The world is object of the deployment of American and European multinational corporations that takes the region as a natural market and supplier of raw material of their expansive economies. The methods they use to achieve their goals are often above the law, corrupt officials, intimidate trade unionists, politicians and entire governments co-opt and violate human rights. In this case, it is about the violations of human rights in West Africa by the one of the biggest chocolate company in the United States, Hershey’s.
Chocolate is a delicious treat that people all over the world take pleasure in and is often available for purchase. It has become such a staple in our food consumption that it is difficult to imagine life without it. According to Gourmet Spot, the average American consumes approximately 11.7 pounds of chocolate each year (“Chocolate”). Although it is a treat, chocolate is not necessarily a luxury; one can purchase a Hershey’s chocolate bar, for example, for as low as fifty cents to a dollar. Despite the low cost, chocolate is “an $83 billion a year business…the industry’s value larger than the Gross Domestic Product of more than 130 nations on earth” (“Who Consumes”). Whether it is milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or any other form, chocolate can be found at almost any food store and in mass quantities in the U.S, whether a large grocery store or a small gas station.
The Hershey Company, known until April 2005 as the Hershey Foods Corporation is the largest chocolate manufacturer and one of the oldest chocolate companies in the United States. It is definitely an American icon for its chocolate bar. In the report Time to Raise the Bar: The Real Corporate Social Responsibility for the Hershey Company, these NGOs say that the 42.5% of American chocolate market is from Hershey. However, Hershey has been criticized for not having programs to ensure sustainable and ethical cocoa purchase, lagging behind its competitors in fair trade measures and its most criticized part, the use illegal child labor in Africa. Although these are only allegations there are a lot proofs that prove the use of child labor and labor exploitation. This large company look to areas in West Africa as a source for their cocoa beans, which are harvested by young children. These young children are treated like slaves and their human rights violated daily. Farmers rely on their cheap labor as a means for profit. Farmers also rely on the chocolate companies, who purchase large quantities of their cocoa beans. The chocolate companies, in turn, rely on the farmers to supply them with cocoa; the cycle, then, is difficult to break. As we continue to demand this inexpensive chocolate, companies will continue getting their cocoa beans from the same farms that use child labor. If we demand chocolate that is Fair Trade certified, then companies that do not allow child labor will profit, leading to a decrease in the demand for cheap, unjust chocolate. In other words, Hershey has no policies in place to purchase cocoa that has been produced without the use of labor exploitation, and the company has consistently refused to provide public information about its cocoa sources. Additionally, Hershey has made no move to shift to third-party certification for the cocoa that it sources from West Africa. No information is available from Hershey about how the money it has invested in various programs in West Africa has actually impacted reductions in forced, trafficked, and child labor among the suppliers of its cocoa.
Not only do children experience harsh working conditions, but the work given to them on cocoa farms is actually a violation of their human rights. According to Nicole Caruth, in 2004, artist April Banks traveled to West Africa to learn about the cocoa farms. She acknowledged “a recurrent history of violence…in cocoa cultivation, chocolate consumption, and the resultant human oppression” (Caruth). This