By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

If you want to act on your concern for the environment and human rights this Halloween, give treats that come from reputable local or Fair Trade vendors.

That could mean foregoing some familiar brands.

Hershey’s, under fire for some time over allegations that it fails to ensure its cocoa sources treat labor fairly, came out dead last this week on the “Get Child Labor Out of Your Chocolates Scorecard” by Green America.

Make Halloween more fair with Fair Trade Chocolate (Photo: Sweet Earth Chocolate)

The scorecard, readied in time for Halloween, is designed to help consumers buy more responsibly sourced chocolate that’s been certified as Fair Trade.

Fair Trade chocolate requires wholesalers to treat laborers fairly, and forbids forced or child labor and other abusive work practices.

The scorecard lists several brands that got an “A” for being certified Fair Trade vendors — and designates which ones sell bite size candies:

Other brands with high marks included Green and Black’s Fair Trade Maya Gold bar and Dagoba’s Conacado Bar.

The adjudicators at the nonprofit Green America gave a “D” to Kraft, Mars and Nestles offerings, and an “F” to Hershey.

Hersheys reported solid third quarter earnings this week, but did not issue a response to the Green America report card either on its website or in its third quarter report.

Kraft and Mars ranked lower on the report card because the certification they rely upon, the Rainforest Alliance, is a weaker verification system. Although it forbids unfair labor practices, it does not require buyers to pay a specific minimum price for cocoa beans and only 30 percent of the primary ingredient needs to be certified to earn the label. Mars, however, has announced it will be strengthening supply chain controls.

Green America suggests that consumers look for the Fair Trade candy locally, as well as online, and keeps a list of local Fair Trade chocolate, coffee and sugar retailers.

Those who want to know more about labor abuses in the cocoa supply chain (cocoa is sourced from Latin America and Africa) may want to see the movie The Dark Side of Chocolate, by filmmakers Miki Mistrati and U. Robin Romano, who traveled to cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire to document worker exploitation.

Equal Exchange also carries a reading list of sources for those who want to learn more about child labor abuses in the cocoa/chocolate industries.

On Halloween, thousands of older children participate in “Reverse Trick or Treating” to champion the cause of cocoa workers. Global Exchange sponsors and carries the details about this information campaign, in which kids distribute fliers about the problem while handing a Fair Trade treat to people who greet them at the door.

Abuse of child cocoa laborers in parts of Africa have been documented in a report by The Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University. The center released its fourth annual report on the issue on Sept. 30. Researchers found that many workers, particularly in Cote d’Ivoire, were children living away from their parents. “Virtually all” had experienced verbal, physical and sexual abuse, according to Green America.

Green America Corporate Social Responsiblity Director Todd Larsen explained in a statement that his group wants the parents who buy chocolate to know they can do something to fight child labor practices by spending their money differently.

“While Hershey pays its CEO $8 million annually, the company is doing little to end the practice of forced child labor in cocoa-growing regions, where many children are not paid for their labor and are abused,” Larsen said. “This corporate giant is hoping that parents will throw up their hands and just go along as they always have in the past.  Our message is simple:   You can be sure that you are not putting child slave labor in your child’s Halloween bag or those of other children.”

Green America, based in Washington D.C., aims to create a more just and sustainable society and work marketplace.

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