My name is Heidi Blanchard and my 5 year old daughter Lily and I recently joined a Daisy Troop with the Girl Scouts of U.S.A. We are thrilled to be a part of an organization that teaches girls how to lead and get along in our world. But I was seriously disappointed to learn that the good the Girl Scouts do for girls in the US doesn’t extend to girls in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, many of whom are enslaved and exploited in the cocoa industry. Despite the wide availability of ethically sourced cocoa, the Girl Scouts buy cocoa on the "open market" and say they are "unable" to disclose exactly where they get it from. I am petitioning the Girl Scouts to stand up for all children, be a role model for responsibility and commit to sourcing their cocoa ethically.
My daughter has been learning the Daisy tenets: how to use resources wisely, be considerate and caring, be responsible for what she says and does, and make the world a better place. And when I received a pamphlet in the mail from the Girl Scouts introducing us to the Girl Scout tradition of cookie sales, I looked forward to selling them. Afterall, who doesn’t love Girl Scout cookies?
However, while reading the pamphlet I started to think about reports that I have read about child slavery in the cocoa industry. In 2012, CNN reported that some 70 to 75 percent of the world's cocoa beans are grown on small farms in West Africa. The report stated that, in the Ivory Coast alone, there are an estimated 200,000 children working the fields, many as child slaves. The US Department of State estimated that children in the Ivory Coast's cocoa industry work under “the worst forms of child labor” and that some 10,000 are victims of human trafficking or enslavement. That made me wonder -- where does the chocolate that the Girl Scouts use in their cookies come from?
The Girl Scouts’ website tries to give the impression that they source their cocoa responsibly by stating that they are a part of the Chocolate Manufacturer's Association (CMA). However, the CMA is widely recognized to be ineffective and is in fact a lobby group for big chocolate companies. A call into the Girl Scouts’ bakers said only that they buy their cocoa on the “open market” -- a market often flooded with the products of exploited kids.
Thus, I am calling on the Girl Scouts to start buying chocolate that isn't tainted with atrocity and child slavery. By buying ethically sourced chocolate from companies like Equal Exchange or Divine, companies who are commited to sustainable farming and responsible social practices, the Girl Scouts could guarantee that slaves are not used in any part of the production of the chocolate. Hershey's, Nestle, Mars, Cadbury, and Ferrero Rocher have all committed to phasing in more ethically sourced chocolate. I have called the Girl Scout office and left a message with the Media Relations department, asking to have a conversation about ethically sourcing ingredients. Unfortunately, my call has not been returned. It's time for the Girl Scouts to step up.
In signing this petition, you are asking the Girl Scouts of America to stand behind Girl Scout tenets -- for girls in the US and in cocoa-producing countries. To do what we are teaching our Girl Scouts; be considerate and caring, be responsible for what they say and do, and make the world a better place. Girl Scouts, take a stand, commit to ethcially source your cocoa.