As we grow older, our views about what we feel is important change, and things which mattered most, no longer seem to have the same hold and vice versa. Well, business can be the same, and having started out wanting to conquer the world in terms of brand awareness and company size, it slowly became more a question of how can we be part of something bigger and how can we make a difference?
The last few years have seen Choc affair do just that, and although we originally started out as a Fairtrade company, our views have matured into looking at the bigger picture, and really nailing down what we want to be about and our values.
As a family run business, we are in a unique position to keep communications personal within our team. This requires effort, and sometimes we do get it wrong. A prime example is that at busy times we struggle maintaining good communication with each team member, and we just assume that everyone knows what’s going on, when in fact if we don’t tell them, they often don’t know.
With a great library of delicious flavours of chocolates, and 50 tonnes of chocolate every year coming through our doors, you may ask what are we actually doing to contribute to the bigger picture.
Well our belief is that throughout the entire cocoa and chocolate processing chain, each and everyone who plays a part should be treated with dignity, and earn a sustainable income from their work. There should be no forced labour in any part of this chain.
We’re all aware that in developing countries and cocoa growing regions of the world, they do things differently to how we do here with our western values, which I have seen first hand from my travels to Uganda with Seeds of Hope. In many of these countries children are expected to work on their family land, before and after school and will be kept off school to assist during harvest time, or during times of ill health within a family to help in the home.
But there is a difference between a child helping provide for his or her family, to a child enslaved and kept under terrible conditions to work another person’s land, or sold to work as forced labour.
2016 has seen us want to contribute to the work being done in these affected countries, to enable education of parents to help them understand the importance of their children being in school, and the differences between forced child labour and non.
We’ve partnered up with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) and together make a stand with other companies who believe in “putting children first”.
Established in 2002, ICI is the leading organisation promoting child protection in cocoa growing communities all around the world.
ICI work with the cocoa industry, civil society and national governments in cocoa producing countries to ensure a better future for children and contribute to the elimination of child labour. They have worked in more than 1,000 cocoa growing communities, where they’ve supported more than 3,000 community development actions to educate and empower the cocoa growing communities.
There aim is to safeguard children’s rights and contribute to the elimination of child labour through innovation, through the development, application and promotion of good practices, and through the building of partnerships.
There is no quick fix. Trying to undo generations of ways of doing things takes time, education and of course the willingness to change.