Friday, 15 January 2021

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United Nations Cinema: The Chocolate Case at the LSE

On 6th December, United Nations cinema screened ‘The Chocolate Case’ in partnership with LSE IDEAS and The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UK to celebrate Human Rights Day in London. 

Debbie Joomla

‘The Chocolate Case’ follows three Dutch journalists as they uncover child labour in the cocoa production chain, which triggers them to try to persuade large corporations to end these unethical practices once and for all. Scorned and rejected by the industry, and having sought in vain to become imprisoned for their cause, the trio sets out on a mission to develop the first ‘slave-free’ chocolate bar known as ‘Tony’s Chocolonely’ – now one of Holland’s leading chocolate brands.

After the screening, there was a panel discussion with Arjen Boekhold, Cocoa Game Changer at  Tony’s Chocolonely,  Marjolein Busstra, Legal Counsel at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Charlotte Wlliams, Head of Child Rights and Business, Unicef UK. The panel was moderated by Dr Mary Martin, Director of the UN Business and Human Security Initiative, LSE IDEAS.

Arjen Joomla

The discussion opened with the fact that there are 25 million victims of modern slavery according to the Global Slavery Index and 152 million child labourers.  This is not a single issue solution; there is a need for education, for considering small-holder farms versus deforestation, with any solutions requiring multi-stake-holder platforms to make change.  Both Charlotte Williams and Arjen Boekhold agreed that there should be five principles of cooperation; full traceability, a living income for farmers, the long-term impact on the community, farmer organization and the need for diversity i.e. not being dependent on cocoa alone.

Charlotte Williams went on to say that it is the duty of governments to protect, and businesses to respect, childrens' rights, and that there is the reputational impact for companies who are involved in supply chains using child labour.

Marjolein Busstra noted that Tony’s Chocolonely is the market leader in the Netherlands because consumers do care.  Although businesses are supposed to be self-regulatory, the Modern Slavery Act is not being enforced. Governments must set minimum standards, but the business model must also work.

Slide Joomla

For Arjen Boekhold, things are moving too slowly, although the fact that Tony’s is both profitable and has a social conscience is a real encouragement to other companies. He went on to say that Tony’s chocolate bars are not equally divided because in the chocolate industry the profits are not equally divided. “At Tony’s we pay a living wage to farmers.  By paying 40% more to farmers, we had only to increase the price of the bars by 2 – 3%.”

The panel concluded that too often it is the children’s voices that are not heard.

To see pictures from the evening, click here.

For more information about the film, click here.

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