The Archbishop of York has called for a boycott of all chocolate that is not certified as Fairtrade, reports the Times newspaper.
Dr John Sentamu, whose diocese is in the same city as the confectioner Nestlé Rowntree, said that buying only Fairtrade chocolate would help to end the “21st-century iniquity” of child labour.
The Archbishop, who has recently returned from a visit to Jamaica, one of the countries on which the slave trade had a great impact, was delivering a public lecture to hundreds of church and other community members in Hull, the constituency of the abolitionist MP, William Wilberforce.
Citing research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, he said that although child labour was prohibited in Britain there was a connection with Britain’s manufacturers because of the conditions under which cocoa was produced.
According to the Stop the Traffik campaign for an end to modern slavery, more than 12,000 trafficked children are working on Ivory Coast plantations to produce 43 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans.
Dr Sentamu’s intervention comes just days after Gap, the high street clothing chain, promised to stop selling thousands of items where child labour may have been used to make them.
The Archbishop launched a “chocolate challenge”, in which he asked consumers “to buy only Fairtrade chocolate from now on”.
He said: “If you can’t find it in your favourite shop, ask to see the manager and say that you will only buy goods which are not produced by slave labour. Say you want to trade fairly. If you keep that promise, you could be playing your part in ending a 21st-century iniquity.”
Dr Sentamu did not name individual manufacturers, but his chocolate boycott is in line with reports by Stop the Traffik, which claims that chocolate certified as Fairtrade is the only chocolate guaranteed to be produced without child labour. A spokesman for his office said that he had deliberately not used the word “boycott” because he wanted individuals to make a “positive choice”. But he did want them to choose to buy “only Fairtrade”. The spokesman added: “Most people are chocoholics. The Archbishop is asking them to do something, not about their addiction, but their preferences.”
The irony behind Dr Sentamu’s assault on Britain’s chocolate industry is that most of the leading chocolate makers in Britain, such as the Fry, Rowntree and Cadbury families, were Quakers, many of whom were at the fore of the campaign to end slavery.
However, Cadbury owns Green & Black’s, the makers of a popular range of Fairtrade chocolate. Nestlé also has a stake in an independent supplier of Fairtrade chocolate and produces its own Fairtrade coffee.