Everyone loves chocolate, yet something most people don’t know about the industry is that it has a history of contributing to deforestation and leveraging child labor. Estimates show that the innocent-looking industry accounted for a shocking 2-3 million hectares of global forest loss from 1988 to 2008. And according to the DOI, some two million children are engaged in hazardous work in the industry.
Chocolate hits forest cover hard
While deforestation is one of the biggest problems with cocoa farming, some areas have been impacted a lot more than others. For instance, in Cote d’ Ivoire, better-known as the Ivory Coast, forest cover went from 12 million hectares to less than 3 million from 1960 to 2017.
Ghana has seen quite a big impact from cocoa farming as well. Specifically, “agricultural encroachment — largely driven by cocoa — has increased almost ten-fold since 2010,” a Mighty Earth briefing paper reads.
And it has caused “the degradation of 30 to 60 percent of the forests in those reserves,” the paper’s authors add.
Child labor a notorious problem in cocoa production
If you thought the deforestation issue was a particularly big weakness of the chocolate industry, wait until you hear about its child labor practices. For instance, “most of the children laboring on cocoa farms are between the ages of 12 and 16, but reporters have found children as young as 5,” the Food Empowerment Project finds.
According to the International Labor Organization, the worst forms of child labor includes the likes of slavery, child trafficking, debt bondage, serfdom, and sexual exploitation. Clearly, something needs to be done.
Some companies have tried child labor monitoring and remediation systems (CLMRS), one established by The Hershey Chocolate Company. And it’s currently the leading method of detection and remediation of child labor with children ages 5-17.
Blommer Chocolate Company and Fuji Oil take a stand
Just today, Blommer Chocolate Company, a subsidiary of Fuji Oil Holdings, announced it would address the deforestation and child labor issues in its industry. The plan has two parts.
“The first is a commitment to eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor (WFCL) in the Company’s cocoa supply chain by 2025 and, ultimately, to eliminate all forms of Child Labor as defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) by 2030,” the company says in a press release. “The second is a commitment to distribute 1,000,000 forest tree seedlings by 2030 to areas deforested as a result of cocoa farming.”
As it relates to tackling sustainability challenges:
“Aligned with Fuji Oil’s deforestation policies for Palm and Blommer’s activities under the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, a landscape model approach will be used in the distribution of the 1,000,000-seedling target. Early stages of the program will target Cote d’ Ivoire and Ghana. Additional regions of the supply chain will be considered in later years,” the company says.Blommer Chocolate Company June 4th, 2020 press release
And as it relates to tackling child labor in the industry, Blommer is joining in an initiative currently run by Jacobs Foundation:
The Child Learning and Education Facility (CLEF) initiative aims to reach 5 million children and 10 million parents in cocoa growing areas and beyond, focusing on access to quality primary education … Fuji Oil and Blommer are pleased to join other industry partners in this collaborative effort.Blommer Chocolate Company June 4th, 2020 press release
Lauren Beauban is an Editorial Fellow at theRising, where she covers sustainability news and influential people in the industry. She is also interested in environmental policy and how it affects people. You can pitch her stories at firstname.lastname@example.org