Where does your chocolate come from? New study addresses labor concerns

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – While Halloween is just a few days away, Green America is urging people to not hand out chocolate from big companies, claiming a lot of them don’t do enough to stop child labor in the countries from which they receive their cocoa beans.

Green America is non-profit that works to promote a ‘green’ economy and it recently released its “Chocolate Scorecard.”

It ranks chocolate companies based on an ‘A’ through ‘F’ scale on their sustainability and human rights efforts.

“We’ve been looking at the chocolate industry for about ten years now and encouraging the large players to improve their conduct,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director at Green America, to Springfield’s KOLR10.

Among the bigger chocolate companies on the scorecard are Mars, Lindt, Hershey (all of which received at least above a ‘D’) and GODIVA (received an ‘F’).

“At the top, are the companies that are doing the best things. These are small companies. They’re dedicated to working in the cocoa sector in a way that produces a sustainable product and one that actually helps its farmers and one that is not engaging in child labor,” Larsen said. “The companies at the bottom of the scorecard, including the ones that get like a ‘D’ and an ‘F,’ are the ones that are doing less.”

The one chocolate company to receive an ‘F’: GODIVA.

GODIVA sent KOLR this statement in response to the scorecard:

GODIVA condemns forced labor or any practice that exploits, endangers or harms people, especially children. We do not own farms and purchase our cocoa through third parties which puts us at a distinct disadvantage on scorecards such as these that don’t allow for an accurate representation of our longstanding commitment to people and [the] planet. We ensure ethical sourcing through agreements with our suppliers to comply with our GODIVA Code of Conduct, which explicitly prohibits the use of forced and child labor.”

 TARA MCTEAGUE, GODIVA

One local chocolate company says it’s the opposite of companies with low grades.

“We’re the antithesis of that,” said Shawn Askinosie, CEO and Founder of Askinosie Chocolate in Springfield.

Askinosie gets his cocoa beans from farmers in Tanzania, Philippines, Ecuador and the Amazon.

“Most of this problem, I would say, 98 percent of this problem, is focused on two countries in West Africa: Ghana and Ivory Coast,” Askinosie said. “Interestingly, both of those countries make up about 70 percent of the world’s supply of cocoa beans for chocolate.

“If you spend $1.50 on that bar, thinking it’s a value, it’s really on the backs of child slave labor, making and harvesting those cocoa beans that went into that cheap chocolate bar. So there’s a price to pay for that.”

Askinosie says the best way to fix the problem is to start with the companies themselves, but to also remember consumers can play a role as well.

“As we gain more awareness, then we have a greater responsibility to make the right decision when it comes to cheap chocolate,” said Askinosie.

“As consumers, we do have role,” Larsen said. “However, we can push companies to actually do the right thing and we can agree to pay a little bit more for our chocolate in order to help finance these efforts to support farmers in West Africa and ensure that kids aren’t engaged in child labor.”

Askinosie says the solution starts with the conversation.

“I think people will talk about it,” said Askinosie. “Then the question is, will it inform their buying decisions? I hope it does.”

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