chocolate, candyWhile many US citizens worry about their British Cadbury chocolates being banned for import by Hershey’s, there is little discussion in the debate about the ethics behind the creation of the corporation’s chocolates. Countless consumers enjoy the sweet treats Hershey’s produces. However, it’s these same consumers that may be unaware of the company’s possible involvement with human trafficking and child labor. While Hershey’s claimed to help both people and the environment, there were multiple media outlets that claimed otherwise.

A video protesting the possible involvement of Hershey’s with human trafficking.

Fair Trade USA, fair trade certified logo
The Fair Trade USA certification logo./via and used with permission

In 2013, Hershey’s announced a switch to certified cocoa products through three companies: UTZ, Fair Trade USA, and Rainforest Alliance. Unfortunately, many Hershey’s products still lack certification labels signaling their compliance with these standards. None of the certification companies Hershey’s is working with specifically prioritizes ending human trafficking or child labor, but the fair trade initiative has been indirectly linked to preventing the violation of these basic human rights.

The conscious consumer must first understand what fair trade is. Green America defines fair trade as “a system of exchange that honors producers, communities, consumers, and the environment. It is a model for the global economy rooted in people-to-people connections, justice, and sustainability.”

Different organizations contribute to this system in different ways. Organizations such as Fair Trade USA and FLOCERT certify products like bananas, sugar, and coffee that adhere to fair trade standards set by umbrella organizations like Fairtrade International. These organizations use different methods — such as using certification labels —  to alert consumers of approved products.

This system allows farmers to sell direct, cutting out profiteering middlemen and enabling farmers to obtain a fair price for their goods. It also promotes responsible environmental practices. The benefits to the farmers and their communities, many of which are outside of the US, are substantial. Many farming families are able to keep their children in school, give back to their communities, and create new jobs.

A video discussing climate change and the sustainable practices of fair trade farmers via

A system that supports equality naturally offsets a system that does not. While fair trade most likely does not have an impact on sex trafficking or other labor-related trafficking issues, fair trade does promote a better farming economy. Child labor and human trafficking conflicts with fair trade certified product standards. Even without prioritizing the issue, fair trade has influenced others to step away from modern day slavery as it continues to alleviate poverty — the main catalyst in human trafficking.

An example of this can be found in cocoa bean farming. In 2010, BBC One Panorama reporter Paul Kenyon conducted an investigation that connected cocoa farming in the Ivory Coast and Ghana with human trafficking from Burkina Faso. Slaves, a great deal of them children, were being used to harvest the beans that created the chocolate bars for consumers around the world. This was in direct violation of international law and the standards set by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The main cause for the problem was poverty.

Consumers vote with their money. Like it or not, everyone is either a contributor or a combatant of poverty. Awareness of the problem is important. Social justice movements like #StandWithMe promote the link between fair trade, the alleviation of poverty, and the eradication of slavery. However, action is most important. Buying from certified or local and transparent companies will change the international market for the better.

The next time you enter a grocery store or a big box retailer, consider what you’re purchasing. If you’re buying a product with a fair trade label, you know that you’re voting for positive change.

A video explaining the role of the consumer via

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