Case paper - Slavery in the Chocolate Industry
The case "Slavery in the Chocolate Industry" discusses labor exploitation in the chocolate industry. It specifically addresses the cocoa beans grown on farms in West Africa, especially the Ivory Coast and Ghana, which make up close to half of the world's chocolate. The cocoa farmers of these nations, however, often rely on slaves to harvest their beans, and in some cases, enslavement of young males (Velasquez, 2006). This paper will discuss the various ethical issues raised by this case, whether the slavery is viewed as absolutely wrong or relatively wrong, and who shares in the moral responsibility for the slavery occurring in the chocolate industry.
Slavery in the chocolate industry raises many ethical issues. First, systemically, it relates to the economic system within many countries that rely heavily on many exports, including cocoa beans. In the beginning, as cocoa prices increased across the world, the Ivory Coast Government encouraged the cultivation of cocoa and even gave various incentives for growing such. However, cocoa prices around the world have lanquished over the years (Hall, 2005). In part due to chocolate manufacturers around the world encouraging more and more developing nations to grow cocoa, thus driving down the price of cocoa ("Chocolate and slavery," n.d.). The fall of the cocoa prices in 1996 and 2000 significantly impacted the livelihood of the already impoverished cocoa farmers in West Africa, who's dependence on an unstable export crop, forced the cocoa farmers to use slavery to reduce their labor costs to survive (Velasquez, 2006). Another systemic issue relates to the legal aspect of slavery in the chocolate industry. According to Ivory Coast labor laws, slavery on farms is illegal (Velasquez, 2006). However, it is rarely enforced due to "open boarders, shortage of enforcement officers, and the willingness of local officials to accept bribes from members of the slave trade" (Velasquez, 2006).
Next, as it relates to corporate ethical issues, many of the exporters of the cocoa, who serve as middlemen by obtaining the cocoa and making it available for sale in their country of origin, along with numerous manufacturers who buy from these distributors, contribute to the slavery in the chocolate industry. For many years these corporations have known that the cocoa beans exported and used in its manufacturing process were partially if not fully harvested with slave labor. Yet, they have maintained that they were not responsible for the slavery in the various cocoa producing countries because they have no control over the cocoa farms ("Chocolate and slavery," n.d.). These corporations use an easy excuse to ignore the problem...