why I don't buy chocolate from Nestle or Hershey

boycott Nestle and Hershey

As a general rule, I'm not much of a food nazi beyond nagging my loved ones to eat their vegetables. Similarly, I've only participated in about 4 boycotts in my entire life as I understand that corporations exist to make profit and thus don't expect ethical behavior from them.

But I've made an exception in the case of chocolate: Nestlé values it's profits over the lives of poverty-stricken infants, which is just too much for me to accept. For years, my alternative was Hershey, until I discovered their chocolate was produced by child slave labor. I realize both of these statements are inflammatory as heck, but I will support them in this post.

I will also provide information on the alternatives I have found, cause let's get real, we can't live without chocolate! But we can live without supporting the killing of the third world's infants and the trafficking of it's children.

Nestlé promotes powdered infant formula in the third world

There's several problems with promoting powdered formula. First and foremost, breastfeeding is simply the best and healthiest start for all infants.

But powdered formula is particularly problematic in the third world, where many mothers cannot read the instructions, and even if they can, often do not have access to clean, potable water to mix the formula properly. Even when they do understand how to mix the formula and have clean water to do so, poverty often forces them to mix it thinly to stretch it.

The problematic behavior is providing free samples of powdered formula in third world hospitals and donating powdered formula to non-governmental organizations providing emergency aid. On the surface, this doesn't sound so bad, until you realize that using free formula results in a mother's milk drying up, making her dependent once the donated product is unavailable. Thus she is stuck buying formula she cannot afford and may not be able to mix properly.

Here's a brief summary of the boycott from Baby Milk Action:

Nestlé is the target of a boycott because it contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants around the world by aggressively marketing baby foods in breach of international marketing standards. Even Nestlé's Public Affairs Manager acknowledges the boycott has widespread support.

The World Health Assembly has adopted marketing requirements for baby foods to protect breastfeeding and to ensure breastmilk substitutes are used safely if necessary. As UNICEF has said:

"Marketing practices that undermine breastfeeding are potentially hazardous wherever they are pursued: in the developing world, WHO estimates that some 1.5 million children die each year because they are not adequately breastfed. These facts are not in dispute."

Although Nestlé does dispute the facts. See our briefing on Nestlé for the current situation, with images, links and references. The boycott will continue until Nestlé accepts and complies with Baby Milk Action's four-point plan for saving infant lives and ultimately ending the boycott.

Nestlé is singled out for boycott action as monitoring shows it to be responsible for more violations of the requirements than any other company. The boycott helps to stop some of the specific cases of malpractice we expose and has forced some changes in policy (see some examples here). But Nestlé continues systematic violations in those countries which have not yet brought in independently monitored and enforced legislation implementing the marketing requirements, which is another part of our strategy for protecting infant health and mothers' rights.

It's well worth spending some time reading about the boycott to understand what's at stake. Having done so, I don't buy any Nestlé products, ever; not even when they're on sale or for Halloween.

Hershey chocolate produced by child slave labor

I personally mostly eat dark chocolate and use cocoa for making things like cocoa/coconut oil concoctions or sugar-free chocolate syrup. But my husband always preferred milk chocolate, and since I was participating in the Nestlé boycott, I bought Hershey chocolate for him many years.

But a while back, after the documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate was released, the news spread that Hershey was buying cocoa from suppliers that are known to use forced child labor. Hershey was singled out as particularly culpable:

While some companies have agreed to various programs to trace their cocoa to the farm or cooperative and to begin to institute stronger labor standards for cocoa farmers, Hershey has lagged behind all of its competitors and has refused to agree to any such programs. (See page 9-12 of ILRF's latest report on the cocoa industry.) Hershey has even consistently rejected shareholder resolutions requesting the company to provide even a basic level of transparent information about its cocoa.

Additionally, Hershey has also been restructuring its global manufacturing so that it pushes responsibility for the processing of its chocolate products to other companies. This process has had a negative consequence on workplace safety, job security and union membership among much of the workforce that produce Hershey products. (Check out this recent article for more information.)

The reaction: a major stockholder sued them for damaging their reputation; Whole Foods dropped their artisan brand, Scharffen Berger; I quit buying their chocolate for Steve.

Hershey said it would start buying only certified fair trade chocolate by 2020; basically admitting it considered it OK to continue profiting from child slavery and flouting international law for another 8 years.

Certified Fair Trade chocolate

I'm uncertain if enslaving children is worse than killing babies, but I'm certain I don't want any part of either. So basically, this means we had to switch entirely to Certified Fair Trade chocolate.

I'm not going to lie to you; this stuff costs more. So we eat it a bit less often, but we eat it guilt-free.

I've always preferred dark chocolate, and my favorite is Endangered Species chocolate, especially the one with the turtle on the label which is 72% chocolate with dried blueberries. Yummy!

I bought quite a number of milk chocolates for Steve, but he turned out to most prefer Green and Black's and Dagoba varieties of milk chocolate.

I also buy Ah!laska cocoa and Sunspire chocolate chips.

The links above will take you to Amazon; if you buy that way, I will earn a few cents from your purchase, which will help my chocolate budget!

But honestly, it's unlikely to be necessary to buy from Amazon, most groceries carry this stuff; just look for the Fair Trade Certified logo. If your grocery doesn't carry any guilt-free chocolate, ask them to!

Disclosure: Affiliate