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Leader: The Kit-Kat club

THE association of chocolate with the two main Christian festivals is, we think, a coincidence. None the less, so much chocolate is being bought at the present time that Kraft has been attracted into British waters by the aroma of a successful Cadbury’s operation. The management of Cadbury’s is resisting a takeover by the American food giant by parading the com­pany’s ethical credentials: founded by a Quaker in 1824; renowned for the care of its workers in Bournville; and, in July this year, the first mainstream chocolate bar to use Fairtrade cocoa. Things are not entirely clear-cut. In 2007, Cadbury’s an­nounced its intention of switching some of its production to Poland to take advantage of lower labour costs. Its CEO, Todd Stitzer, a naturalised American, talks of being open to someone offering “compelling value” for the company’s shares.

This week, the Archbishop of York posed in front of a large Kit-Kat poster to mark the first Fairtrade bars. Nestlé, which took over Rowntree Mackintosh in 1988, has been forced to follow Cadbury’s example, since both have been targeted by campaigners concerned about the exploitation of plantation workers, including children. The fact that similar arguments were being rehearsed in 1909 (see 100 years ago) is a shocking reminder that 100 years of progress in manufacturing has not been matched by justice for those in the developing world who produce the raw materials.

The Church Times in 1909 was alarmed by a perceived fall in standards at Cadbury’s, and its wider implication. “We fear that the strong and winsome sentiment against slavery is weakening.” It is to be hoped that, at the present time, the tide is running in the other direction. The welfare of workers in the developing world, and the environmental impact of production, are routinely scrutinised by shareholders. The whole nut still to crack, of course, is the equitable sharing of profit. Shareholders are clearly not the most obvious party to pursue this, although Christian investors can have a hand in it. It is up to customers to ensure that, whatever they buy, however brightly wrapped, has no taste of exploitation to it.

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