“1 Chocolate for 1 Smile”: Empowering Children in Cocoa-Producing Countries, with Consumer Participation

Author Yoko Nakajima

CSR Group Manager, Corporate Communications Division
Raising awareness of child labor in Ghana. Photo by ACE.

World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) member Morinaga is a Japanese confectionery manufacturer founded in 1899. By releasing “Morinaga Milk Chocolate” in 1918, Morinaga became the first Japanese company to successfully undertake the whole process of the production of chocolate, from bean to final product. Since its foundation, Morinaga has had a vision “to become a company that serves children around the world”. Part of the way to achieve this vision has been the “1 Chocolate for 1 Smile” campaign, which was initiated in 2008 in commemoration with the 90th anniversary of “Morinaga Milk Chocolate”.

This program donates 1 Japanese yen (approximately 1 US cent) from the sale of selected chocolate products (the prices of which vary from 100 yen to 300 yen) that are purchased during a special period between January and February. At the beginning of the effort, Morinaga provided donations to the NGO “Plan International Japan”, which works to improve the educational environment of children in the Philippines. A few years later, the company recognized the issue of child labor in cocoa production and felt it necessary to support cocoa-producing countries as part of being a responsible chocolate manufacturer. In 2010, Morinaga decided to collaborate with the NGO “Action Against Child Exploitation (ACE Japan)”, which since 2009 has been implementing “SMILE-Ghana Project (Sustainable Management of cocoa farms and Improved Life Education for the elimination of child labor)” in the Ashanti Region of western Ghana.

Japanese consumers have supported the campaign as an easy way to take part in a charitable activity to improve the lives of children in cocoa producing countries through the purchase of chocolate. Since the launch of the campaign in 2008, the total amount donated has reached just over US$2 million, and, through Morinaga’s partner NGOs, has helped children in countries like Ghana, Cameroon, Ecuador, and Indonesia.

The significance of the collaboration with ACE is that 454 children identified as child laborers were rescued from child labor and enrolled in schools in eight villages supported by the program. The establishment and effective functioning of the Community Child Protection Committee (CCPC), which consists of men and women in the project-focus communities who work voluntarily for the sake of children’s welfare, was a key to this success. In addition to the direct rescue of the 454 children, the project has helped improve the educational environment of about 4,000 children, and provided training on good cocoa production techniques to vulnerable cacoa farmers, thereby enhancing their incomes.

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CCPC and community members preparing for a workshop on children’s rights Photo by ACE

Based on these achievements, Morinaga since 2013 has been producing chocolate products using cocoa grown in the areas supported by ACE. It has been challenging to procure and ensure the traceability of cocoa beans from the designated areas, but this was achieved via cooperation between ACE, fellow WCF member company Tachibana & Co.,Ltd  and other stakeholders in Ghana. In 2014, the new chocolate, which was certified as Fairtrade, was released, making Morinaga the first major chocolate manufacturer in Asia to produce internationally certified Fairtrade chocolate. The sale of these products has since been temporarily halted as we consider producing new products.

Through the partnership with ACE and Plan International Japan, Morinaga learned about many of the realities of everyday life in cocoa-producing countries. Consumers, as well as the company’s employees, have become more familiar with the key sustainability issues involved in cacoa production, such as farmer livelihoods and incomes, and child labor. Morinaga and its partners are encouraged by the improvements and changes made in the support areas.

Awareness about sustainability and Fairtrade products is not high among the Japanese public, but interest is gradually increasing among school children. Therefore, Morinaga and its NGO partners are collaborating with some schools to deliver classroom lessons on the importance of sustainability and Fairtrade through “1 Chocolate for 1 Smile” activities.

“Let’s bring a smile to someone else when you eat chocolate” is the main message written under the campaign logo attached to the product package. Morinaga will continue the campaign and hopes that it will contribute further to raising awareness of consumers about the issues related to cocoa production. The company also believes that solving these issues is possible in partnership with consumers and cocoa producers, and that making both groups smile is a part of Morinaga’s responsibility.

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Children enjoy learning in school Photo by ACE