The aisle of giant chocolate Easter bunnies in the grocery store probably doesn't make most people think of child labor in West Africa. A new ad campaign makes the connection a little more obvious: Instead of a sculpted bunny or egg, the chocolate is formed in the shape of a child working on a cocoa plantation.
Around 1.8 million children work on West African plantations now, growing the cocoa that the chocolate industry makes into candy for children elsewhere.
"In the cocoa industry as a whole, people know there have been issues for a long time," says Sean McHugh, executive director of the Canadian Fair Trade Network, which produced the campaign with the creative agency Rethink Communications.
"There have even been agreements between public and private sector actors in the past, trying to put pathways forward to create some change, and so little change has occurred…most of the industry is controlled by three or four of the big players, like Nestle, Hershey, Cadbury—who have a lot of power to create change, but aren't necessarily doing it."
The campaign was designed to point consumers to Fair Trade chocolate instead, where companies pay people working in the field a living wage. If that happened more broadly, children wouldn't have to have jobs and might be able to go to school instead.
"If people were making enough money, then children wouldn't have to work," says McHugh. "If people were making a legitimate salary, countries would be able tax more effectively. If they were able to tax more effectively, they might be able to put in place better school systems. I think there's a whole array of better ways to go about it…we can do better."
The campaign also handed out free hot chocolate on a university campus this week, inside heat-sensitive cups that revealed a message about child labor in the industry.
To make the Easter chocolate, the team melted down Fair Trade chocolate, sculpted it, and then repurposed a bunny package.
"It's pushing it," McHugh says of the campaign. "Our messaging is generally quite positive, focusing on Fair Trade being a good thing and a very easy thing for people to do. But I think every once and a while we need to remind people that there are a lot of challenges. The reality of Easter chocolate...I think a lot of people are just buying it without thinking. There's real hypocrisy in giving chocolate to children when the chocolate has been picked by children."