Today is World Chocolate Day 2021 and to mark the occasion Fairtrade has released its specially commissioned film ‘Unwrap a Fairer Future’ which is the final instalment of its global campaign ‘Bitter Sweet’.

Fairtrade’s campaign is focused on raising awareness among consumers on the social and trade injustices faced by cocoa farmers in West Africa resulting from unethical cocoa sourcing practices by some major chocolate manufacturers. The film is designed to complement the campaign by showing consumers how purchasing Fairtrade-certified chocolate can benefit the local cocoa farming communities as well as wider global issues such as climate change.

Nilufar Verjee, Fairtrade’s director of public engagement and global cocoa campaign lead, described the film as being “a captivating and highly shareable way to discover why cocoa farmers who grow the cocoa… deserve better incomes” and it puts “the important truth in people’s minds, making the bitter cost of each non-certified chocolate bar instantly apparent”.

Given the global success of recent campaigns and documentaries focused on promoting sustainable practices and ethical sourcing such as Veganuary and Netflix’s Seaspiracy, in addition to the huge uptake in products such as alternative milk drinks (e.g. Alpro) and meat-free products (e.g. THIS), Fairtrade’s ‘Bitter Sweet’ campaign is very current and topical. The public (inter-generational but with a specific focus on the younger generations) has made clear its enthusiasm to adapt behaviours and habits to benefit the fight against climate change, the environment and to support third-world countries.

Modern Slavery (Amendment) Bill 2021

As we recently reported, the UK Government responded to last year’s public consultation on transparency in supply chains by publishing the Modern Slavery (Amendment) Bill 2021 last month. The consultation followed the independent review into the Modern Slavery Act 2015 which concluded in May 2019. Our most recent report on the subject can be found here.

The new sanctions and widening of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s powers proposed under the Bill are said to reflect the change in societal attitude towards modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK. In our article, we noted that there has never been a more important time for UK companies to stop, take stock of their current supply chain practices and in the first instance, ensure they comply with the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Fairtrade’s current campaign to raise awareness of the low incomes and poverty experienced by West African’s cocoa farmers in part resulting from the working practices reportedly utilised by large confectionary manufacturers (all of whom will have contact with UK companies in some way, shape or form) is a perfect example of how relevant this issue is and how important it is to be aware of ongoing developments with regards modern slavery and supply chain transparency.

Fairtrade, the cocoa farms and the 'Bitter Sweet' campaign

Fairtrade describes its procedures and supply chain as a “system of certification that aims to ensure a set of standards are met in the product and supply of a product or ingredient”. Fairtrade works with farming co-operatives and businesses to promote and secure sustainable futures for all workers and their communities. Fairtrade engages with businesses that produce items such as bananas, cocoa beans, gold, coffee, wine and clothes.

Fairtrade’s cocoa farms are subject to, and protected by, the Fairtrade Minimum Price which ensures that the farmers are always remunerated fairly for their labour and produce regardless of the price of cocoa. Furthermore, the Fairtrade Premium scheme provides an additional payment to workers for every tonne of beans sold on Fairtrade terms. The scheme represents the highest non-negotiable premium of any major standard. In addition to the remuneration packages, Fairtrade also invests in the education of farmers through its Fairtrade’s West African Cocoa Program which teaches farmers best practice growing techniques.

The ‘Bitter Sweet’ campaign hopes to educate and inspire consumers to buy Fairtrade chocolate in order to support Fairtrade’s programmes in West Africa. New Global consumer research by Fairtrade and independent research and strategy consultancy, Globescan (2021) shows that there is an expectation among the majority of people that chocolate manufacturers engage in ethical sourcing and environmentally friendly practices. The ‘Bitter Sweet’ campaign aims to build on that inherent consumer expectation by showing the reality of cocoa bean production and its impact on workers, third-world countries and the environment.

More details on the ‘Bitter Sweet’ campaign can be found here, and more details on Fairtrade’s work on cocoa can be found here.

How we can help

Should you have any queries in relation to your own working practices and compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2015 or the changes proposed under the Modern Slavery (Amendment) Bill 2021, please do not hesitate to contact our specialised Regulatory & Compliance team. In addition, it is important to look again at your supply agreements to ensure protection and compliance is built in to your supply chain.