The week surrounding Halloween has always been a huge money-maker for the chocolate industry. However, as we stuff our faces with endless amounts of delicious chocolate on this upcoming holiday, we should keep in mind the truth about where some of these treats come from.
“There are over a quarter million children in abusive child labour in the cocoa industry; thousands are outright slaves,” said Adrienne Fitch-Frankel of Global Exchange, a leading international fair trade organization. In fact, according to the World Cocoa Organization, most of the world’s cocoa comes from areas where unstable political, economic, and social conditions exist, often leading to the use of forced child labour.
Fair-trade organizations, as well as groups such as UNICEF, Engineers without Borders, and the International Labour Organization, have been working for years to re-vamp the system and abolish the use of such inhumane methods of production. However, while there has been significant progress in the past five years, limited participation by multinational corporations and lack of consumer knowledge continues to slow the process of promoting fair-trade practices.
Here are some simple ways to enjoy a fair trade Halloween this year:
1) Choose fair-trade products.
David Ayache, of the Concordia University Engineers without Borders chapter, explains that the fair-trade-certification system involves restructuring systems of monitoring, production, and trade. He points out that through fair trade, farmers are guaranteed a base-line price for their product that is well above the extremely low prices they receive for their goods in mainstream markets. The extra money not only allows farmers to meet their own basic needs, but also benefits the entire community- with extra money often going towards building schools, hospitals and improving infrastructure in the area.
Kristina Thibodeau-Perreault, of TransFair Canada, a national certification body, explains that the “fair trade” certification ensures the chocolate has come from “respectful human and environmental conditions,” in which strict guidelines ensure not only fair prices, but also respect for human and labour rights as well as environmentally sustainable methods of production.
There are many types of “fair trade” certified sweets available for people to hand out to trick-or-treaters or to savour themselves come Halloween. They can be distinguished from non-fair-trade products by the certification logo on the wrapper. You can find these goodies in certain stores all over the city (including the Frigo Vert across from Concordia’s Hall building) and they can even be tracked down locally with the help of the “fair trade finder” on www.playyourpart.ca.
It’s important to remember that though some products may read “fairly traded” only those certified by organizations like TransFair guarantee the item is fair trade and adheres to these strict guidelines.
2) Participate in reverse trick-or-treating.
This is the third year that Engineers without Borders will organize this twist on the Halloween tradition in Montreal. Perfect for people of all ages, reverse trick-or-treating involves dressing up, and going door-to-door to distribute bits of fair trade chocolate, along with information about fair-trade products and processes. Ayache says the point is to make more people aware of fair trade and the issues surrounding it, as well as to encourage them to choose fair-trade products in their daily life. You could also get some friends together and organize a reverse trick-or-treat group in your neighbourhood.
3) Forfeit the chocolate and be creative
Of course, you can also simply refuse to buy non fair-trade chocolate for the evening and give out other treats instead. Think about handing out alternative goodies to trick-or-treaters like small toys, funky school supplies, or miniature boxes of raisins. You can also consider removing the chocolate from your Halloween party spread, and replacing it with other types of sweets. Or if you just want to get the word out there, stuff your pockets with small info slips about fair trade, and find creative ways to give them out to people over the course of the evening.
Whichever way you choose to be more fair trade this Halloween, Ayache urges that when it comes to fair trade, the power is really within the hands of consumers, and that while getting informed is a major part of the battle, “actually taking the next step and choosing fair trade alternatives is where the difference is really felt.”
If you wish to participate in the reverse-trick-or-treating event organized by Engineers without Borders email: firstname.lastname@example.org