Your chocolate egg might be more unethical than you think
16 April 2019 at 4:59 pm
As Easter approaches, the rush to stock up on chocolate eggs begins. But where exactly are they coming from? Humanitarian groups and ethical trade watchdogs are calling on shoppers to think about what makes a “good egg”.
The cocoa industry, predominantly run out of West Africa, is riddled with ethical issues. Price crashes in recent years have seen farmers forced to sell their crops below production costs, and an estimated two million child labourers work during the harvest season to keep the cost of production down.
A spokesperson for Fairtrade Australia New Zealand told Pro Bono News that while it wasn’t always easy for consumers to think about the people behind the products, the reality was that work on cocoa farms was often dangerous and impacted vulnerable people.
Geoffry Peterson, spokesperson for World Vision Australia said the only way a chocolate egg could be ethical, was if it was produced free from child labour in every step, from the chocolate-making to the distribution process.
He said for consumers, the best way to know if the chocolate they were buying had been produced ethically, was to look for an ethical trademark, such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, World Fairtrade Organisation, or UTZ Certified.
“We know roughly 95 per cent of all chocolate sold is not ethically or fair trade certified, and that’s not to say that all of it is unethical, but the only way as a consumer to be sure you’re getting an ethically sourced chocolate egg, is to look for a fair trade or ethical certification label,” Peterson said.
Producers with the Fairtrade stamp of approval must adhere to social, environmental and economic standards that include the protection of workers’ rights and the protection of children.
Fairtrade audits every operator in each supply chain, from farm level, through to traders and manufacturers. The standards are also made publicly available so consumers know and understand what the expectations are.
Peterson said buyers also had the power to change manufacturing practices if the demand for ethical chocolate was there.
“If more and more discerning customers are going toward certified chocolate, that sends a message to the market and that then can change how they source chocolate and how they monitor their manufacturing,” he said.
“In the end, companies respond to the bottom line, and if the consumer demands an ethically sourced egg, the companies will be under a lot of pressure to change.”
He added that while ethical chocolate was generally more expensive, people had to weigh up whether the money they were saving was worth it.
“We have to be mindful of where we get things, and in this case, it’s either a child in some poor country that’s going to pay that price, or you pay a bit extra,” he said.