MSGL 502 Ethics and Leadership
An Ethical look into Slavery in the Chocolate Industry
People around the world share a love of chocolate, one of the most delicious and pleasurable foods on earth. However, thousands of Africa’s children are modern-day slaves, bonded to their employers and forced against their will to work in hazardous and heartbreaking conditions. Slavery in the chocolate industry has been widely publicized through the years. The face of enslaved children has been the poster for many articles and even televisions shows that provided their stories of abuse, maltreatment, and even unethical working conditions. In the wake of all of this negative publicity, chocolate companies, (Nestle, Hershey, Mars, etc.), are taking the brunt of the negativity. In the beginning, as cocoa prices increased across the world, the Ivory Coast Government encouraged the cultivation of cocoa and even gave various incentives for growing such. But now there are various ethical issues that are raised. Is the slavery that is used to grow and cultivate the cocoa beans; viewed is an absolute or relative wrong, and who shares in the moral responsibility for the slavery occurring in the chocolate industry. It has been said that companies are perpetuating this lifestyle by purchasing these slavery-tarnished cocoa beans from places along the Ivory Coast, like Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. It is also said that the companies should be liable for ending the child slavery that is at the very core of their cocoa bean supply chain, but are they the only culprits? Such an understanding of morality has expanded in our culture since ancient times. Now, in the modern world we are encouraged to act morally in our dealings with all people, not with just the members of our family or tribe, but society as a whole, has caused morality to be codified within the our system of ethics. These ethics then become legislation when they are enacted into laws. Afterward, the laws only become truly meaningful when they are enforced. In any nation, which considers itself to be civilized, the awareness of morality, the understanding of ethics and the application of law become intertwined. In this all-embracing sense, the slavery in the chocolate industry cannot be justified on moral, ethical or legal grounds. In terms of our modern understanding of ethics and observance of the law, it must surely be immoral and unethical to take advantage of the suffering of others so that we may benefit financially. When unethical practices come to light in any area of human activity, there is a tendency to point the finger and say: "Those are the people who are to blame. They should be held to account." However, it is difficult to exactly identify any single party who is blameless in the exploitation of children in the chocolate industry. One group could argue that this is a vice of necessity, than cruelty, in an area of extreme poverty and that this is how children raise money for their families. This view could be supported as Africa has the greatest incidence of economically active children: 41 percent of children in the continent are at work. Additionally, families that have too many children are known to have sold their children to these “farmers” for a mere pittance. Another group could argue that it is cruel and the children are being kidnapped, deprived from an education, and subsequently beaten if they try to escape. Are the children being deprived of a proper education in this case, possibly, or what if these farms weren’t available, would the children/families have the means to even survive? Either way, should the chocolate companies, that are reaping billions of dollars in sales, ignore this major ethical issue and not do something to effect change? Granted, if the chocolate companies directly owned these farms, one could argue in favor of the companies having the moral and legal duty to ensure that labor standards are enforced....
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