Slavery and Child Labour in the Chocolate Industry

Slavery and child labour are still very much a problem in the chocolate industry. Here at UP-UP we believe it is important to shed a light on this injustice and work towards a slave free cocoa industry.

In the ten years we’ve worked in the chocolate industry on our sister chocolate brand COCO, we became increasingly frustrated with certifications like fair trade and organic, as we didn’t feel it necessarily solved some of the biggest challenges in the supply chain, like forced labour and child labour.

By shining a light on every part of our supply chain, at UP-UP we have verified the world’s 1st cocoa plantation as slave free, prioritising a human first chocolate industry. So, it's safe to say that we're pretty determined about working in a fair chocolate industry.

Unfortunately, child labour is an ongoing issue in cocoa production. Western African countries, in particular Ghana and the Ivory Coast, supply more than 70% of the world’s cocoa.

The cocoa that they grow and harvest is sold to the majority of chocolate companies worldwide, including the big household names such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestlé. This just shows the scale of the industry’s direct connection to the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and forced labour.

During the 2018/19 cocoa-growing season, research conducted by the U.S Department of Labour in these two countries found that 1.48 million children were engaged in hazardous work on cocoa farms including carrying heavy loads, and working with sharp tools and agricultural chemicals. This is a considerable amount of children, and represents 43% of all children living in agricultural households in cocoa growing areas. 

On average, cocoa farmers earn less than $2 per day, an income far below the poverty line. Therefore, they often resort to the use of child labour to keep their prices down. According to a 2016 report by Fortune Magazine:

"For a decade and a half, the big chocolate makers have promised to end child labor in their industry—and have spent tens of millions of dollars in the effort. 2.1 million West African children still do the dangerous and physically taxing work of harvesting cocoa."

Despite their contribution to child labour, slavery, and human trafficking, the chocolate industry has not done enough to remedy this huge problem. It is a $60-billion industry, and yet big chocolate companies aren't using their power to impact the use of child labour or slavery by paying cocoa farmers a decent, living wage.

Consumers today have very little way of proving if the chocolate they choose to buy involved the use of child labour or slavery. The labels on chocolate bars, such as Fair Trade certifications and the Rainforest Alliance Certification, offer some insight into the production. But these labels don't guarantee that the chocolate was made without the use of exploitive labor.

When the industry talks about traceability they are talking about the raw commodity and not the people that work in that supply chain. Here at UP-UP, we go through the chain and verify peoples working conditions against international human rights law as well as product.

As a consumer, you play a vital role in minimising the impact of slavery and child labour in chocolate industry. By choosing to buy slave-free cocoa chocolate bars, you can be certain that every step of the process has been fair and just. 

Great chocolate, no downside. Shop now.