Friday, April 11, 2014

Don't you love those chocolate Easter bunnies!?! (Fair Product Feature: Chocolate)

My wife just returned from the grocery store with our first Fair Trade chocolate purchase. I had asked her to look for Divine Chocolate, but she could only find Green & Black's candy bars at HEB. (At least at that particular location on this particular day.) I asked her to get me a milk chocolate one, and here it is. (Side note: My wife is extraordinarily wonderful!)

I figure with the massive chocolate buying holiday of Easter coming soon, I would learn a little more about the chocolate industry's relationship to slave labor around the world. Now that I introduced this topic in my previous post, what do I practically do with this new information?

To be honest, the first thing I will probably do is just buy less chocolate. Period. Regardless of where the cocoa beans are harvested or how it is produced, less chocolate would be a generally good move to counter some of my other unhealthy eating habits that are beginning to take a toll on me.

But, as promised in my last post on this issue, here are ideas I am considering as I try to fight human trafficking and slavery while caving to the desires of my sweet tooth at the same time.

1. Honestly assess what it will mean to my checkbook. Below are the price comparisons my wife found at the store today. (Click on the company's names below and you will go to their human rights ethical production ratings from Free2Work.) Hershey's is able to sell their chocolate for about 1/3 of the price of fair trade chocolate producers. As you can see, the cost of maintaining and monitoring ethical supply chains, fair wages, and safe working conditions, free of child labor, are passed on to the consumer. That is you and me. Contrary to some people's thinking, we (the consumers) matter greatly in this process!

Green & Black's - $0.85 per ounce
Ghirardelli$0.63 per ounce
Dove$0.53 per ounce
Hershey's$0.30 per ounce

2. Actively look for brands that are doing the BEST of ethical treatment of farmers and workers. Here are a few. (Keep in mind that I am new to this and there may be many others.)

3. Send notes to companies who have historically been some of the WORST human rights' violators in the industry. Made in a Free World makes this easy to do with just a couple clicks of your mouse. This one hurts because these are some of my favorites.

4. Keep learning. Due to different standards and numerous organizations associated with Fair Trade, this subject is already complicated to begin with. What makes it worse is how secretive and even deceptive some companies are when it comes to their business practices. For example, some of the bigger companies in this industry may "spin" things to appear generous, ethical, and compassionate. It is becoming popular for companies to make donations toward causes or public announcements about efforts to clean their supply chains by 2020 (or whatever year they pick). 

The good news is that companies are feeling the pressure to even take these steps, whether they are genuine or not. That means public perception about these issues is growing and businesses are starting to consider their "image" in a social justice way like never before. The bad news is that "lip service" might take the place of real action for the sake of profit in the short-term. With all this in mind, I will just have to continue to do my research.

5. Encourage my church-attending friends and pastors to be conscious of the brands they use to fill Easter eggs and baskets this year. I hope that many of them will consider the companies like those mentioned in #2 above.

This may be one more reason why we should take a step back and seriously look at our "Christian" Easter celebrations. I am not going to be that old, crotchety guy that gets on a soapbox, but I can't help but wonder how many distractions we have introduced as we mix Good Friday and Resurrection with hidden eggs and magic bunnies. (Yes, I am hypocrite. My daughter will probably go to an Easter egg hunt this year like she has in the past. I may be having a personal crisis of conscience. Well, maybe more on that at another time. For now, let's just focus on ending child slave labor.)

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