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Why small change needs big thanks

World Vision
18 May 2013 by Ruth Dearnley
Why small change needs big thanks

Cocoa hangs on a tree, waiting to be harvested. As World Vision’s Ruth Dearnley explains, it’s time to look a little closer at the supply chain of our favourite chocolates snacks.

There’s no doubt we’re a chocolate-loving nation. I remember coming back to work after the Easter break, arguably the peak weekend for chocolate lovers, and finding my inbox and voicemail full of messages from people asking where they could find fair trade chocolate and which companies were okay to buy from.

It can be confusing. On one hand, you’re told to avoid certain companies, then you hear they’ve done something good on an issue you’re passionate about. This has been the case recently with the chocolate industry – and in particular Nestlé.

Three months ago, Nestlé announced that all cocoa in their confectionery products in Australia and New Zealand will be certified by UTZ Certified. This means Nestle has committed to ensuring their supply chains are free of forced, trafficked and child labour. World Vision, and I personally, welcomed the announcement.

Some people were confused by this – others a little angry – given that the company has a reported reputation in some quarters for poor ethical standards.

While World Vision doesn’t endorse unethical practices by any company, I still believe that when any company makes small, but significant changes, they need big thanks.

Over 50 percent of the world’s cocoa is purchased by the big chocolate companies. The majority comes from West Africa, where notorious labour rights abuses and child labour have been  known to take place.

By sourcing 100 percent of their cocoa through UTZ Certified, Nestlé raised the bar for the big chocolate companies. They finally showed – after 12 years of saying they would – that better practice is possible.

I strongly believe that we should celebrate these announcements. It is my role to highlight changes to issues of primary concern to our supporters – in this case, forced, child and trafficked labour in the cocoa industry.

We know that you want to make informed decisions based on the issues that matter to you. That is why we provide resources like our Chocolate Scorecard showing how big chocolate companies are progressing in their commitments and the Good Chocolate Guide to help you locate ethical chocolate (from small and large companies). We won’t tell you what to buy – but we will share what we know!

Is Nestle’s job done? Absolutely not. Will we stop pressuring them and other organisations for evidence of better practices? No, we will not.

Standards in the cocoa industry are still not what they should be. There are many other areas where multinational companies could pull up their collective socks – from their environmental impacts, to invasive marketing tactics, through to labour practices and much more.

Social activism is a wonderful way to ensure these issues stay in the public eye, and encourage companies to make changes. But while we continue to campaign for better corporate behaviour, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give credit where it’s due.

Alongside our active pressure for change, we need to say thanks – to show that we care when companies do take action – and encourage them to do more.

Ruth Dearnley is World Vision Australia’s Campaign Leader for Child Protection and Trafficking in Persons.

Ruth Dearnley Ruth Dearnley

Ruth is the former Public Advocacy Manager at World Vision Australia and a passionate advocate for all the little things we can all do to make a more just world.


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