Accepted Paper:

The challenges of chocolate: an examination of the ethics of consuming and producing chocolate  


Amanda Berlan

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the concept of ‘ethical chocolate’ from the perspective of companies and consumers. It examines consumer perceptions of good business ethics and how companies put ethical values into practice.

Paper long abstract:

Cocoa is a key ingredient in chocolate as well as many chocolate-based products such as biscuits, cakes, snack bars, spreads and hot drinks. Following reports of child and slave labour in the production of cocoa in recent years many consumers have become concerned about buying such products and possibly fuelling abusive labour practices. As a result, many consumers engage in long-standing boycotts of chocolate manufacturers that do not have the Fair Trade mark on their products. However, this paper will argue that perceptions of issues such as Third World poverty and child labour in cocoa are highly malleable as they are linked with the broader meanings consumers attach to different brands of chocolate. For example, consumers are more likely to perceive a company as 'guilty' of child labour abuses if the company is a large multinational, even if it sources cocoa from the same cocoa farms as smaller chocolate companies.

By examining how two different chocolate companies engage with the challenge of being responsible companies in a complex global world, this paper argues that classifying companies as 'ethical' or 'bad' is problematic. It will discuss Cadbury's long-standing commitment to ethical values and some of their recent initiatives such as the 'Cadbury Cocoa Partnership' which was announced in January 2008 and aims to promote economic, social and environmental sustainability. The paper will contrast this approach to business ethics with that of Divine, the chocolate company which is part-owned by cocoa farmers in Ghana and operates on Fair Trade principles.

Panel W001
Ethical consumption: consumers and producers, markets and ethics