Halloween: A spooky, thrilling and tasty time of the year.
As kids, we dashed around our neighbourhoods, collecting free candy in our bucket or pillowcase. Our stockpiles were impressive, ranging from gummies and hard candies to the larger chocolate bars we managed to score from the wealthier houses around the block.
We enjoyed stuffing our faces for the next few days or weeks with what we thought came from our neighbours. But have we ever stopped to think about where our candy really comes from?
Forced child labour
Many of us purchase bulk packs of chocolate bars to prepare for the countless kids that will come knocking on Oct. 31. We may notice that these products are owned by large, billion-dollar companies such as Nestlé.
However, most of us don’t realize that Nestlé has had three lawsuits filed against their company for both “allegedly failing to disclose its chocolate brands may use cocoa from unlawful child or slave labour” and aiding and abetting “child slavery under the Alien Tort Statute from their corporate offices in the U.S. for many years by knowingly purchasing cocoa harvested by child labours.”
“One worker informed the researchers that he had not received any salary for a year of work.”
Nestlé has stated that “Forced child labour is unacceptable and has no place in our supply chain. We have explicit policies against it and are working with other stakeholders to combat this global social problem.”
A report by the Fair Labor Association found 56 workers under the age of 18 at Nestlé farms in 2014. Twenty-seven of them were under 15 years old. One worker informed the researchers that he had not received any salary for a year of work.
Though the company has promised to end the use of forced child labour in its chain, litigation has dragged on for over a decade now, with previous suits being dismissed by the federal court in the past.
Don’t buy Nestlé products
What is our duty as a consumer? Not supporting companies that profit off child labour is one of the main things we can do to take action.
While purchasing products under Nestlé’s wide collection of brands is tempting and convenient (especially for Halloween), it’s important to think of those who are paying the real price.
Supporting a company like Nestlé, while perhaps indirect, is supporting illegal working conditions and unlawful workers.
“A more direct way to demand action is contacting legislators and companies to put pressure on ending child labour.”
Products with a FairTrade or GoodWeave label are important to look out for, as they are a marker for products that do not involve child labour.
FairTrade states that it is “about better prices, decent working conditions and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers.”
GoodWeave promises that it “brings visibility to global supply chains, gives voice to informal and marginalized workers, provides assurance that certified products are free of child labor, and restores childhood to vulnerable children so they can laugh, learn, and play.”
A more direct way to demand action is contacting legislators and companies to put pressure on ending child labour.
At the very least, educating ourselves is the first step we can take to combat child labour, whether it’s informing ourselves about the topic or figuring out which products we own and buy that stem from child labour.
This Halloween, it’s time we look closer at the chocolate and candy we think we know.