“‘What are these?’ Harry asked Ron, holding up a pack of Chocolate Frogs. ‘They’re not really frogs, are they?’ He was starting to feel that nothing would surprise him.
‘No,’ said Ron. ‘But see what the card is. I’m missing Agrippa.’
‘Oh, of course, you wouldn’t know — Chocolate Frogs have cards, inside them, you know, to collect — famous witches and wizards. I’ve got about five hundred, but I haven’t got Agrippa or Ptolemy.’
Harry unwrapped his Chocolate Frog and picked up the card. It showed a man’s face. He wore half-moon glasses, had a long, crooked nose, and flowing silver hair, beard, and mustache. Underneath the picture was the name Albus Dumbledore…”
– Excerpt of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by JK Rowling.
This is how the world was first presented to the wonderful concept of wizard candy. Among other fantastical inventions that came from JK Rowling’s head, this was one children would lust after for years; a Chocolate Frog that hops once, can be eaten and comes with a magical card inside! Real life candy had never seemed so dull.
A few years later, when the Harry Potter franchise was strongly established, I started seeing Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans everywhere in the United States. It would never be the same of course, even though they did have the flavours earwax and grass.
I only saw Chocolate Frogs a few years later, when I went to visit The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, in the Universal Studios in Orlando. It was extremely expensive to buy, for a little frog made of chocolate, but it came with a card of Helga Hufflepuff so I was happy enough with it. I believe they are also sold in the Warner Brother Studios in London.
Unfortunately for chocolate lovers, the cocoa industry is one of the most corrupt in the world. Ivory Coast provides 40% of the planet’s cocoa, where children are employed to work in the farms. It is estimated that more than 109,000 children work in cocoa farms there, in terrible conditions. Around 10,000 of these children are believed to be victims of human trafficking and enslavement. They work long hours, without any education, with dangerous tools and the possibility of being poisoned by pesticides. Some of them are beaten, many of them are malnourished. As a direct result, half of the population in Ivory Coast is illiterate, permeating child labour and lack of social mobility.
Because of this vicious cycle that affects 40% of the world’s cocoa, it is important to make sure we only eat fair trade chocolate. And that is what the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), a charity set up by the fans of the series, wanted to do; make sure all chocolate sold in Harry Potter’s name was fair trade and free of child labour, kidnapping and enslavement. Though they were assured by Warner Brothers that everything was fine in the Human Rights department, the HPA decided to double check by commissioning a report on the very Chocolate Frogs (and other chocolatey items being sold in Harry’s name) we found so enchanting in the beginning of this post.
The result? Harry Potter chocolate gets an F in Human Rights.
The brand used for HP chocolate is BEHR and according to the report made by Free2Work, the company does not have a code of conduct at all. A code of conduct should be the company’s rules pertaining to child labour, discrimination, enslavement and workers’ rights (amongst other ethical grounds the company might have to deal with). I won’t speculate as to what this could mean but you can see the report for yourself here.
Concerned, the HPA emailed Warner Brothers once again with this worrying report. The corporate giant responded saying that they had conducted their own report, dismissing the Free2Work’s findings, and reassured the HPA, once again, that all was according to Human Rights. But here is when the problem developed: Warner Brothers won’t release their own report to the public, we are just going to have to take their word for it that everything is ethical and moral in the Chocolate Frogs department.
Corporate responsibility is an immeasurable issue nowadays. Companies must be transparent so that we can know where our money is going and if it is being used correctly. We must be able to find out if the brands we use are ethical and don’t abuse the weak.
Nestlé, for example, has been aggressively advertising and pushing bottle feeding in third world countries since before 1977, when the boycott against the company started. The problem? In countries with poor sanitation, bottle feeding can cause lethal diarrhoea in babies. As of 2007, this hadn’t changed.
This is just one instance of what big companies can do if the public isn’t keeping an eye on them. And let’s also not forget the suicide epidemic in Apple’s Chinese factories. These places might seem a long way away from us and our shopping habits, but the suffering of others should be close to our hearts.
In an effort to make Warner Brothers be a transparent company, the HPA Alliance has started a petition called Show Us The Report! Despite its origins, this petition isn’t about Harry Potter, or JK Rowling, it’s about the bigger issue of making companies be ethical, correct – and our right to be sure that we are buying ethical products.
If you think this cause is worth your time, click here – it only takes a couple of seconds.
Photo by happy via / Flickr Creative Commons License.