Frequently Asked Questions
Since creating this site in July of 2005, we have received a
lot of emails from a lot of different people, and as sort of general response,
we want to thank everyone who has written us for their interest in this issue.
The vast majority of you expressed, in one fashion or another, your desire to
spread awareness about the problem of chocolate slavery and to work towards ending
it, and we are encouraged and appreciative of your responses to our own humble
efforts and eager to reiterate here our hope that you will continue to do
whatever you can to push for progress, however arduous the journey to justice
We'd also like to apologize to those of you who wrote whom
we did not write back to. The truth is, this site is essentially the work of
just two people, both of whom have full-time jobs, various hobbies, etc., and
while we have written a good many emails over the past few years, there have
also been more than a few that are no doubt still sitting here and there in my
in-box, opened (I have at least *read* every email, I think) but unanswered.
Which brings me to the primary point of this FAQ: we would
love to cut down on the number of emails we receive by answering some of the
more commonly asked questions right here and now. Not surprisingly, certain
questions get asked repeatedly by different people, so if we can answer some
those questions before you take the time to write – well, hopefully we'll all
save some time.
So, please take a few moments to check out the answers
below. If they do not manage to answer your question(s), then by all means feel
to drop us a line. We may be able to get back to you, but again, we're pretty
busy with life in general, so please don't be offended if we don't.
- I am writing a report for school/making a
video for a class project/interested in learning more about slavery in
chocolate production . . . could you tell me where I could find some information?
Well, that's pretty much the point of this entire website –
that is, to collect and present a ton of information about the problem of
slavery and other labor abuses in chocolate production.
So, did you look in our News and Information
section? We've got links to lots of articles and reports in there. How about
Chocolate page? We go into great detail there about how not to
contribute to the problem and how to be part of the solution. Try looking
through the whole site before writing us.
Put simply, we basically created this site to be a resource
for people, but we can't, like, do even more research for you, especially if
you haven't made the effort to look at what we've already provided.
- This site hasn't been updated in a long
time, so what's the deal? Is this even an issue anymore? Has slavery in
chocolate been eliminated by now?
This is kind of related to Question 1 above, though slightly more
understandable. If you're using a computer (which you almost certainly are if
you're reading this), then you've probably heard of search engines such as Google,
Yahoo, etc. Well, those are the very tools that we used to collect all the
information on this site – we don't have access to some secret stash of
information, we're not, like, actually living in Ivory Coast or receiving
updates directly from NGOs or journalists monitoring the situation. All we've
really got is a computer and access to the internet – same as you.
Now, in answer to that specific and very important question,
no, nothing we've seen suggests that the chocolate industry (as a whole) has cleaned up its act (see this report from June, 2008). And, while we do look from time to time for new news about what's
happening in regards to the problem, we haven't been particularly diligent
about adding new links every time the media or NGOs provide some sort of update
(which most often happens around chocolate-heavy holidays like Valentine's and
Halloween, incidentally). Again, we're fairly busy, and we didn't set ourselves
up to be the ever-vigilant arbiter and monitor of every development that might
occur (much as it may seem that way ;^).
So, you know, if you think there may be some more recent
news we haven't linked to here, I'd suggest you see what you can find with
Google or some other search engine. The internet's a powerful tool and makes it
pretty easy to find the latest info on just about anything if you know how to
That said, if there ever comes a time when slavery and other
abuses in the chocolate industry have been definitively stopped, then you can be sure that we'll do whatever we can to
plaster that news all over our homepage. Like, short of us having lost access
to the site or something weird like that, we'll certainly let you know as soon
as we do if chocolate slavery has, in fact, been stopped. Unfortunately, I
don't see that happening anytime real soon, and until you hear otherwise from a
really reliable source, you should assume that these terrible abuses continue.
- You've got a list of slavery-free chocolate,
but what about Hershey/Nestle/Godiva/etc.? Why didn't you include them?
Seriously? Did you seriously
somehow manage to find our email address and send a query but fail to get one
of the most basic points of the site – i.e., that the very chocolate you're
asking me about is quite likely tainted by some form of labor abuse?
Sorry to sound snarky – especially to those of you (the vast
majority, I'm sure) whose reading comprehension level is above that of the
average fourth grader – but I actually have received some emails like this,
and, well, they're a little frustrating, to put it mildly.
(Don't worry, though: I'm pretty much done whinging, and the questions that follow get increasingly
- Hi, I was looking at your site, and I want
to lead a protest to raise awareness about chocolate slavery. Do you have any
resources or materials that I could use to put this together?
First of all, thank
you for taking this issue to heart – it's gonna be
hard to change things without people like you, and we applaud any effort you're
willing to make to work for justice, whether it's quietly telling your friends
and family why you won't eat a Snickers bar, shouting with a bullhorn outside
of M&M's headquarters, or giving out Fair Trade chocolates to the kiddies
on Halloween. You can make a
difference, and you can help make
this world a better place for everyone.
That said, I gotta
encourage you to take a sort of do-it-yourself attitude about this. To say it
again, this website is essentially the work of just two people, and we simply
don't have the resources (much as we wish we did) to contribute to everyone who
has an idea about how to raise awareness, promote Fair Trade, etc. But hey, you
don't need us, right? Just get out there, give it a go, do whatever you can,
and know that there are more and more like-minded people the world over who
want you to succeed in winning more hearts and minds to this cause.
Of course, you're definitely welcome to use any and all of
the original material on this website if you think it will help. Feel free to
print out and distribute our essays, our list of good chocolates, our list of
charities, or anything else you can find that might be useful. (Also, see
- I've got a site of my own/work for a
company/group/co-op that promotes Fair Trade/labor rights/etc. . . . How about
a link exchange?
First of all, you are totally welcome to link to our site –
we created it to spread awareness, so anything that might help in that regard
is always appreciated. Also, we thank you and applaud you for interest in this
subject and for anything you're doing to make this world a happier place for
Again, though, we're very busy (notice a theme here? :^), so
please don't be surprised or offended if we don't get around to putting a link
to your site somewhere on ours.
- I own/work
for a company that makes Fair Trade chocolate. Could you please add us to your
We admire people who can run a business while making a point of not exploiting
other people (alas, it seems there are far too few such businesspeople out
there). But, again, please don't be offended if we don't get around to adding
your chocolate to our list.
As we made clear on the Slave-Free
Chocolate page when we created it, our list makes no claims to being
an exhaustive one, but we certainly hope that the site will benefit your
business, if even just indirectly, by making consumers aware of the distinction
between Fair Trade chocolate and less ethical stuff. Also, in the update
to the Slave-Free Chocolate page that we added when we added this FAQ, we
included a direct link to TransFair USA's list of Fair Trade chocolates and suggested that people look
there first, so if you are selling Fair Trade products (and assuming TransFair keeps their page reasonably up-to-date), you
hopefully won't miss out on any business or whatever as a result of our being
sort of flaky about updating our own list.
- I am a journalist working for a newspaper/magazine/television
program, and I was wondering if I could interview you about chocolate slavery?
Or [related], I am filmmaker putting together a documentary to raise awareness
about the problem of slavery in chocolate, and I was wondering if I could bat
around some ideas with you?
In fact, we've only received these sort of queries a couple of times. The first was from a
journalist writing for a magazine that seemed to have a pretty solid
circulation, and the second was from some film industry folks who had some
vague plans (from what I could tell) for a documentary. I said yes to the first
query and failed to get back to the other folks (which was effectively a no, I
guess). Let me explain why.
As I said, the magazine apparently has a pretty decent-sized
audience, and so I figured it would be silly to miss a chance to get this
site's messages and ideas out to that wider audience. Better still, the
reporter who wrote us had a very clear, straightforward request to simply
interview me over the phone for a half hour or so. In other words, I could see
exactly what she was asking of me and tell that it wouldn't require a great
deal of my time. So, the calculus was pretty easy: I could (hopefully) help a
lot of people learn more about this very disturbing problem by just spending a
lunch break chatting with someone over the phone. It would've been silly not to
Now, I do feel pretty bad about not getting back to the film
guys – they sounded pretty serious and on point – and I very nearly did reply.
On the other hand, it wasn't really clear what they wanted from us (beyond, as
I said, a kind of vague notion of discussing some ideas) or what, exactly, they
were going to be doing (making a film it seemed, but again, the email was
pretty nebulous). And, as I've said, we're pretty busy these days, so we don't
have much time to spend trying to figure out what other people's projects are
about. Ultimately, while I really would have liked to help, I was reluctant to
get involved in something that was so ill-defined, and after failing to get
back to them for several weeks, I sorta figured
they'd have gotten whatever info or help they needed from someone else.
Along these lines (and at the risk of sounding a little
snooty :), we don't really wanna get involved in
relatively small-scale projects. This isn't because we don't wanna encourage everybody to do whatever they can – even
telling a single person about the issue or buying a single Fair Trade product
is great – it's just that we have a limited amount of time, and so have to
measure whatever time we can offer against the impact we think it will have.
So, if you're doing a speech for your 20-person class at school, that's
excellent – that's 20 more people (potentially) who never knew about this issue
but will know something now, and hopefully some of them will alter their
behavior in a positive way – but we probably won't be able to make any additional
effort (that is, beyond all the effort we've already put into this site) to
help you with your presentation. If, on the other hand, your part of some
organization that has the resources to do a protest/make a film/write an
article that could reach hundreds or thousands of people, well then we'd
certainly be more inclined to pitch in. This isn't so much a question of being
big-headed (at least I hope not :^), just one of being busy and, to be honest,
a little lazy sometimes. Like anyone else, we basically have to pick our
battles and spend our time wisely.
So, the basic take-away from all these questions and answers
is pretty clear: while we would like to answer every email we get and help out
with every project anyone proposes, we simply haven't got the time, so unless
you'd like our help with something pretty major, we might not be able to get
back to you.
That said, we are very encouraged by the response to the
site thus far (I think we were approaching 100,000 unique visitors when I last
checked the stats), and hope that you find it useful and informative. Because
in the end, the whole point of the site is just to make some difference,
however small, in the lives of the people who make chocolate, to help make sure
that they are treated with the dignity and fairness with which we would all
like to be treated. So hey, even if this FAQ itself seems filled with a bunch
of excuses about why we can't get more involved in this effort ourselves, we
hope that you will do something,
anything, to get us all a little closer to the sort of just world in which we
would all like to live.