by Anne Rackow
Last week’s Indigenous People’s Day, a holiday formally known as Columbus Day, made us realize a couple things. First, the meaning behind some holidays are not as celebration-worthy as we might think. And second, holidays can offer great opportunities for socially-conscious companies to celebrate in ways that align with their values.
With Halloween right around the corner, we did some research around the social justice issues that companies can address while celebrating on October 31st. In doing so, we discovered that many of the cocoa plantations and popular chocolate brands that make some of trick-or-treater’s favorite candies have a few skeletons in their closets, to say the least.
Halloween festivities often include dressing up in costumes, eating candy, and trying to scare each other with tricks, horror films, and haunted houses. But to us, one of the scariest things about Halloween is the number of human rights violations that have been committed in the making of many of the most common Halloween treats, specifically those of the chocolate variety.
What do we mean by that? According to Green America, 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, where forced labor and child labor have been documented on cocoa farms for nearly two decades. It is well-documented that during the growing and harvesting of cocoa, many children are exploited, abused, exposed to hazardous chemicals, and prohibited from going to school. Doing a simple Google search on this topic will provide you with an overwhelming number of articles and documentaries on the issue.
While this is a problem year-round, Halloween presents a uniquely valuable opportunity for consumers to make an impact as a result of the dramatic uptick in chocolate sales around the holiday. Each year, Halloween shoppers spend a total of $2.1 billion on candy and almost 75% of Americans say that chocolate is their favorite Halloween treat, resulting in over a billion dollars being spent on chocolate alone.
Considering that about 75% of American households hand out Halloween candy, many of your colleagues and employees will likely pass out treats on October 31st. And the sharing of candy is not limited to one night of trick-or-treating. In fact, up to 57% of Americans will have candy bowls in their homes or offices during the Halloween season. Co-workers often share treats in the break room around holidays, and most people know at least one co-worker with a not-so-secret candy drawer.
This year, we encourage you to spread awareness around the issue of slave labor in the chocolate industry, and inspire your employees to be ethical consumers. Here are a few suggestions on how your company can ethically celebrate Halloween around the office:
Educate your employees
- Host a lunch-and-learn where employees can spend their lunch hour listening to a presentation or watching a brief documentary such as The Dark Side of Chocolate, which also offers corresponding discussion questions and preparation materials.
- Share informational handouts, or relevant articles in break rooms, on community boards, and in other shared spaces.
- Put these ethically-sourced chocolates in everyone’s company mailbox or on their desk with these informational flyers attached.
- Include a special feature section in the company newsletter or send a company-wide email that shares information on the topic, including links to further reading and what they can do, including where they can buy ethical chocolate.
Take action as a company and encourage your employees to do the same
- Raise money for organizations like Slave Free Chocolate that are actively combatting this issue. Put a collection box in the breakroom or use an online platform, such as Generosity by Indiegogo to make it easy for staff to give.
- Make sure that any chocolate, or coffee for that matter, purchased or sold by your company is ethically produced.
- Encourage your employees to hand out ethically-sourced chocolate or locally-produced, non-chocolate treats on Halloween.
Start the conversation on social media
- Share information and resources such as those mentioned above on your company’s social media platforms, as appropriate.
- Encourage employees to share information and show support on their personal social media networks. You could even incentivize them with a prize of ethically-sourced chocolate or some other treat!
Do you have a favorite ethical chocolate brand or additional suggestions on what companies can do to have an impact this Halloween? If so, please share with us by: