Is all Whittakers chocolate child labour free?

Note from August 2020: this article is now out of date. Whittakers is now sourcing almost all their cocoa through Rainforest Alliance. This means that almost all* their cocoa now has robust checking for child labour. It is a disappointment that their 250g milk and dark blocks are no longer Fairtrade certified: Fairtrade has stronger human welfare standards than Rainforest Alliance, plus it covers the sugar in the blocks, not just the cocoa. However, it is great that almost the entire range* is now free of child labour in its cocoa supply.

* they’re not sourcing through Rainforest Alliance for their single-origin blocks (other than single-origin Ghanaian), so their Samoan and Nicaraguan blocks aren’t Rainforest Alliance certified. We are confident that the Samoan blocks (of which there are currently two) are also free of child labour, but don’t know about the Nicaraguan ones.

We had a question recently about Whittakers. Our cocoa guide highlights that only their 250g ‘creamy milk’ and ‘dark Ghana’ blocks are Fairtrade certified. On their website, Whittakers says: “we only source our other beans from the Ghana Cocoa Board, which is committed to ensuring the cocoa industry there is conducted in a socially responsible manner.”

Is this good enough? We don’t think so.

The Ghana Cocoa Board does try and improve working conditions for cocoa farmers and get kids off farms and into schools, although such things aren’t on their list of main objectives. In addition, they’re woefully underfunded and badly organised, meaning that they don’t really achieve any of their objectives very well. Almost all non-fair-trade Ghanaian cocoa is sold through them. There are currently more than 700,000 kids working in the cocoa industry in Ghana (about 40% of the workforce), so heaps of the Ghana Cocoa Board’s cocoa is produced by child labour, regardless of their aspirations.

If Whittakers only social responsibility strategy is to source their cocoa through the Ghana Cocoa Board, there’s no way they can be confident their non-Fairtrade chocolate is child labour free.

This all basically comes down to money. When Whittakers buys cocoa through Fairtrade, they pay extra partly so that farmers earn more (which means they don’t need to send their kids out to work) and partly so that people actually go out to the farms and check on working conditions. When they buy cocoa through the Ghana Cocoa Board, they’re hoping the government of one of the world’s poorest countries will sort those things out for them for free. It’s not super-surprising that that’s not working.