Cocoa tree ripe with pods

On January 30th, after years of being targeted by organized consumer Fair Trade actions including creative holiday kid’s actions, brand jamming contests, protests and rallies at flag ship Hershey store and shareholder meetings, Hershey has finally made a move!

The Raise the Bar Hershey’s campaign which has been calling on Hershey to go Fair Trade, collected over 100,000 petition signatures through and other sources, and organized petition deliveries, shareholder resolutions, and Facebook actions to blanket Hershey’s wall with messages.

Two days ago Hershey’s announced that it will make a commitment to purchasing Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa for all of its Bliss Chocolate products and it will invest $10 million dollars in education and its smart-phone CocoaLink project to teach West African farmers to be more efficient.

So what does this actually mean?  Have we won an important first step or are we being duped?

*The following sentence was updated on 3/27/2012 for clarification.

Original sentence: Hersheys’ CocoaLink, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a project that aims to increase yields and productivity on small cocoa farms by introducing new plants, techniques and inputs to small farmers and provide them with real-time advice through a cell phone network.

Updated sentence: According to World Cocoa Foundation Communications Manager Marisa Yoneyama, “CocoaLink is possible through a public-private partnership between The Hershey Company, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and The Ghana Cocoa Board.” In early 2009, the World Cocoa Foundation announced a new, $40 million program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and 14 chocolate industry companies to significantly improve the livelihoods of approximately 200,000 cocoa farmers in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria.

The (cell phone network) idea is that by increasing yields, farmers will have more income and the need for child labor will decrease.But will this work, and how would you know for sure?

Since passage of the Harkin-Engel Protocol over 10 years ago, Global Exchange’s Fair Trade program, along with the Raise the Bar Hershey’s Coalition, has been calling for a code of conduct for suppliers that would ban child labor and put measures in place to enforce such codes. Following Harkin-Engel, the whole chocolate industry committed to ending child labor, forced labor, and trafficking in their cocoa supply chains. A decade later, hundreds of thousands of children continue to labor in hazardous conditions in West Africa, particularly in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, and the US Department of Labor has noted five West African nations whose cocoa may still be tainted by forced and/or child labor.

It’s not clear how increased yields would actually eliminate the worst forms of child labor but monitoring is a good first step.  This is the first commitment that Hershey has made to using an independent, third – party certification system to ensure that its cocoa is grown sustainably, including the monitoring of forced and child labor.

This commitment is a welcome first step for Hershey to improve its supply chain accountability and shows that it is responsive to consumer pressure.

You did it!!  Your petitions, actions, questions and demands were heard!

This announcement also demonstrates that The Hershey Company acknowledges the severity of the labor abuses that taint the West African cocoa sector, where Hershey’s sources the majority of its cocoa.

So why aren’t we happier?

Well, Global Exchange has been committed to Fair Trade since its beginning in this country, and we believe that Fair Trade certification is the best way to achieve the goal of supply chain transparency, a fair price for farmers, and the elimination of forced child labor in the production of our chocolate.  There is a difference between Rain Forest Alliance Certification and something that is Fair Trade certified.

Fair Trade independent third-party certification addresses poverty, sustainability and empowerment of producers (and workers) in the world’s poorest countries through guaranteed minimum prices plus an additional social premium to be invested in community development.  Rainforest Alliance certification, also independent third-party, encompasses all aspects of sustainability as well, but does not offer guaranteed prices, relying instead on the farmers’ capacity to increase yields and efficiency and negotiate for themselves in the global marketplace. According to Rainforest Alliance’s own website:

Fairtrade labelling standards are designed to tackle poverty and empower producers in the world’s poorest countries, giving them a guaranteed price for their products. Rather than emphasizing how products are traded, Rainforest Alliance certification…focuses on how farms are managed.

Cocoa (or cacao) pods, where chocolate comes from

Increasing yields and efficiency may be a way to increase income temporarily, but without price guarantees it only means more cocoa for Hershey’s.  Relying on the market to set prices and farmers’ incomes means that when yields increase, prices will drop.   What will the efficiency and higher yields cost in terms of chemical inputs, strain on water resources and natural sustainability? Rainforest Alliance focuses on management rather than workers, on efficiency rather than justice. Hershey’s, you picked the wrong one!

Any model that is not truly sustainable, that chooses short-term gain for individual farmers over community development will not produce the conditions necessary to eliminate trafficking and forced child labor.

So is this a victory or not?

Yes, we should recognize this as a positive step forward but we can’t overstate it or we risk becoming too complacent and leaving the public confused.

Hershey’s has taken a step forward by:

  • Responding to consumer pressure and Fair Trade activism: WE have convinced the largest chocolate company in the U.S to change the way it does business!
  • Acknowledging the problem.
  • Agreeing to third party verification.

We would like Hershey to continue taking more steps. Yes, we can celebrate. And then get back to work.


The following is the first post in a 2-part series written by Global Exchange Fair Trade intern Suzanne Moloney about the metal mining industry and the ways in which artisans are reusing metals and other materials to create completely guilt-free jewelry, accessories and housewares.

Fair Trade jewelry has become a popular item sold here in the US that has provided benefits to artisans throughout many impoverished nations of the world, allowing them to continue traditional methods of handcrafting jewelry with dignity.

Yet while the impact on these artisan’s lives is undoubtedly significant, certain ethical questions have been raised about Fair Trade jewelry as well as other items crafted from metals. As Ethical Metalsmiths explains, within large-scale mining “there is no way to trace gold back to the mine, there is no standard definition of responsible mining, and there is no way to certify that mines are meeting any standard.”

The Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IMRA) argues that ethical mining capable of benefiting local communities requires both an independent monitoring system, as well as a system of incentives to encourage responsible practice, yet admits “there is currently no mechanism to independently verify operations that are likely to achieve this result or to offer these incentives.”

Although some small-scale artisanal gold mines have been Fair Trade certified, only 20 designer makers currently have access to this gold. Debates on the benefits of certification of large-scale mining continue, yet it remains unquestionable that mining practices can be damaging to local communities and the environment.

This creates an important contradiction within the Fair Trade movement; while some metalwork artisans are provided with an opportunity to improve their livelihoods with a degree of financial security uncommon in many parts of the world, the environment and local communities in mining areas continue to bear the brunt of the dark side of the metal industry.

Mining practices are associated with both ecological and social problems in the communities that they are located in.  Mining generally requires the tearing up of the landscape, and the chemicals used in processing precious metals are often incredibly toxic. Cyanide and mercury are routinely used in the production of gold, and are responsible for the pollution of rivers and the contamination of fish. Both of these chemicals also have long-term health impacts for the workers who are forced to handle them, often without the correct safety equipment.

Despite the fact that the local communities experience the brunt of this environmental damage, the material benefits of mining are typically funneled away from the local economy, instead generating wealth for governments and international investors. In fact, developing countries that are rich in minerals have some of the slowest growth rates in the world ( According to No Dirty Gold Campaign, the mining industry is considered one of the most dangerous industries in the world, claiming the lives of over 1,500 workers each year and continues to fuel conflicts across Africa.

Sneak peek at artwork featured in next post in this series!

So what’s a responsible shopper to do?

Notwithstanding the amazing potential of economic security that Fair Trade offers people in the developing world, the problems of mining cannot be ignored. Considering the controversy that surrounds the logistics of establishing Fair Trade mining on a scale large enough to meet the demands of the metals industry, it seems worthwhile to explore other options for socially responsible precious metal shoppers.

Pieces crafted from recycled materials are a responsible choice for ethically-minded consumers seeking peace of mind when they shop.

There are all sorts of Fair Trade recycled jewelry available in the market; some made from old aluminum cans and ring pulls, others made from reused silver and gold pieces. Artisans are creating bags made of recycled tires, and decorative sculptures are hammered out from old oil barrels.

Stay tuned for my next post, the second in this series, where you will read about a Haitian artisan who is creating new beauty out of old oil drums.

Here’s your weekly roundup of the latest news and updates related to Fair Trade:


Ben Cohen shows off his t-shirt with Fair Trade logo

Ben & Jerry appeared on The Late Night Show with Jimmy Fallon recently where they introduced a new ice cream flavor with Fair Trade ingredients. It’s called “Late Night Snack” and features Jimmy Fallon’s mug on the packaging.

You won’t believe what’s in this new concoction. Would you believe potato chips and caramel are two key ingredients? (How could I make that up?!)

This TV segment was one of the best endorsements for Fair Trade we’ve seen lately. You can watch it here. The label featured in this segment is Fair Trade USA‘s Fair Trade label.

Jimmy Fallon pointing out the Fair Trade label

During the segment, Ben proudly sported a Fair Trade logo-emblazoned t-shirt and mentioned the term “Fair Trade” 11 times (I counted.) This number doesn’t include “Fair Trade” mentions by Jimmy or Jerry.

You can read more about what lead up to this Fair Trade-erific TV segment in this press release.

As Jimmy Fallon pointed out (literally) regarding the Fair Trade label on Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, “This is a big deal right here.”


Make a Hershey Spoof Slogan, Ad, or Video. Have a little creative fun with the Raise the Bar Hershey Campaign!

Create a mock ad, tagline, or video asking Hershey to end pervasive child and forced labor and trafficking in the cocoa fields and replace it with Fair Trade, which prohibits these practices.

The three entry categories are:

  1. Slogan/tagline
  2. Advertisement, up to 8.5×11
  3. Video, up to 2 minutes

Deadline for submissions: March 24, 2011

The Raise the Bar Hershey Campaign will use the submissions in their campaign.  To learn more about the campaign, visit Once submissions are in, those who participate will be invited to vote on the winners.

Check out the prizes involved:

Visit the Raise the Bar Hershey Campaign coordinating organization websites for contest information and rules, how to submit your entry, information about brand jamming and examples of other brand jamming campaigns, and ideas and information to get you started, including Hershey ads and slogans that you can parody. These are the coordinating organizations:

Fair World Project’s free semi-annual publication For a Better World hits the stands this month at Whole Foods, plus cooperative grocery stores and hundreds of other places throughout the country. The Fair World Project promotes organic and fair trade practices and transparent third-party certification of producers, manufacturers and products, throughout the world.

Here’s a description of this publication from the Fair World Project website:

Featuring articles from a variety of perspectives; from farmer workers to 100% committed fair trade brands to deciphering certification schemes and trade organizations, “For a Better World” is an excellent resource to educate consumers.

Request the Fair World Project publication for free distribution here or download a pdf version right now here.

Check back each week right here on our Fair Trade blog for more Fair Trade News Round-Ups…your one-stop shop for current Fair Trade news and events. And if you’ve got big Fair Trade news to share, email me!