Target: Mars CEO, Paul Michaels
Goal: To demand Mars utilize fair trade chocolate and stop using child labor in West Africa.
About 70% of the cocoa beans used to make the world’s chocolate comes from West Africa. For the past decade, the chocolate industry has been under scrutiny for using cocoa beans from West Africa as many cocoa farms in this area use child labor. The Ivory Coast alone has an estimated 300,000 children working under dangerous conditions. What is shocking is that more than half are under 14 years old. A typical day in these children’s lives includes spraying pesticides, using machetes, and carrying heavy loads. The children have no access to education or healthcare. Physical abuse is also common.
The international chocolate industry has been aware of this for a decade, but has only recently made some significant progress. Cadbury now has Fairtrade certification on its Dairy Milk branding, while Mars and Nestlé have some products certified under the UTZ and Rainforest Alliance schemes (both called “Fairtrade light” by critics, as they offer producers no minimum or guaranteed price for their crop). These changes are positive but greater corporate responsibility is required to end child exploitation.
The average annual household income for cocoa growers, for one year, is just 30 to 110 dollars — not even enough for some of the villages to buy water pumps and have their own water supply. This stands in stark contrast to the 13 billion dollar worldwide chocolate industry.
The children are often sold into the industry by their parents who are hoping they will have a better life. But life on the plantation is hard: the children rise at 6:00 in the morning, cut the cacao pods down from high branches with machetes, split them open, and then meticulously pick out the cacao beans, sometimes until 6:30 at night. This work is repetitive, back-breaking, and dangerous. The children have no time or money for school, and since many are sold to the plantation at such a young age, their education ends within the first few years of life. They are stuck in this cycle of labor and poverty.
Stand up against child labor and unfair wages. These poor children deserve to be freed from labor and their communities deserve a fair return on the work they contribute to cocoa business.
Dear Mr. Michaels,
I am writing to request that you begin using Fair Trade chocolate.
Your company makes enormous profits annually from chocolate and your products have become worldwide favorites. However, as you know, hundreds of thousands of child cocoa laborers work on farms or even as slaves far from home. Abusive child labor on cocoa farms is largely caused by poverty among cocoa farmers and I believe that you have the responsibility to solve this problem, and the problem of abusive child labor that it has led to.
The best way to do this is to sell Fair Trade Certified chocolate. Fair Trade gives farmers a living wage and prohibits abusive child labor. Fair Trade cocoa farmers can send their kids to school, pay their workers, and provide for their families and communities with dignity.
We have been asking you to offer Fair Trade for almost two years but you have refused these requests. I am very sad to know that your chocolate will remain bitter with exploitation. As the top selling company in the global chocolate industry, and the fourth largest private company in the U.S., M&M/Mars has the responsibility and resources to pay cocoa farmers a decent price. Please start selling Fair Trade chocolate today.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing about your plans to sell Fair Trade chocolate.
[Your Name Here]