After I had my first child 30 years ago on the feast of St Valentine, another overly commercial occasion, I sometimes looked enviously at my friends when they received a new set of pyjamas or a pretty scarf on Mother’s Day.
But on the whole I was content with breakfast in bed and the homemade cards and gifts created by the kids at school.
This Mother’s Day I’m sure there will be plenty of flowers and boxes of chocolates being delivered to mums and grandmas.
If I were buying chocolates or, better still, being given them, I would be very happy if they were from Haigh’s. The family-owned business is one of South Australia’s most iconic brands and we all know how good the chocolate tastes!
But it is also pleasing to know that Haigh’s is working hard to ensure its supply chain is as ethical and slavery-free as possible through its partnership with Rainforest Alliance.
The Mother’s Day range this year has a distinctly South American flavour, reflecting the fact that a large proportion of its cocoa beans are grown in this part of the world.
What a great prompt for discerning consumers to think more carefully about where the chocolate they enjoy so much is coming from, and what sort of farming practices are being used to produce the base ingredient.
With Australians consuming more than $3 billion worth of chocolate each year – an average of 32kg per person – issues of child labour, deforestation and poverty in chocolate production is high on the radar of groups such as Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH).
According to ACRATH, an estimated two million children work as labourers in cocoa harvesting around the world to meet this huge demand.
But the good news is that there are now more ethical chocolates available than ever before.
While Haigh’s Chocolates is only a relatively small player in the industry, it is among a number of manufacturers that have responded to calls for a more ethical industry.
Most of the world’s cocoa comes from small farms in West Africa, South America and Papua New Guinea and as Peter Millard, from Haigh’s, explains, it’s all about educating and assisting them to become more sustainable rather than having a heavy-handed approach. Certification programs such as Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade provide an incentive for the farmers to come on board.
Peter told me that while he had been uncomfortable from the perspective of his Christian values when concerns over the use of child labour and unsustainable farming were raised, he initially thought that it would be difficult for a small company like Haigh’s to do anything about it.
However, after sitting down with anti-slavery advocates and working through the complexities together, there had been a growing commitment among management and staff to address the issue.
There is, of course, a cost involved to the company and, ultimately, to the consumer and that’s where we come into play. When we buy that next chocolate treat to enjoy with our TV binge or choose a gift box for mum or grandma, we need to think about where those cocoa beans have come from. How are they being farmed and what impact will our decision have on the lives of people in some of the poorest countries in the world?
As Pope Francis would say, we need to listen to the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth.
For more information and resources, visit www.acrath.org.auJump to next article