Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

Reverse Trick-or-Treating:
Thousands of Children to Give Back a
Quarter Million “Treats” in U.S. and Canada

Halloween 2008 is First Since Failure to Meet
International Child Labor Deadline on Cocoa Production; Push Focuses on Child Labor Abuses in Cocoa Fields, Poverty, and Environmental Damage.

October 15, 2008

Washington, DC and San Francisco, CA -- Thousands of children across the US and Canada are turning the traditional Halloween ritual on its head:  They are the ones handing out the chocolate.  Reversing the trick or treat model, these youths will give away more than a quarter million pieces of Fair Trade Certified™ chocolates.   Now in its second year, the “reverse trick or treating” program is involving many more schools and partners than when it first kicked off for Halloween 2007.

The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the extensive use of exploited child labor in the cocoa fields of countries like Cote D’Ivoire, which produces 40 percent of the world’s cocoa; the persistent problems of poverty in cocoa-growing communities; and environmental damage from unsustainable farming practices used to raise cocoa.  This Halloween is the first since the industry’s failure to meet the July 1, 2008 self-imposed deadline of the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol to end abusive child labor in cocoa production.

How big a problem is the North American sweet tooth for chocolate from suspect sources?  The US State Department estimates that 284,000 children work in abusive conditions on cocoa farms in West Africa – and that 64 percent of those children are under 14 years old.  U.S. consumers eat 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate annually, representing nearly half of the world’s supply.

Among the growing list of organizations helping to spread the word about how Fair Trade Certified™ chocolate provides a solution to these problems are Global Exchange, International Labor Rights Forum, Co-op America, and the Fair Trade Federation, Fair Trade companies Equal Exchange, La Siembra and Alter Eco.

Hundreds of schools, congregations and youth groups across North America are helping to raise awareness about the impact of consumer’s choices in the chocolate industry.   By giving out Fair Trade Certified chocolates, children know that farmers abide by international labor laws that prohibit illegal child labor while also ensuring farmers receive a fair, stable price and that environmentally sustainable farming practices are applied.

Co-op America Fair Trade Program Coordinator Yochanan Zakai said:“It has been seven years since signatories to the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol acknowledged that child labor exists in the cocoa industry.  They pledged to stop it then and it is unconscionable that these child labor abuses continue to this very day. As Americans, we can play a role in creating a more responsible chocolate market by choosing Fair Trade Certified? chocolate year round.”

“Chocolate connects the millions of Americans who eat it daily to the growers around the world who depend on cocoa for their livelihoods,” says Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, director, Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Campaign.  “It is unthinkable that our children are eating chocolate made with illegal child labor or slave labor, especially when a viable solution, Fair Trade Certified™ chocolate, exists right now.”

This Halloween, the distribution of Fair Trade Certified™ chocolate is intended to demonstrate that there already exists at least one reliable, transparent tool that the cocoa and chocolate companies may adopt to fight poverty in cocoa growing communities. It also seeks to raise the profile of chocolate made available by companies who have committed to using only Fair Trade Certified™ cocoa and put public pressure on large chocolate companies to follow suit.

For more information, including a statement released by 47 organizations and fair trade companies around the world: “Commitment to Ethical Cocoa Sourcing: Abolishing Unfair Labor Practices and Addressing Their Root Causes,” visit www.reversetrickortreating.org.

The Reverse Trick-or-Treating campaign was crafted by human rights advocacy group Global Exchange, which has a long track record of successfully encouraging major corporations to adopt new business practices.

The 225,000 Fair Trade Chocolates and informational cards have been provided in the United States by Equal Exchange and Alter Eco, and in Canada by La Siembra.

Co-op America is the leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Co-op America provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today's social and environmental problems.

Other organizations with a lead role in Reverse Trick-or-Treating are Americans for Informed Democracy, Fair Trade Federation, International Labor Rights Forum, Oasis, Slow Food, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, United Students for Fair Trade, and United Methodist Committee on Relief.

MEDIA CONTACTS:   Ailis Aaron Wolf, for Co-op America, (703) 276-3265 or aawolf@hastingsgroup.com; and Angela Walker, for Global Exchange, (650) 766-2748 or angela@globalexchange.org).

EDITOR’S NOTE: In certain cities across North America, participating families are available for interview and media are invited to follow children during reverse-trick-or-treating. 

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Please contact Todd Larsen by email
or by phone at 202-872-5307.