It took the threat of an embarrassing Super Bowl ad, but Hershey is finally starting to act like it gives a damn about forced child labor being a major ingredient in its cocoa.
The company recently announced it would start buying only Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa for its Bliss Chocolate products starting later this year. The Rainforest Alliance is a reputable nonprofit whose certification system will help ensure that the cocoa is grown sustainably, which includes the monitoring of forced and child labor.
Coincidentally, Hershey's change of heart (after a decade of foot dragging) came a week after Raise the Bar campaign partner the International Labor Rights Forum announced its intention to broadcast a JumboTron ad critical of Hershey's cocoa supply chain outside the Indianapolis stadium where the Super Bowl took place.
But hey, sometimes it takes a stick rather than a carrot. I just hope the company quickly moves to certify the cocoa for its regular bars, not to mention its other brands, like Reese's, KitKat, and Almond Joy.
In other positive Hershey news, GreenBiz.com reports that the chocolate maker has achieved zero waste at four of its Pennsylvania facilities. However, I'd be more impressed if they weren't incinerating the 10 percent of their waste that is organic. Why not go for industrial composting?
It's Halloween night, the kids are in bed, and if I don't write something right now, the whole month of October will have passed with no new post. So I'll keep it short and sweet.
Lots of conscious-consumer stories are written this time of year about reverse trick-or-treating, a campaign started by Global Exchange in which kids give Fair Trade chocolates and printouts about the ills of the cocoa industry to folks handing out treats. I like the motivation behind it, but I can't help but think that it comes across as a bit smug and holier-than-thou. Not to mention that if you're going to be ethical while trick-or-treating, shouldn't the kid also refuse any Hershey's? Which... yeah, that's not happening.
My big take-away from Halloween this year is how much it fosters neighborliness. Not only did we have a great time trick-or-treating with friends from our neck of the woods, but it was lovely chatting with some of the people who live in the houses I walk by every day. And seeing the local merchants getting into the spirit and plying all the kids with treats was a tangible reminder of how connected we all are and why I like to buy local.
I rarely buy Hershey's chocolate, as I prefer the really dark stuff (which Hershey's doesn't make). But a bigger-picture reason to not give the storied American brand your money is that it sources much of its cocoa from Ivory Coast, where forced child labor is rampant in that industry. Hershey's, which commands 42.5 percent of the U.S. chocolate market, isn't doing a very good job, compared with its competitors (such as Cadbury/Kraft, Mars, and Nestle), of tracing cocoa purchasing and implementing labor rights standards in its supply chain. In fact, it's doing next to nothing.
Which is why it's the target of the "Raise the Bar, Hershey!" campaign, sponsored by nonprofits Green America, Global Exchange, and the International Labor Rights Forum. I've always been a sucker for culture jamming, so I was pleased to see that a central part of the campaign was a "brand-jamming" contest.
The winners were announced a couple days ago. I rather like Jason Pearson's winning entries in the "overall brand jam" (video below) and print ad (above) categories. Enjoy! And if you'd like to send Hershey's a message yourself, you can do so here (via Change.org).
Addendum: Following are more sources of ethical chocolate (thanks, Co-op America!).
Fair Trade Certified chocolate can be found at health
food stores and specialty markets across the country. To find a fair
trade retailer near you, visit the TransfairUSA website. If you can't find the brand you want locally, an excellent one-stop online source is the Global Exchange Store.
The following companies all sell fair trade chocolate products. Most (though not all) are also organic:
What could be more romantic than a dozen roses on February 14th?
Unfortunately, that bouquet starts to smell less sweet when you consider that it was most likely grown using toxic pesticides and handled by workers who probably weren’t given adequate protection against those chemicals. Oh, and those employees could easily have been children, or women illegally required to take a pregnancy test every month (and fired if they get a positive result).
The vast majority of flowers we Americans send our sweeties on Valentine’s Day are imported from Colombia and Ecuador, where it’s common for farms engage in the less-than-fragrant practices mentioned above, plus others. (For more info, check out the International Labor Rights Forum’s Fairness in Flowers campaign. While you’re there, sign the petition telling Dole to stop union-busting at flower farm Fragrancia—the link is in the third sidebar on the right.)
Only within the past couple of years have I been made aware of these ethical considerations. Many people, I think, have no idea. And the biggest U.S. company in the cut-flower industry, FTD, isn’t helping.
If you visit FTD.com, you’ll see that it does have an “Eco-Friendly” product category. But it looks like nothing more than greenwashing to me. Emblazoned across the webpage is a logo that features a recycling logo and the words “Go Green Living,” along with this meaningless copy:
In an effort to embrace the ever-changing needs of our consumer and our
society, FTD proudly presents “Go Green Living.” A movement that is
making us aware of the way we have and continue to effect our planet,
we recognize the need for natural, fresh, sustainable or organic
products to be made available to our customers. Send these stunning
bouquets, gourmet treats and gorgeous gifts to not only delight your
recipient, but make a statement about the importance of protecting the
beautiful earth we inhabit.
I called FTD to ask what, if anything, the Go Green Living designation means. Under what conditions are Go Green flowers grown? Are there publicly available standards I can read? Is this a certification program?
“They are certified sustainable,” the customer-service rep I spoke with said.
“By whom?” I asked.
“Um... [keyboard sounds] It doesn’t say by who,” she replied. “I believe Go Green is a service provided by FTD.”
“But you guys are the ones selling the flowers,” I pointed out. “Of course you’re going to say they’re sustainable.” For a certification system to have any teeth, I added, it has to be operated by an independent party.
The sad thing is that North America does have a highly regarded certification system for sustainable flowers, and I’m sure that FTD’s executives know this. It’s called VeriFlora. Its website discusses its criteria (which span environmental and social responsibility categories), and it’s managed by Scientific Certification Systems, a certification company that specializes in audits across a number of industries.
According to an interesting article on ethical flowers in the new issue of Plenty magazine, about 30 percent of the stems sold by Canada’s largest floral distributor, Sierra Flower Trading, are VeriFlora-certified. Why is FTD lagging?
I told the customer-service rep that I and countless other consumers would love to see FTD offer VeriFlora bouquets. She promised she’d put a recommendation into the company’s system. While you’re at it, tell them to get rid of that Go Green Living nonsense, I added.
So where is a conscious consumer to go for flowers? Here are some options:
Organic Bouquet (the flower arm of eco-boutique Organic Style) has some VeriFlora offerings; a search on the term yielded 43 results.
Even more selection might be found at California Organic Flowers, which sells stems grown in the Golden State
certified as organic by both the USDA and the more stringent California Certified Organic
Diamond Organics’ floral offerings are also mostly from California, and a company rep told me the flowers are definitely USDA-certified and probably also CCOF-certified organic.
Meanwhile, Flowerbud.com has 22 VeriFlora bouquets, though strangely it doesn’t trumpet that fact very loudly.
Lastly, mainstream 1800flowers.com sells one lonely fair-trade rose bouquet, certified by TransFair USA.
In November I encouraged readers to take part in a photo project highlighting the ills of unethically sourced cocoa. Mr. Wallet Mouth and I did, and we had a great (and messy) time spitting up M&Ms.
Now the artist behind the portraits, April Banks, is showing the first installment of the ongoing project as part of a group exhibition at the Headlands Center for the Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. The opening reception takes place this Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. (plenty of time to make it to your Superbowl Sunday party before the game).
As if in response to my New Year’s rumination about a tipping point in consumer attitudes on values and spending, SustainableBusiness.com just published a piece about a recent study indicating that conscious consumerism is catching on.
Miss me? I haven’t been neglecting you, I’ve just been away. It’s always refreshing to leave the States for a little while and rinse off all that America über Alles. This time it was Venice, where Mr. Wallet Mouth and I just had a romantic getaway to celebrate our last days as a twosome. (In less than three months, we will have another Mouth to feed.)
The city of canals has always been a tourists’ mecca, so I didn’t really expect any mind-altering shifts in perspective. Nonetheless, between our many helpings of gelato (baby needs calcium!) and during our meanders through countless piazzas and ever-narrower streets, a few blog-worthy moments surfaced.
One was encountering this graffito. (OK, I feel slightly self-conscious whipping out the rarely used singular form of “graffiti,” but hey, that’s what it was.) Anyway, it warmed my heart to see that some kindred spirit out there shares my obsession and outrage over the opaqueness of corporate parentage. It almost made me want to add a footnote (pun intended) suggesting No Sweat sneakers as an alternative.
Later, we happened upon this store—sadly, after it had closed for the day. Apparently everything it sells is fair trade, made by artisans all over the world (and there were some neat things inside; my eye was caught by a pair of Mongolian-made slippers with elvish upward-curving pointy tips). The fact that all the wares are fair trade is remarkable by itself, but what really struck me were shop’s appearance—nice, spacious, and emanating a Real Store vibe—and its location: right by the Rialto Bridge, one of the more touristy parts of Venice. It would be the equivalent of having a fair-trade shop in Fishermans Wharf, which I find hard to imagine.
Finally, look at the vegetarian and vegan check boxes on this canister of Pringles. Why don’t we have those on American Pringles? (At least I think we don’t; it’s been a long time since I’ve bought them.)
No doubt because Europe is kilometers ahead of us on the food-labeling front...
(And yes, sigh, I know Pringles are not good for baby. But Mr. Wallet Mouth claims he simply could not resist their Pringley goodness while on vacation!)
A recent article in Slate discusses an intriguing experiment that suggests businesses can increase profits by offering products labeled as having been produced in a socially conscious manner.
More testing is needed, since the trial took place in a New York City store with a progressive reputation and customers who tend to be wealthier than average. But the proposition that there is a quantifiable unmet consumer demand for fairly made products is exciting.
My minor but nagging question—were the items
the researchers labeled as fair-labor in the experiment actually produced under fair and safe conditions?—gets an affirmative answer in the research paper itself (pdf). Also notable there is the list of retailers that declined to participate in the experiment for fear of drawing attention to the issue of labor standards: Abercrombie and Fitch, Adidas, American Eagle, Eastern Mountain Sports, Free People, Gap, the Harvard / MIT Coop, J. Crew, Marshall’s, Nike, Patagonia, Target, Timberland, Urban Outfitters, and Wal-Mart.
December 2010 I haven't actually bought anything from Po-Zu yet, but I appreciate their awareness of the fact that many vegan shoes are made of petroleum products and aren't necessarily better for the environment than leather footwear. Po-Zu seems to set a high bar for itself when it comes to ingredients and supply chains.
March 2010 After running out of dish soap, I started using our good old bars of Sappo Hill out of necessity. But you know what? Our dishes are just as clean, and when I pick up the soap at our grocery store, the only packaging on the bars is the price tag. And did I mention the soap is awesome? We love the oatmeal bar.
February 2010 TMI alert: If you're a squeamish guy, read no further. I'm done with tampons! Instead, I'm using the DivaCup.
January 2010 Mr. Wallet Mouth and I both love Pact. Its underwear is made of organic cotton, and the company donates 10% of its sales to worthy environmental causes. Not only that, but the company is serious about eco-friendly packaging. Each pair of undies comes not in a plastic bag but in a little cloth pouch made from fabric remnants. I'm also impressed with how responsive Pact is over email; when I asked a packaging question, I got a nice reply from the CEO.
December 2009 After reading about Skoy Cloths, the biodegradable paper-towel alternative, on Fake Plastic Fish, I bought a bunch for stocking stuffers and my own kitchen, and I'm now a fan. They're lasting a long time, despite repeated washings in the laundry, and they arrive with minimal packaging.
October 2009 I was already of fan of Straus yogurt (see June 2007), but now I love it even more. According to Michael Straus, a son of the company's founder, Straus yogurt "is made, cooled, and set in stainless-steel vats, unlike most yogurts, which are poured while still hot into plastic cups to cool and set." As someone who's concerned about plastics and chemical safety, I'm happy to hear that!
July 2009 I'm using a lot more baking soda now that I'm making more of an effort to clean the house in a nontoxic way. But from now on I'll be buying Bob's Red Mill, since Arm & Hammer engages in animal testing.
July 2008 Started feeling extra-good about buying one of my fave meat substitutes, Tofurky, after learning that its maker, Turtle Island Foods, is an independent, family-owned company (Unlike Boca Foods, which is a subsidiary of Kraft, and Morningstar, which is owned by Kellogg).
April 2008 I'm going to start buying my canned beans from Eden Foods, for two reasons: it uses custom-made cans that don't contain bisphenol A, and it's an independent, family-operated company.
February 2008 From now on, whenever I order takeout or ask for a doggy bag, I’ll make sure to avoid #6 polystyrene containers (and, of course, Styrofoam).