The Cocoa Pod Cast #6 Act Today for a Better Tomorrow with Ayn Riggs

The Cocoa Pod Cast #6 Act Today for a Better Tomorrow with Ayn Riggs

welcome to another episode of the coco podcast a place where we amplify voices in the chocolate and cocoa industry in search for true sustainability i am your host emma rose and today i am joined by an amazing woman who’s done a lot to enlightened chocolate lovers to the not so lovely side of the chocolate industry anna riggs founded slave-free chocolate after she heard in the uk that chocolate is tied to child slavery upon her return to the u.s she thought she might donate to a group working on this but to her dismay she found absolutely nothing that focused on bringing attention to the plight of these farmers and children and decided to take this up as she felt it was what she should do she is not only she is not connected to the chocolate or food industry in any manner and her independence from the industry allows her voice to be her own she is no stranger to activism work in the social justice space but makes her living as an architectural finisher her passion for her work in the chocolate industry is inspired by her two daughters in her words i’m a mom and moms don’t like it when children suffer slaverychocolate.org is truly one of the best resources i’ve stumbled upon while researching ethical chocolate and i’m so glad to have you here with me today welcome to the show oh thank you very much for having me yeah i’m personally very grateful for your work so it’s really an honor to have you join the conversation wow thank you for your kind words great thank you um so tell us something interesting about yourself that most people don’t know um oh gosh um some people don’t know well i don’t have anything to do with the chocolate industry and although i like chocolate i didn’t get into this because i was like a chocoholic or anything like that i got into this because of only because of you know when i heard about what was happening with the children and i found that out in 2006 2007 i was actually on a flight home from the uk to the united states and i ran very randomly met a bbc um court world correspondent by the name of humphrey huxley and we were just having one of those like random airport you know conversations you know where people were on layovers and all that and he had told me that he had either just gotten back from co2 bar or he was going to cote d’ivoire doing on pieces on child slavery in the chocolate industry and i had like no idea i had never heard anything like that before and when i got back kind of unjet lagged you know i did some inter you know internet querying and i found nothing i found absolutely nothing right there was nothing there was one um kind of chocolatier blog post that had one page about the harken angle protocol on his last page and i thought wow this is crazy this obviously seems to be true here’s the harkin angle protocol here’s you know just a tiny bit of other information but nobody knows anything about it so i’m like well this is not going to work because i wanted to maybe donate to an organization or help an organization but there wasn’t one so i thought well all right i just guess i will start this and that’s how it all happened started and happened wow that’s crazy so what was your main goal when you decided to create slave-free chocolate well you know because in so many instances of like trafficking right let’s say sex trafficking for example we don’t know who these culprits are right it takes interpol and the fbi tons of work to come up with maybe a name or you know maybe an organization but here we have all the people that signed the harkin angle particle they all signed that they knew that there was child slavery in the industry they knew that they were profiting off of the child slavery in the industry and they promised to remedy it so when i first started this i thought wow this might not take long this should be the low-hanging fruit of abolition because we know who the perpetrators are they’ve admitted that they’re profiting off of this trap you know these trafficked kids they promise to change it but for some reason they’re not and at that time i didn’t know why but i thought well you know if if we can say tackle this one since this should be the easiest one then maybe that will give our planet you know people who are concerned with humanitarian rights like the power and inspiration to say hit other industries which aren’t so transparent as to where the problem is and who’s behind it so that um i guess is how i got started and that’s i thought it was going to be honestly i thought it was going to be like like a three-year thing or something like that and i’ve been doing it now for 16 years and the journey just gets more complex and harder as me and you know all the other people you know whether they’re chocolate makers chocolatiers citizens attorneys as we’re trying to fight this this problem um it just seems to get harder and more complex wow that’s crazy i personally have only been uh in the chocolate industry for two years for a solid two years now and definitely some new to this but it’s just crazy to hear like how long this fight has been going on and you know how long ago the harken angle protocol was signed and how many extensions these companies have given themselves oh yeah it’s crazy and um there are many brands now who are infiltrating the ethical chocolate niche um yes and marketing their so-called ethical chocolate one of the most prominent ones i can think of is tony’s chocolonely however their noble mission is tainted by the fact that they source from the world’s largest chocolate producer barry calibo who profits quite directly from slavery yes i took them yeah i took them off the sleepy chocolate ethical list after keeping them on for like 15 years i took them off early this year it caused a bunch of hubbub in the industry right well this is very like confusing for a lot of for a lot of consumers but more than that it’s also just very misleading for those of us who don’t do any research beyond what’s written on the label and yeah yeah i was wondering if you had any idea how we can make sure we’re not misusing our purchasing power when all of that is going on well well it gets tough we we now live in kind of an environment where you know you people will give give attention to something for like six min six seconds or something like that right so you know if the label doesn’t say it you know how are people stopping and like pulling pulling the thread here to see what’s really happening i think that it gives an advantage to any kind of marketer you know to say like one of my you know in regards to cacao one of my most hated words is sustainable when i started sleeping chocolate nobody was using the word sustainable for anything anything right maybe some farmers in some things but it only meant can we have another crop next year of a plant right are we going to get another crop next year and maybe in five years that was what sustainable was and so here’s another word where like the big chocolate companies and other in other industries they put it under this big umbrella that they’re throwing in labor they’re throwing in you know happy farmers or throwing in children under this umbrella of sustainable and sustainable doesn’t even in my world doesn’t even mean that so you know we and i think that’s i think that as the explosion of the internet explosion of you know we’re spending six seconds you know researching something right it it all makes everything harder for the consumer to find out you know if they’re really buying something that’s you know aligned with ethics or they wouldn’t be concerned in the first place if it didn’t so what is your top strategy for fixing this broken system um i think my top strategy is really to um encourage people to actually really super act do action when i first started safely chocolate it was before facebook it was before definitely tick-tock you know all it was even before twitter before all that kind of stuff right and so what we were doing is if somebody was concerned about something or somebody cared about something then they would write an email they’d write a letter or we’d get an organization maybe there’d be like a sunday school class and all the sunday school kids would write a little letter and they’d send it in to their congressman or they’d send it to hershey’s or something like that people would protest people would you know you know write articles i still write articles so people if they cared action actually meant action and now what we’ve seen with the explosion of social media it’s a mixed bag on one hand it’s a great way to educate people if they you know those give people that six seconds six seconds of something it’s a great way to spread awareness it’s a great way to spread education but what i’ve seen since i’ve been since i so i i’ve been there in the old days is that people are lulled into this idea that if they like a post or gives a give a thumbs up or give a frowny face that they’ve actually done something and it’s it’s it’s not that it’s not important because you know it does spread like you know you know this person doesn’t like you know slave tainted products oh maybe i don’t either but it’s not enough it’s not enough to qualify as true action it’s not a protest it’s not a letter it’s not a boycott it’s not getting onto these big chocolate companies radar you know even so for example like something like a a petition right you’re you know i see those petitions all the time signing a little petition you know petition is a great way to say okay to spread awareness on something just like oh wow you know these turtles are dying over here you’re to sign this petition right but you really but it’s not going to change anything you know like so so hershey’s gets this petition that nobody likes slavery in their chocolate how are they going to react to it well what they’ve been doing saying but we don’t have it or you know we have these initiatives or we’re trying or we you know there’s all sorts of like smoke and mirrors marketing excuses but on the other hand i want to make sure that and encourage people to actually act to actually act actually do something you know other than thinking oh you know i i’d like to post about the turtles or i gave a frowny face about the turtles i’ve saved turtles it doesn’t work that way right so then beyond choosing uh to purchase ethical chocolate what is um what are key actions we can take that will improve the system i think mainly it’s um pressuring the complicit companies they’re the ones that you know have been benefiting from this problem um they’re the ones that haven’t cleaned up their act in this problem they’re they are the only ones who can fix it it’s you know it’s a great thing for to give consumers a choice it’s great for them to have you know ethical chocolate that they can buy and they should definitely be doing that but if you add everything into the artisan you know ethical chocolate market it’s just a drop in the ocean of all the chocolate that gets sold halloween christmas you know valentine’s day easter right but that’s been that’s when the masses amounts of you know cheap chocolate com come into being so if there was some sort of magic wand something and maybe somebody or something can happen but what’s going to have to happen or what needs to happen is the big complicit chocolate companies they all need to come to the table at the same time they’re kind of like a cartel right you know one of the problems we have is the beans that are coming from deep in the bushes of ghana and cochlear they are getting mixed up so you know saying if hershey said well we’re going to be you know we promise transparency well that’s almost kind of impossible right we’re going to do this we’re going to do that they need to come to the table they need to say okay we a have to start paying these farmers a living wage for their beans a nothing if they don’t do that nothing else is going to change and then b work together on some of the initiatives now over the last 16 years i have seen countless countless initiatives some some started by the complicit companies themselves it’s just their way of saying see we’re working on it we have this initiative over here some by you know activists some by well-meaning ngos there’s a lot of different initiatives and i think those initiatives probably have a lot of value but unless the farmers are making a living wage for their beans no all these initiatives are for naught nothing’s nothing’s going to happen so nothing’s going to happen positively if those initiatives aren’t backed by a living wage right so paying more for the cocoa beans is really the key answer here to stop being alone yes it has to be the key answer the reason we have slaves in the chocolate industry is because the average farmer at coke debar makes 75 cents a day like how is he going to purchase paid adult labor when he could barely feed his family that’s what we’re talking about so no is just paying them more going to solve all these problems no but that’s like the baseline thing that has to happen and then people can come and look at these different initiatives traceability programs you know educational programs building schools all that needs to come on top of the fact that these farmers are getting paid a decent wage for their beans right right if you personally had 1 million to invest in the chocolate industry in 2021 how would you choose to spend it i would spend it and coming up with some way that would bring these coco these chocolate companies to the table you know some sort of public way like i’ve reached out for example i wouldn’t give these people this money i don’t think it worked but i i reached out and i’ve been lobbying like the catholic church to say wow you guys have so much power you have this you have you have you know your your word your narrative stretches over our whole planet right you need some really good press for sure right why not say hey you know let’s let’s bring you know let’s bring these eight companies to the table publicly and say let’s hash this out right let’s hash this out you know the gig is up we need to hash this out let’s start here publicly they’re all sitting around the table i would use that million dollars to sort of somehow get bribe somebody in to say getting these people to the table is it the catholic church you know they’ve turned they turned me down although i keep poking at them is there some sort of you know non-corrupt you know institution that could do that some sort of celebrity some sort of something to say hey we’re going to take care of this once and for all here’s a meeting place send in your cos or whoever you need to do and let’s hash this out publicly so that they can’t turn around and say they’ve already done something that they haven’t done which is usually the case right that was how i would spend that money i like that i like that a lot awesome is there anything else you want to say to our listeners today um i would run to say that just keep fighting the fight it seems like the the more you do the more smoke and mirrors tactics come up the more people have a different way of saying that there really isn’t a problem here and there’s even some influential people that are gaslighting the industry that they’re not finding you know slavery in the sector but the facts you know tell a different story to just say keep doing that keep encouraging people to to act you know buying you know buying ethical chocolate is one thing that’s a way to vote with your dollar but keep going keep spreading the word keep going this is a you know we consumers really have all the power here we really really do this is a consumer this is a consumer product right um it it really can change so just keep just you know don’t shrug your shoulders when it looks like you know hershey’s just announced or are picking on them for some reason today nestle just announced or mars here’s goodwin mars just announced that you know they’re sending in computers into the here to the bush of apricot problem solved just you know don’t don’t buy into that or you know keep pulling the threat keep pulling the threat why do you say that’s going to work you know try to keep engaging with these companies eventually eventually they hopefully will say okay gig is up we need to come to the table all together all together there’s not one company that’s going to change another company’s mind they all have to come together that’s very very clear so just keep up the pressure that’s what i would say and then keep up your good work especially if you’re in the chocolate industry i know that if you’re an ethical chocolate maker you know you should be triply furious because if everybody says that they’re ethical and every company says they care more about children than anything else on this planet then who is the culprit who then is responsible for the 1.5 million children who are either slaves or illegal child labor so i know you guys have a big fight because you’re competing with people saying the same thing right awesome well thank you so much for your time today the chocolate industry is very lucky to have you i invite everyone who is listening to go check out slavefreechocolate.org uh take a moment to browse the site and look over the list of ethical chocolate companies so you can that you can support so that next time you buy chocolate you’re armed with that powerful knowledge um and and if someone is interested in getting in touch with you what’s the best way they can do that i would say through my email and i’ll just get on this podcast i don’t mind especially if you’re a chocolate maker company um because also just a final word if you are a chocolate company um and i know you have a lot of industry people on your blog the the ethical listeners we don’t have the bandwidth to say try to chase down every small ethical artisan chocolate company so you need to come to us but when you do it’s also that you’re joining a group of kind of pseudo activists it’s not just oh here’s here’s you know free marketing for you i do want something in return i don’t ask for any money they do ask for you to say push out things to your audience you know maybe you know do different things maybe you know send a letter to nestle do some other things that that we can keep the pressure growing on these companies and so we’d love to have you it’s kind of like work i consider all the companies on this list for us all to be in a team working towards the right to the right thing so please my email address is a is an apple r is in robot i is an igloo g is in george g is in george s is in sam five two three at gmail.com and tell me i’ll once you email me i’ll be able to you know reach out to you about you know what you need to do to get on the list or if you’re just a consumer that has a great idea or something like that i’d love to hear from anybody wonderful well thank you all for listening please drop a review share this podcast with your friends and spread the word the chocolate industry is a powerful one and the fact that we get to enjoy this food regularly should not be at the expense of african children’s suffering we live in the year 2021 it’s high time we take this seriously and become part of the change catch me on the next wave of the coco podcast bye for now you
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The Cocoa Pod Cast #6 Act Today for a Better Tomorrow with Ayn Riggs

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