’m pleased to put across my point of view. The idea that coupled with COVID, there’d also been a huge groundswell of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. And obviously if you believe that Black lives matter, then those Black lives of the people who are growing the cocoa in West Africa are some of the lives that matter. And actually that was one of the key things was that we need to be listening to these people. And if they tell you that they value fair trade above everything else, it’s really important that they are listened to, and that they feel like their opinions matter.

Anna Canning:
Well said. How did that meeting with Nestlé go then?

Joanna Pollard:
We had already anticipated what they were likely to say to us. It was myself, and my predecessor, the previous coordinator for Fairtrade Yorkshire who lives ‘round the corner from the Nestlé factory in York and whose grandma used to work there. So he had a connection with Nestlé, a very strong personal connection with Nestlé, which was great. And so we, we sat down and had the conversation and we sat, we made all our points and they made all their points.

One of the things that they said that they would be prepared to consider, that we were quite surprised by was guaranteeing the minimum price.

Anna Canning:
Let’s talk price here for a minute. Cocoa beans are traded on the commodity market, similar to other crops like coffee, wheat, corn, etc. It’s come up in just about every conversation we’ve had over the past few episodes just how volatile those prices are. And that’s why the fair trade minimum price is a key feature of many fair trade certifications. For most crops, if the market price goes up, then the price fair trade buyers pay goes up too. If the market dips, there’s a minimum floor that the price can’t go below. For cocoa beans, the minimum price is $2400 per metric ton.

So, the cocoa market prices have been really low. And when Nestlé dumped Fairtrade certification, the Rainforest Alliance label that they replaced it with has no minimum price.  So, Nestlé promised to guarantee that minimum price—sounds like a good deal, right?

Hang on, it’s going to get more complicated.

Joanna Pollard:
And then right at the very end, they actually honored that commitment. And they have said that they were going to match the fair trade minimum price for the next two years. Before the meeting, they hadn’t been prepared to let us know what level of fair trade premium equivalent they were prepared to pay. And as a direct result of that meeting, they told us exactly what they were prepared to pay and went public with it within a couple of weeks.

Anna Canning:
That’s, that’s good to hear. So now I don’t want to go too far into the weeds of pricing because that can get confusing, but I think it is important to clarify. So you said they committed to paying the fair trade minimum price, but not the same premium.

Joanna Pollard:
No, they were prepared to match the price and they committed to matching the price for the next two years. So the first, that’s basically two harvests. So the harvest happening in October and then the contracts are signed then.

Anna Canning:
OK, so, Nestlé committed to keep the same minimum price for two harvests. Not bad. But those farmers hadn’t just been earning the Fairtrade minimum price.

Joanna Pollard:
They agreed that they were going to match the fair trade minimum price, but the premium, which the fair trade premium at the moment is $240 a ton. And Nestlé, were going to be paying $180 a ton. So it’s a significant reduction.

Anna Canning:
Two years at the minimum price that they’d been getting – decent. Premium: cut by 25%. Less good. But now here’s the wrinkle.  In an effort to push back on poverty prices, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, who produce something like two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, came together and set their own minimum price. For the harvest season of 2020 – 2021, that minimum price is $2600 per tonne, plus a $400 sum they’re calling a Living Income Differential.

So, that promise that Nestlé made to pay the fair trade minimum price? Well, by law they’re supposed to be paying more than that Fairtrade  minimum price anyhow.

Joanna Pollard:
And so actually what Nestlé was saying was that effectively, they were prepared to pay that. And I think that’s not necessarily that significant in and of itself, because at that point they knew that that was the price they were probably going to have to pay anyway. But to get it for two years means that if there is a price, a dramatic price drop, then at least we know that they’re going to get that next year as well.

Anna Canning:
Alright, so by my accounting, if Nestlé hadn’t dropped Fairtrade certification, then they’d be paying that $2600 government minimum price plus the $400 Living Income Differential PLUS the Fairtrade premium of $240. Instead, Nestlé’s cut their premium by 25%. Per a statement from the Fairtrade Foundation, that means a loss of approximately 1.37 million pounds or 1.91 million dollars in premium funds.

So – all this means that it seems like Nestlé might be talking a big game about paying a price that they were already going to be required to pay. And cutting the premium that goes to farmers. Is their commitment to that minimum price for the next two years going to outlast the Ivorian government’s higher minimum? That’s what we’ll be waiting to see.

Anna Canning:
When we last talked to Frank and Fortin of the Ivorian Fair Trade Network, they were actually still waiting to hear from Nestlé. That was a thing that I felt really interesting in this whole conversation is it seemed like everything that they got from Nestlé was really like secondhand from a distant conversation. So can you maybe catch our listeners up to where they’re at now and how those conversations are going for them?

Joanna Pollard:
Right from the very start Nestlé said that it wasn’t their responsibility to speak to the Ivorian Fair Trade Network, that they would deal with the individual cooperatives that they bought from, but they wouldn’t speak to R.I.C.E as a whole.

Anna Canning:
R.I.C.E. is the acronym for the Ivorian Fair Trade Network, based on the French version of the farmer network’s name, Reseau Ivoirien du Commerce Equitable.

Joanna Pollard:
And so what happened was that there was reports that some people were being told different things, depending on which cooperative they were working for. And so it became really important to us that that R.I.C.E was represented at the table, so that they could be almost like a trade union. They were sitting, representing all of the cooperatives that sold to Nestlé and they had a part to play in this. And so their story about the fact that fair trade is so important to them because it gives them a voice. It gives them a seat at the table. It gives them a democratic opportunity to shape their own lives. And those things are, are best put by a network like R.I.C.E rather than individual cooperatives on a sort of case-by-case basis.

Anna Canning:
So then you’re saying that you, as the local fair trade group was able to put pressure on Nestlé to actually go to the table with the farmers’ association.

Joanna Pollard:
Yes. I feel like that’s one of the big wins of the campaign was that they were reluctant to speak to them and we convinced them how important it was that they did.

Anna Canning:
Yeah. That, that seems like a big win, because obviously you can’t negotiate on their behalf, but they can’t negotiate on their behalf if they aren’t at the table.

Joanna Pollard:
Yes, absolutely. One of the, one of the most important things that fair trade is designed to counteract is the idea of these long supply chains, where everything gets passed from one person to the next, and everything is sort of done with smoke and mirrors. And one of the key things for fair trade is that you get the two people in the room that need to make the decision and they speak to each other, and that’s where the decision is made. And for me, that’s where fair trade is really good is that it does give an individual farmer through his or her collective through their network. They have that democratic route to the people who are going to be buying the products.

Anna Canning:
Yeah. Well, well put, and yeah. Also on the other side of what you say, I think it’s really interesting to hear about that role of the larger associations, right. That Nestlé can pick off cooperatives and talk to them one at a time and maybe tell people different things, but it’s really, if you’re going to be dealing with something that big that you need that association and that’s strength.

Anna Canning:
OK, so I have to admit. I’m skeptical of Nestlé’s pricing commitment. But what Joanna says here seems like a key win, and that victory came from the power of so many people coming together.

One person writing a letter to Nestlé? They ignored her. Cocoa farmers wanting to meet? They might have blown that off too. But 200,000 signatures? That got Nestlé’s attention. And, in case you’re checking the math at home, let me clear this up. When they finally got the meeting, Joanna and Fairtrade Yorkshire presented Nestlé with a little over 300,000 signatures calling on Nestlé to continue to deal on Fairtrade terms for their UK Kitkat bar. 284,000 of them were gathered by Fairtrade Yorkshire and an additional 20,000 came from an independent petition launched by the Cooperative Party.

Anna Canning:
So I have just a couple more questions for you, but one was, I didn’t realize just how close you are to the actual factory that makes the KitKats.

Joanna Pollard:
Yes.

Joanna Pollard:
So if you go back to the sort of early 19th century, the Quaker cocoa producers, there were three big factories in York and Rowntrees’ was one of them.

Joanna Pollard:
Rowntrees was renowned as one of the best employers, certainly the best employer in York and one of the best employers in the country. The idea behind Quakers getting into cocoa was because they were part of the temperance movement. So they really disliked the idea of people going out and spending their money on alcohol and getting drunk. And so they wanted something that was a bit more wholesome. So they got into cocoa. And they also were some of the first fair trade pioneers, I think, because they were really keen on the idea of, obviously they were abolitionists, which was a huge thing here.

Anna Canning:
“Abolitionists” refer here to people who were advocating to abolish or end the trade in and enslavement of people. In both the UK and the US, Quakers were at the forefront of that movement.

Joanna Pollard:
But they wanted to give dignity to the workers in all the countries who grew the products that we were buying here.

Anna Canning:
This goal does get a little complicated when you look into the history of these Quaker chocolate companies. There’s probably an entire episode that could be done on issues of forced labor in cocoa way back at the turn of the last century. In short, not paying the people who grow cocoa has been baked into the chocolate business model for a very, very long time. But the tradition of business with an ethical focus has also existed here in the community of York.

Joanna Pollard:
They were also really interested in the condition of the working poor in the UK.

Joanna Pollard:
And they’re basically built model villages with really good housing and they provided incredible benefits for their staff. And it was a place that people really wanted to work.

Anna Canning:
Nestlé bought the historic Rowntree confectionery brand in 1988. It was a deal described as controversial in newspapers at the time, with a Labor party lawmaker describing it as the “sad but inevitable result of the government’s refusal to defend British industry against foreign predators.″

Joanna Pollard:
One of the best moments when I was running the petition to keep KitKat fair trade was that the great, great granddaughter of Henry Rowntree signed it and left me a lovely message saying how disappointed her great great-grandfather and all of the family would have been to see Nestlé abandon fair trade KitKats because the philosophy of her family, when they were running the factory was always that it was people first. It was about making sure that we looked after the workers and the farmers and that people benefited from it. And so it’s a really great legacy that the Rowntree’s family have had in York.

Anna Canning:
So how has all this series of events changed how you approach your work as a Fairtrade campaigner?

Joanna Pollard:
The best thing about it has been being able to bring in lots of different people from lots of different philosophies within trade justice and fair trade.

It wasn’t just a case of the very narrow focus of the Fairtrade mark on products like cocoa and chocolate and coffee, but something that fits into the wider framework of justice and global equality and climate change. And just, it really made me believe that we’re all connected.

Anna Canning:
So how has this decision by Nestlé changed your thoughts, if it has changed them, on the role of multinationals in Fairtrade?

Joanna Pollard:
Before I got heavily involved in this campaign, I had sort of a healthy skepticism about whether multinationals could be trusted with Fairtrade marks, because if you find a product with a Fairtrade mark on, particularly if it’s still through mass balance

Anna Canning:
Is there a sound effect we can play for when we get deep into certification nerdery? Because we should be playing that now. Here’s what “mass balance” means. In the chocolate industry, cocoa beans come from lots of farmers and get bagged up, ground, and otherwise processed. Certifiers track how much raw cocoa goes in one end of the processing – say it’s 100 tons and 10% of that was bought from fair trade farmers on fair trade terms. All those cocoa beans, fair trade and not-fair trade, get dumped together and ground up. On the other side, the processor can sell 10% of what comes out as fair trade. Is that bar that comes out made with beans that came from a fair trade farmer? Not necessarily.

Joanna Pollard:
So, actually you could be buying something that’s got a Fairtrade mark on it that doesn’t contain any fair trade chocolate.

Anna Canning:
This isn’t just a Fairtrade thing by the way. Many ethical certifications work this way – although not all of them. The reason is that it’s a whole lot easier than shutting down the entire production line to keep just a few farmers’ products separate from all the rest. Joanna’s not alone in being skeptical. Mass balance allows big traders to ramp up their fair trade purchases without completely altering their supply chains – and whether that’s a good thing or a copout has long been a controversial topic. We’ve actually got reports on our website that go into this in a lot more depth – and detail which labels allow for mass balance and which prioritize transparent traceability.

As an extra aside, this is not how organic certification works. Organic ingredients must be segregated from conventional at every step of processing.

Joanna Pollard:
That was always something that didn’t sit well with me. The most important thing for me was being able to speak to the farmers direct because they grow a product and they put it in a sack and they sell it.

Joanna Pollard:
And so the key thing for me was when I got to speak to the farmers and basically they’re in a situation where they grow a crop, they put it in a sack, they put it on a ship, so they get the money for it. And they almost don’t care where it goes. And so actually my preconceived ideas that it was really important that when I pick up a product that I know that that is fair trade, that’s useful, but not the whole story. And so for me, there’s definitely a mix. So we need dedicated, fair trade organizations.

Joanna Pollard:
We need campaigning organizations, but we need those campaigning organizations to have somebody to go to, to say, “look, you buy enormous volumes of cocoa. It is really important that you are not profiting off the backs of very, very poor farmers.” And so what we need to do is to say these are the minimum conditions and prices that these people need to live a healthy and successful life. And it is important that you pay this.

Joanna Pollard:
And if it means that the shareholders have to take 10% less, that’s fine because it’s more important that people have a better standard of living than that your CEO buys his third yacht.

Anna Canning:
Indeed… That seems like that has been sort of the model that fair trade campaigning has been working on for a number of years. And, you know, I mean, it was campaigners that first got Nestlé to go fair trade for that KitKat bar in the first place. It wasn’t that their CEO woke up one morning and had a realization. Do you feel like there is a change in that model that should happen going forward? Or is this sort of an unlucky situation, but the fundamentals remain?

Joanna Pollard:
I think there is definitely a need for a mix. Basically we have two choices at the moment. We have a few very large organizations that buy most cocoa. And so we either make those very large organizations more ethical, or we make the very ethical organizations bigger and actually there’s room for both. So arguably the very large organizations need to get smaller and the very ethical organizations need to get bigger. And we meet in the middle where everybody’s ethical and everybody’s a decent size and everybody makes enough money to survive.

I’m a very big fan of donut economics, the idea that there are limits, there are outer limits and inner limits.

Anna Canning:
Donut economics actually has very little to do with sugary snacks. Instead, it’s a metaphor for thinking about our economic activities as spelled out in a book by Kate Raworth. Instead of picturing the economy as some sort of arrow pointing up towards endless unfettered growth, this model suggests that there’s a sweet spot between meeting everyone’s needs and exceeding the boundaries of the planet we live on.

Joanna Pollard:
And if we manage to raise everybody up to the minimum and bring in the people who are doing too much, who are making too much money, who were exploiting people and planet too much, if we work within the donut, everybody can have a really good life. And I think there’s definitely room for a bit of both really, I think at the moment, the mix isn’t quite right. And the people with the power have still got too much power. But we, as campaigners, as consumers, it’s one of our roles to start working with the organizations that are ethical and make sure that we’re buying from them and make sure that we’re supporting them when they want to do good things.

Anna Canning:
Yeah. I mean, I think that that distinction that you just made there, right? That within chocolate, you have, on the one end, farmers are making like a dollar a day. And on the other end, you’re talking about, you know, the possibility of owning a third yacht or whatever, that really high-end thing is. That’s a big divide there between those two points. So yeah, it seems like there’s a lot of space in the middle.

So I just have one more question and hopefully our internet lasts through it all. What would a truly fair chocolate trade look like to you?

Joanna Pollard:
The key things going forward is to put more value in the areas where the cocoa is grown. So at the moment, in the last couple of years, Ghana in particular has managed to add lots of value to the supply chain in cocoa, by adding processing facilities. So about 50% of the cocoa that leaves Ghana doesn’t leave as bags of beans. It leaves as cocoa paste.

Joanna Pollard:
And so I think one of the key ways that we can move forward and for it to be fairer, and for us to feel like we’ve got a connection and a sustainable connection to the way that our food is grown and made is for processing to be moved into those countries and for the infrastructure to be there so that they can make a chocolate bar from bean to bar in the same way as a lot of very, very small artisanal chocolatiers do, if you can do that in country at scale. And then instead of putting a boatload of cocoa beans and sending that to the UK or Germany or wherever to be turned into chocolate, you can add much more value to those countries. And it needn’t make it that much more expensive either. So for me, the fairest way is for me to be able to pick up a bar of chocolate in my local shop or supermarket. And to know that the whole of that bar was made in the country that says where the cocoa was grown.

Anna Canning:
I mean, it seems in some ways like a real progression of what we’ve been talking about as fair trade, right. That I got started in fair trade, a number of years ago, working in coffee, actually. And one of the things we talked about then was cutting out the various middle men and all of those anonymous steps along the way. And in some ways, what you’re talking about is exactly that, cutting out some of those intermediaries who are then skimming off in the middle between the person who buys the chocolate bar and the person who makes it.

Joanna Pollard:
We are at the very beginning, really of a fair trade journey, the Fairtrade mark’s only 25 years old in the UK. We can move forward. And the next century will be really key. The idea that it’s going to happen overnight. That’s not going to happen. We need to be addressing the things that are problems now and into the future, we can see a world where cocoa is something that’s grown and produced and turned into chocolate bars in Ghana, and they have complete control over that situation. Right now, making it fair, for as many people as possible, doing the most good for the most people is the most important thing right now, within cocoa.

Anna Canning:
And the good news is there’s people working. I feel like there are people who are working on each piece of that.

Joanna Pollard:
Yes, absolutely. I think, and I think, I think we all have our part to play in that, but I think one of the most important things is as consumers, we need to understand…

Joanna Pollard:
what the fair trade mark is and what it isn’t. And the idea that the Fairtrade mark means that it’s perfect. It means that it’s considerably better than something that doesn’t have the Fairtrade mark. And that’s where we are right now is that if you have a choice between a chocolate bar that does, or doesn’t have the Fairtrade mark buying the one with the Fairtrade mark has something very specific about it and that’s why you buy it.

Anna Canning:
When I first reached out to Joanna to interview her, I hadn’t entirely put together the significance of her location. She’s organizing her community right in the backyard of the Nestlé factory that manufactures the KitKat bars we’ve been talking about over the past few episodes. That town, York, has a long history in the British chocolate industry. Indeed, some of the old Quaker companies remain big brands in the chocolate industry- Cadbury’s for example. Not only do those brand names persist, their business models do too. Forced  and child labor was a problem way back in those days as well. The exploitation is baked into the business model. It’s not just a few bad actors. Instead, the whole system needs an overhaul.

Joanna found a way to tap into her community’s expectations for how a corporation should behave and got international attention for a decision that could have otherwise gotten swept under the rug. We need more of this kind of international solidarity and support – and it also makes clear that we need more than awareness raising and concerned people to hold corporations accountable.

Dana Geffner:
All of you listening have had so many positive things to say about this podcast since we’ve released the first episode. But in among that, the one critique I’ve heard time and again is, “but what are we supposed to do?” I get it. We’ve been unwrapping the complexities of these ingredients that make up a common everyday chocolate bar. The complexities that lay behind our everyday decisions. What’s the solution? Anna’s conversation with Joanna offers an answer – or really so many answers.

We need people building new and small-scale ethical enterprises, and we need people to support them. We need people to pressure large corporations and hold them to be accountable. We need people to organize in their own communities, and people to sign onto their petitions and make phone calls. And we need to vote for lawmakers and hold them to making rules that push back on the trends of corporate consolidation and exploitation. We need to do all of these things – and each of us has a role to play.

Through her campaigning, Joanna was able to bring Nestlé to the table to negotiate with cocoa farmers. Will they keep their commitments, or will it be just another in their string of empty pledges? That remains to be seen.

Thanks for joining us on For a Better World. Stay tuned for our next episodes where we’ll be talking to some of the people actively working to hold Nestlé accountable for their supply chains. Next time, we’ll talk to Terry Collingsworth, the human rights lawyer who has sued Nestlé all the way to the US Supreme Court on behalf of a group of men who were forced into child labor in their cocoa supply chains.

And if you want to do something before then, hop over to our website, FairWorldProject.org where we’ve got a petition outlining what the Big Chocolate companies need to do to address the root causes of that child labor – we’ll have the link in the show notes.

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Join host and Executive Director of Fair World Project, Dana Geffner, on the new podcast For a Better World. Subscribe now to get new episodes automatically delivered to your podcast app of choice.

For a Better World is a podcast by Fair World Project, a nonprofit organization. Support the show by donating today.

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