Chocolate and Justice


After reading Jordi’s post and searching through some alternate schools of ethics, I too decided to check out Rawls’ theory of justice. This theory struck a chord with the ideas I had for my paper, as it talks about ensuring basic rights to all citizens and promoting the idea of a more equal world. I searched for A Theory of Justice in Google Scholar and then clicked on the most cited article. From there, I searched for The Hershey Company, predictably to no avail. However, my search for West African Cocoa turned up a valuable resource.

Through my search, I found Practical Ethics for Food Professionals: Ethics in Research, Education, and the Workplace, a book that explores how ethical thinking can be applied to the food industry. Luckily, this book is available at the library so I am able to use it as a resource! The chapter that caught my eye the most was the chapter on the FairTrade movement, an integral part of the Hershey cocoa scandal. Hershey, prior to the West African cocoa scandal, had sourced their chocolate from famers who were treated poorly, paid unfairly, and used unsustainable practices. While competitors switched to FairTrade cocoa, Hershey continued to buy from controversial suppliers. The chapter on FairTrade explains how it is a movement towards justice and fairness, in turn promoting a society based on equality. Giving benefits back to the producers and ensuring that they are able to fulfill their basic needs promotes a sense of equality and fairness, making FairTrade cocoa the ethical choice.

The chapter also explains why many people choose not purchase FairTrade cocoa or other products. Many believe that “fairness,” especially concerning commercial exchange, occurs when markets can function freely. However, based on what I have already gathered on Hershey, it does not seem to me as though they would subscribe to this belief. Therefore, in the instance of their cocoa trade, I do not think they were taking the ethical approach, as they have acted in ways which push fairness and justice to the foreground previously (for example, setting up an orphanage for underprivileged youth).

Personally, I think Hershey has become a company that can be considered very “fair” and “ethical.” However, this instance of the past was a place where they did not make choices consistent with their morals.

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3 responses to “Chocolate and Justice

  1. I was surprised to see that Hershey continued to use controversial suppliers. I would think that when their competitors started to make changes they would have as well. I also found a connection to the company I am writing about for my paper, Patagonia. Patagonia makes Fair Trade Certified™ Clothing. It was interesting to learn that the apparel industry and the food industry both participate in Fair Trade.

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  2. I think that is really interesting at a connection. I would never think that the food and clothing industry could be connected in really any way. I agree with you though. I still believe that Hershey could be considered a fair and ethical company.

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  3. I don’t follow you here:

    ” in the instance of their cocoa trade, I do not think they were taking the ethical approach, as they have acted in ways which push fairness and justice to the foreground previously (for example, setting up an orphanage for underprivileged youth).”

    They were acting ethically or unethically?

    There is of course a school f thought which says functioning markets will provide the most fair or just outcomes. This is the heart of what Nozick was saying. However, was Hershey relying on this?

    And who is to say that the markets for cocoa are fairly created or operate?

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