I tried this Easter to make it an ethical one, purchasing Fairtrade Easter Eggs for my family, in order to make a point about the current child labour activities of chocolate manufacturers. I can’t see why it would be difficult for the massive machinery of our chocolate manufacturers – here and overseas – to gear up with Fair Trade chocolate. But it seems that it is, at least with “seasonal” products like Easter Eggs.
My main port of call for this journey was Penrith Plaza, one of the bigger shopping centres of Sydney and one with a variety of shops. Big W and Target were the first ones – dominated as ever by a few companies. The first to be noticed were the Lindt displays – Lindt being the company that refuses to use Fair Trade chocolate because of quality concerns (or, more likely, an unwillingness to work with Fair Trade suppliers to obtain that quality). Cadbury, too, have their various combinations of eggs and rabbits. And, apparently, a Fair Trade egg. I search high and low for the famed egg, to no result. I did hear, from a fellow Tweeter, John Alchin (@johnalchin), that there was one shelf of them available at Wetherill Park Target for a considerable premium. That premium is one I will pay – though it is interesting that it’s a single, simple hollow egg that Cadbury make with Fair Trade Chocolate. Not the sort of chocolate that kids jump for. And on one shelf amongst the dozens on display at any Target. When Cadbury’s English Fairtrade Twitter account (@GoneFairTrade) was asked about this by Helen Davidson (@heldavidson) and Claire Connelly (@ClaireRConnelly) on Twitter, they were provided the answer that they didn’t know what was happening in Australia (standard response) and also that “seasonal” products like Easter Eggs did not get certified. This leads to my suspicion that Cadbury, at least in terms of Easter Eggs, are indulging in a Green Wash with the one and only egg. Hardly surprising behaviour from a company owned by Kraft Foods.
I did search other shops. I knew, for example, that Myer carry a line of Chocolatier eggs and rabbits, Chocolatier being a small, independent Australian company, the sort I will often support. Their website shows a range of Fair Trade products, but a visit to Myer Penrith yielded one box of milk chocolate rabbits, amongst the vast array of non- Fair Trade. Pink Lady, another Australian company famous for their chocolate bilbies, made to support bilby conservation, is an egg company that is Fair Trade free. I did mention this to the very experienced shop assistant at Myer, who had never heard of Fair Trade or the purpose of the campaign. She did wonder why it wasn’t better promoted. Indeed.
As it turned out, I didn’t get my Fair Trade eggs – I don’t like milk chocolate – I like dark chocolate, so I bought a Chocolatier dark egg and the Pink Lady bilbies (I haven’t bought a rabbit in years – they are a pest in Australia, so why do we buy them?). There might be people out there who will tell me that I should have bought the one box of milk chocolate to make my point – but I didn’t.
What I would like to see is the machinery of the market to make the ethical and commercial decision to make the full range of chocolate eggs and other animals available as a Fair Trade option across Sydney, not just in the inner city, where their consumers would demand Fair Trade. I, like a lot of people in the West, would pay the premium, as I do already by buying from small independent Australian companies.
Ultimately, then, I’m hoping that by next year the situation will be different and that companies like Cadbury and the Australian ones expand their chocolate production into their range of products. In that way, ethically aware parents can make the choice to buy chocolate that does not have children in other countries being used as labour while our own children sit down with their eggs, comfortable in the knowledge they won’t be used in the same way.