Nestle’s move into the fair trade chocolate market in the United Kingdom and Ireland received a cautious welcome from activists who have protested people-trafficking and forced child labor.
On Dec. 7, the chocolate giant announced the four-fingered versions of its KitKat bars will be the first to achieve the fair trade certification in January in the U.K. Fair trade chocolate bars are made from cocoa beans that are bought for a fair price from farmers.
The move will benefit 6,000 farmers in the Ivory Coast, the country where Nestle receives its cocoa. The west African country produces 40 percent of the world’s cocoa; one in four people there directly or indirectly depends on cocoa farming.
“We are relieved for the cocoa farmers and children in Ivory Coast,” according to the Rev. Steve Chalke, a Baptist minister and founder of Stop the Traffik, an international movement that has long called for Nestle to ensure its cocoa is traffic-free and fairly traded.
KitKat represents about one-fourth of Nestle’s candy sales in Britain and is the second most popular chocolate bar after Cadbury PLC’s Dairy Milk bar, the Wall Street Journal reported. Cadbury had switched to fair-trade chocolate for its Dairy Milk bars earlier this year.
Major chocolate producers have been accused over the last decade “of paying poor farmers too little and turning a blind eye to suppliers’ use of child labor,” the newspaper reported.
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Nestle’s announcement is one of the largest fair-trade launches in the 15-year-old free trade movement in the U.K. and follows the company’s October launch of an initiative to increase support for cocoa farmers, called the Cocoa Plan. The plan represents a $122.8 million investment over the next 10 years to address the economic, social and environmental issues facing cocoa farming communities.
In a recent issue of The Baptist Times, David Rennie, managing director for Nestle Confectionary U.K. and Ireland, said the fair trade move is part of the company’s “long-term commitment to improve the lives of cocoa farming communities.”
Thousands of young children are trafficked and enslaved to harvest cocoa in the Ivory Coast, according to Stop the Traffik. While it has welcomed Nestle’s move, it noted the fair trade certification applies to only one of Nestle’s chocolate products.
“The surrender of Nestle demonstrates that by making a simple consumer choice, ordinary people can hold multinationals to account,” Chalke said.
But, Chalke continued, “though we understand that it is hard to make all products ethical overnight, we want to see that this is more than a token gesture.
“So we intend to keep the pressure on Nestle until their commitment is global and product-wide, like their competitor Mars. No chocolate should have the bitter aftertaste of slavery. Therefore, our campaign continues.”
This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.