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THE CHOCOLATE INDUSTRY FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

This week marked the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. In a year when the US lost more than 3 million people, the fact that so many of us know George Floyd’s story in detail is remarkable. The massive, ancient, and deep racism and injustice on display sparked outrage that is leading to all kinds of actions that are attempts at repair and change. One of the countless responses to his death was the formation of the Chocolate Industry for Social Justice, or CISJ. 

The CISJ, spearheaded by Uncommon Cacao, is made up of several dozen craft chocolate makers and other industry members from all over the world. We aim to to "mobilize the knowledge, skills and resources of chocolate industry stakeholders in service of advancing an agenda of equality and justice. Issues affecting Black people, people of color, women, LGBTQIA, indigenous people, and farming communities will be our priority." It is both exciting and overwhelming to be involved in this venture. It’s exciting to think about the positive effect we can have on people’s lives, from enslaved adults and children working cacao farms to consumers who will be able to make better-informed decisions about their chocolate-buying habits. And it’s overwhelming because we are talking about a global industry that is centuries old and was founded on the worst and most unjust set of tenets possible that have been hard to root out for many reasons, including the vast amount of money at stake. 

But we have started the process. Much of what we are currently doing is research. For example, a group of us is trying to get information about what a viable living wage is in each cacao-growing country, as a first step towards equity. It’s easy to get statistics about mean and median income, but those numbers aren’t useful unless they can be compared to what amount of money is actually needed in order to have a respectable standard of living. Another group of us is currently working on writing a glossary for consumers that explains how social justice terms are specifically relevant to the chocolate industry. Many people know what environmental sustainability looks like regarding large crop farming in the US, for example, but they may not know how it relates to cacao trees. In the chocolate industry, environmental sustainability includes interplanting cacao trees with other crops and species of trees; cultivating genetic diversity of cacao trees; studying how to mitigate the effects of climate change on the midges that pollinate the cacao flowers. 

I’ll write more about the CISJ and other events in social justice in the cacao industry in the future. There may be a milestone to write about next month: the US Supreme Court is expected to make their decision about whether some multinational chocolate companies can be tried in the US for supporting the enslavement of children who work on their farms in Africa. Read more about that here, and let’s all hope for a positive outcome. 



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