THE UNKNOWN COLOURFUL WORLD OF M&M's®
Above is a picture of Europe's first M&M's World® store which is in London’s Leicester Square.
The official blurb says it is ‘Dedicated to the colourful fun of M&M's®…’
The company behind it, Mars, states that it is committed in ensuring that their “…actions should never be at the expense, economic or otherwise, of others who we work with. We strongly believe that only success that is shared can be sustained and it is our goal to achieve this in all we do.”
As the makers of some of the world's most-loved confectionery products, they are a major user of cocoa, and “for over 30 years Mars has supported cocoa sustainability.”
Really? At what cost? By that, I do not mean to them, but from a humanitarian point of view. Yes, we can read their claim that they were “…the first global chocolate company to commit to sourcing only certified cocoa, and we will do so by 2020.” They go on to proudly claim that as of June this year, “all MALTESERS® in the UK and Ireland will carry the Fair Trade logo.” My, that does sound good.
Well first this is 2012, not 2020. And secondly, Mars is a company that is behind a great deal more products than just MALTESERS®.
So let us look at some of the facts.
Côte d’Ivoire (The Ivory Coast of West Africa) produces 43% of the world’s chocolate. Due to increased poverty, changing traditions, and corrupt governments, Africa is rampant with child slavery in many areas, and there are currently around 300,000 children who are enslaved in the cocoa, coffee, and cotton industries.
You read that right. 300,000 child slaves (not forgetting the adult ones). And this is the year 2012.
These children are subject to the most horrible conditions, abuse, and punishment for any resistance, in little or no way similar to the abhorrent treatment that went on in the plantations during the Transatlantic Salve Trade. It is not unknown for a child (some as young as 7 years old) to have their feet chopped off in order to prevent them running away.
All of the major chocolate manufacturers are fully aware of the atrocities occurring daily on the many cocoa plantations in West Africa; Mars/M&M's being one of them, along with Hershey’s and Nestlé.
On September the 19th 2001 the Harkin-Engel Protocol was signed (including by Paul Michaels, the President of Mars/M&M’s) to ensure the end of child labour in all chocolate farms. The deadline for this to be completed was 2005. It was then put back to 2008, and then to 2010 (incidentaly, in that same year the revenue of Mars was $30 billion, a One-Year Growth of 7.1%). This agreement still remains unfulfilled, and in fact, the 300,000 child slaves entrapped in the trade today is an increase on the figure as it stood in 2001, so the problem is getting worse, not better.
Fair Trade on a bag of MALTESERS® brought in the UK may sound a jolly decent thing. However, when one thinks of how much confectionary is sold around the World by the Mars Empire, does this statement of intent not seem a little empty of gesture, let alone to be one truly embodying considerable change?
Besides, the simple fact is that we the consumers have no sure way of knowing if the chocolate we are buying has been tainted with the blood of child slaves, and it was only in 2010 that the founders of the Fair Trade Certification process had to suspend several of their West African suppliers due to evidence that they were using child labour. This is something that these huge corporations seem more than happy to continue ignoring, which they will continue to do because we continue to be happy buying.
Drissa, a recently freed cocoa slave who, like most of those who farm the cocoa for our consumption, had never even tasted chocolate, was asked what he would tell the people who eat chocolate made from slave labour, he replied: “When people eat chocolate they are eating my flesh.”
That is the truth behind Europe's first M&M's World® store in London’s Leicester Square, so dedicated to the colourful fun of M&M's®…’ It is coloured with the blood, sweat and suffering of children.
Suddenly, that treat doesn’t taste so sweet.