BLOG: Boycott or not? Part I.
To boycott or…not?
by Carys Barry
After reading the about the child exploitation and the horrendous abuses that go into making our chocolate we are left asking what difference we can make. One option is to boycott.
What does it mean to boycott?
Boycotting chocolate would mean that you refrain from buying products involved in the slave trade. This boycott could manifest in three ways. The most extreme would be to boycott all cocoa after this it is to boycott all that is grown in Africa and thus only buying chocolate produced in South America or Latin America which is known to be slavery-free. Less extreme would be to boycott a single company whose part in the slave trade is viewed as worse than other companies.
Reasons to boycott
Due to the extremity of the atrocities that go into producing chocolate some people see it as an obvious step to boycott in one form or another. Companies respond to consumer voices and market forces. If there is no demand, then there will be no supply. Therefore boycotters believe that the more we do the more the companies will do and the stronger the message the bigger incentive to change.
Luxury. Some see that as chocolate is not a necessity but a luxury that it cannot be justified to indulge in something that funds child exploitation.
Companies that have done nothing to combat slavery in their supply chains despite overwhelming evidence. Boycotters feel that these companies need to be chastised for their deceit and moral failure. They do not deserve our business. This is given further credence by the fact that it is essentially down to corporations’ greediness. Corporations receive 70% of the profits and cut costs by low pay, creating the conditions that encourage child slavery. They are making an active choice to put their profits ahead of the life of a child.
Companies that have only made superficial changes. Many companies are making changes however they may not be doing enough or may not be targeting the real issues. The amount of money the corporations make on the back of this exploitation should lead to them investing as much profit as it takes to completely eradicate this issue. Yet not one company is doing that and many are investing in the wrong thing. Tulane universities study shows that companies’ charity efforts are not having a broad impact on improving life of children as they are not investing in education and not investing enough money. We also need to hold them accountable to their promises.
The question remains that if you find the reasons for boycotting persuasive, what kind of boycotting should we partake in?
Some believe that as a luxury our indulgence is unjustified if it at all supports the slave trade and because we cannot be sure it is not produced by slaves we should boycott them all. However, this may be impractical and some view this as extreme as there are other ways to make our consumer voice heard.
Some believe that abstaining from all cocoa produced in West Africa means that we are likely to have slavery-free chocolate and thus we are in no way supporting the slave trade. However, this may be difficult to trace as a lot of the cocoa is mixed and much chocolate is not currently adequately labelled.
Others believe that focusing on a singular company can have a bigger impact and has an exact end point. For example if a chocolate corporation currently does nothing to guarantee that its supply chain is slavery free, when it traces it we can reward the company by starting to buy their product. Furthermore, it sets a clear example to other companies. Despite being exact and providing a specific tangible goal, by not boycotting all companies we would be still investing in the slave trade in other companies.