Fair Trade Principle - Ensure the Rights of Children

As a member of the Fair Trade Federation we are vetted against some very stringent principles in order to be a verified member. While all the principles are very important there is one that stands out to me amongst the rest. 


Fair Trade means that all children have the right to security, education, and play. Throughout the trading chain, Members respect and support the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as local laws and social norms. Members disclose the involvement of children in production. Members do not support child trafficking and exploitative child labor. 

 Children are innocent and cannot protect themselves so   need others to provide   protection. This Fair Trade   principle ensures   all people involved in fair trade pledge   to   ensure children’s rights are put first and that children   are not trafficked into labor or forced   into any labor   situation.


The following are some significant and disturbing statistics regarding child labor from Compassion International:

  • 52 million children worldwide are victims of child labor; 88 million are boys and 64 million are girls.1
  • 48 percent of all victims of child labor are aged 5-11 years.1
  • Almost half of child labor victims (73 million) work in hazardous child labor; more than one-quarter of all hazardous child labor is done by children less than 12 years old (19 million).1
  • Almost half of child workers are in Africa (72.1 million); 41 percent (62.1 million) are in Asia and the Pacific.1
  • 71 percent of child labor takes place in agriculture, which includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding and aquaculture.1
  • 19 percent of child labor victims live in low income countries; 2 million victims live in high-income countries.1
  • Forced labor is thought to generate around $150 billion a year in illegal profits. 3


The chocolate industry has one of the most long-standing forced child labor problems today. The problem has gone on for decades. The big chocolate manufactures like Nestle’s, Mars and Hershey’s have been getting their chocolate from cocoa farms that force children into labor. These children are kidnapped from their families and taken to the farms and forced into labor They are unable to attend school and have been basically stolen from their families and unable to see them. Many grow up to be illiterate because they were unable to get an education.

The companies that get their chocolate from these farms are admittedly aware of the problem. They have continually pledged to put a stop to it and set deadlines to achieve that goal but once that date arrives, they then adjust the deadline out another year, 5 years or more. Their bottom line and profits are more important than the suffering of children.

The Washington Post did an extensive story about this issue back in 2019.

The subtitle reads: “Mars, Nestlé and Hershey pledged nearly two decades ago to stop using cocoa harvested by children. Yet much of the chocolate you buy still starts with child labor.”

Many have vowed not to buy those brands of chocolate   and instead buy fair trade chocolate that is certified or   verified that the producers meet the Fair Trade Principles,
 especially to ensure the rights of children. There are many brands of chocolate that carry a Fair Trade Certified label. Purchasing those brands ensures that child labor was not used to harvest the cocoa and that fair trade principles are followed at every level in the supply chain. Look for these and other Fair Trade brands in your local grocery store or buy online.



After decades of injustice against children and false promises from the largest chocolate companies in the world, a class action lawsuit was filed against several companies by International Rights Advocates (IRAdvocates) on behalf of 8 now young adults who were forced into labor as children.

The press release outlines the details of the lawsuit and is highlighting the fact that these companies have known for years that child labor is being used and their empty promises to stop it admit they are doing it.

Terry Collingsworth, Executive Director of IRAdvocates, which represents the eight Malian Plaintiffs, stated “By giving themselves this series of extensions, these companies are admitting they ARE using child slaves and will continue to do so until they decide it’s in their interests to stop. 

Everyone involved in Fair Trade is standing with these plantiffs and their plight to get child labor to stop in the chocolate industry


Reading this may be disheartening and you may think what can you possibly do to make a difference in this situation? You can start by looking closely at the products you buy and where possible buy products that are Fair Trade Certified or Verified. Food products that are Fair Trade Certified have a logo on their label 

If you replace one or two of the products you normally buy with fair trade products, you are doing your part to reduce the market for products produced by child labor. If enough people purchase one or two fair trade items it will reduce the support of products produced by child or other forced labor and will make a difference. If more people make a conscious effort to change that by starting with one or 2 products, that will start a ripple effect and have an impact on these companies bottom lines.

With this lawsuit, the spotlight is finally being put on these companies in a way to make them answer for their atrocities against the millions of children who are forced into labor in order to boost the company’s bottom lines while they don’t reap any of the rewards.

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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