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Expedition: The Kraft Issue

The Dilemma
Just before attending the training day in February it came to my attention that Green & Black’s were in fact owned by Kraft (Kraft bought Cadbury who had bought Green & Black’s). This was a little problematic for me. Did I really want to be representing a large multinational company that has been known for its poor working practices, unfair trading agreements and rather unethical operations? Not really. I had to carefully consider whether to take part in the expedition. And after long conversations with my boyfriend decided to attend the training day and ask questions there. At the training day I was assured that Green & Black’s were relatively autonomous as a company within Kraft with its own ethical business practices and dealings with their suppliers. They argued that the Kraft takeover would be positive for their distribution networks and they could lead by example in terms of fair-trade and organic produce.
I felt assured that I was representing Green &Black’s as a ‘Brand Ambassador’ and their values were something I could get behind.
Where is the debate?
On the expedition some of the American participants were unaware of the Kraft buyout and, of course, being a group of ethically aware individuals there were some questions. Unfortunately a debate was not really offered and some slight hostility came from the Green & Black’s camp when some volunteers tried to spark that debate. This was a real shame for two reasons. Firstly because there was an incredible amount of interesting insight to learn from each other, some of the American volunteers have fascinating backgrounds and opinions to offer. Secondly, as consumers it is nice to feel that your opinions are heard and noted. This lack of debate ended with some tension from group members.
Then we were graced with the presence of two Kraft employees in the second week. They were representatives of the Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility departments and they sat with us over lunch to discuss their standpoints coming from Cadbury and then Kraft. This paved the way for a discussion which proved to be interesting. Although, I think some of us remained unconvinced by how much Kraft might amend its ways, it was still nice to be able to have that debate.
But it just felt a bit uncomfortable to have Kraft so involved when I was lead to believe that this was a Green & Black’s expedition. I’m still not sure how to resolve that in my head.
Photo by Nicole McCann
The Green & Black’s staff asserted that being part of Kraft, and organising this Community Development Programme, meant they were able to influence from within. They said that Cadbury and Kraft had been very interested in this project, which is a positive thing.
From my point of view, if Cadbury and Kraft make improvements in their working practices, take responsibility for the communities they work with abroad, and take steps towards fairer trading, than I am more than happy. Already Cadbury Dairy Milk is Fairtrade, which is a big feat considering it is the biggest selling chocolate bar in the country. Will there be more Community Development work in Ghana as a result? We shall see. And if they do, how will they ensure that this is successful and sustainable?
Conclusion
I think there should have been better management of the Kraft issue, which is bound to come up when working with a group of caring, ethically-aware individuals. There should the opportunity to debate and discuss the working practices and business style of Kraft. The space for criticism should be allowed. By offering up such space, amazing ideas, concepts and opinions can be shared. I have learnt so much on this expedition just by being open, asking questions, and listening.  Finally, I don’t think it is fair to let Kraft hijack a Green & Black’s expedition just because they hold the purse-strings. Kraft, do your own expedition if you care that much.
Thanks.

 

  1. I must admit when Kraft bought out Cadbury's I considered never eating it again, but then I am a chocoholic. Maybe one day I will find the willpower to do it.

    Although I feel to some extent it is right to boycott companies you disagree with I also wonder at what point do you give them a chance. With governments certainly not doing enough in terms of aid/environment it seems that companies are the only ones with the money to do stuff. But how do you encourage them to do that I suppose is the question?

  2. It is a difficult dilemma to be honest. I think most large companies now have a Corporate Responsibility statement at the very least, but how far they go to implementing it varies.

    It is absolutely important that companies put their money and efforts where their mouth is. But as I talked about in the previous blog post, good intentions are not always the most productive or sustainable.

  3. Absolutely fascinating reading about the ethics issue here – and a great conclusion about the 'space for criticism'. This whole question is feeling especially pertinent to me as I've just written a post on ethical fashion.

  4. Roz – Ha! I have just seen your comment after just writing on your blog about fashion ethics!
    I think we are on a similar page with this one. 🙂

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