Call Olive Garden: Demand Food That is Healthy, Sustainable, and Fair.

Olive Garden
Green America and our allies are ramping up our Good Food Now campaign targeting Olive Garden. Help us make Olive Garden’s phones ring off the hook, and tell the restaurant to pay fair wages and serve Good Food Now!

Here’s how you can help:

1. Call Olive Garden
Call Olive Garden’s customer service line between 10:00am ET and 4:00pm PT (7:00am PT – 1:00pm PT), Monday through Friday. Call 800-331-2729. 

2. Comment
Choose one of the scripts below to voice your concerns to Olive Garden about its unfair and unsustainable practices. Or create your own!

3. Share
Share information about this campaign on social media. We’ve created several images and tweets you can share with your Facebook and Twitter followers here (scroll to the bottom of the page). You can also leave a comment for  Olive Garden on its Facebook wall.

Sample Scripts for Calling Olive Garden:

1. If you are concerned about Environmental Sustainability and Health:

Hi, my name is _______, and I’m calling from __city, state__. I am concerned about the health of my family and the environment, therefore I am calling to request that Olive Garden offer more vegetables and more plant-based protein options on your menu. For example, I’d love spaghetti with veggie meatballs or ______. (Insert your favorite plant-based meal here).

This would help save water, reduce your carbon footprint and provide more options for people who want to eat out and still get a tasty, healthy and nutritious meal. Sustainability is important to me, and more restaurants need to pay attention to the impact of their menus on people and the planet.

2. If you are concerned about Workers and your Local Economy:

Hi, my name is_______, and I’m calling from__city, state__. I’m calling because I recently read reports that link your restaurants to poverty wages and horrible conditions for workers, including forced and child labor. It’s important to me that the restaurants I eat at value their workforce and protect the people who produce their food.

I hope Olive Garden will commit to paying fair wages to your servers and to ending exploitation in your supply chain. Additionally, Olive Garden should purchase more ingredients from local farmers. By paying workers fairly and sourcing locally, you can help families, provide fresher food to your customers, and in some cases lower your carbon footprint by reducing the distance you transport ingredients. Thank you.

3. If you are concerned about Animal Welfare and Sustainability:

Hi, my name is_______, and I’m calling from__city, state__. I’m calling because I am really concerned about the treatment of animals and would like to see Olive Garden take a stand against factory farms.

To do this, Olive Garden must source meat from suppliers who do not routinely use antibiotics on animals. At the same time, Olive Garden should choose suppliers who treat animals and farmers well, which is why I’d like to see organic meat and dairy on your menu, that come from smaller, local, independently-verified higher welfare farms, as well as more entree options without meat and dairy.

Why is this campaign targeting Olive Garden?

dardenrestaurantaction-250x250Olive Garden’s parent company, Darden, is the nation’s largest casual restaurant company, with $6.7 billion in sales. That translates to a lot of food, roughly 320 million meals per year—but unfortunately, most of it is not healthy for people, the planet, or animals.

An AP investigation found that Darden is sourcing from suppliers who use slave labor in Thailand, and many of the 150,000 workers who cook and serve in Darden’s restaurants, including Olive Garden, are paid poverty wages, as low as $2.13/hour.

Olive Garden also serves unhealthy, unsustainable meals. Many of its dishes include factory-farmed meat and dairy products that pollute the environment and are produced with routine antibiotics, hormones, and other harmful chemicals.

This past fall, Green America and 50 of our allies sent a letter to Olive Garden raising our concerns about the company’s unsustainable sourcing and unfair treatment of workers, but the company has failed to make progress. Instead, it consistently puts shareholder profits over fair wages for employees and food that is good for people, animals, and the planet. Sign our petition>>

Learn more about the Good Food Now! Campaign>>

 

Taking a Bite Out of Child Labor

Child Labor prevention programs in the cocoa sector have been slow to start, and insufficient.
Our new “Big Chocolate” Scorecard looks in to what’s happening now.  

child labor cocoa fieldNGOs and news outlets in the West first shined a light on the issue of child labor and extreme poverty among cocoa growing communities in West Africa in the early 2000’s. Since then, major chocolate companies, and the chocolate buying public, have become aware of these ongoing problems.

Yet despite this awareness, and many promises by the chocolate industry to address the problem of child labor, a report released in July 2015 commissioned by the United Stated Department of Labor showed that hazardous child labor in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire is a growing problem. The report found over 2.1 million children across both countries to be conducting hazardous tasks to harvest cocoa. A recent expose in Fortune magazine brought renewed attention to the sustainability efforts of the biggest chocolate industry players.

Starting in 2009, several companies began to make commitments to ethically certify their cocoa, as a means to trace their supply chain and deliver farmers a slightly higher price per ton—an important step to addressing one of child labor’s root causes: poverty.

Cocoa certification in West Africa, through Fair Trade International, Fair Trade USA, Utz Certified, or Rainforest Alliance, has led to some improvements for the farmers involved, but certified cocoa still only represents a fraction of the 3.5 million tons of cocoa sold worldwide.  Additionally, in terms of impact, not all certifications deliver the same benefits to farmers. Only the Fair Trade certifications guarantee a minimum price to farmers, as well as a guaranteed premium payment of $200 USD per ton.

In addition to certification, some chocolate manufacturers have launched their own programs to attempt to prevent child labor in their supply chains. Simultaneously, these chocolate companies are looking to avoid the looming cocoa shortage, as some analysts predict cocoa demand could outgrow supply by 2020. To ensure the future supply of cocoa, most companies have launched sustainability and productivity projects; however very few address child labor specifically. While productivity trainings to increase farmers’ yields seem like a logical argument to increase farmer incomes, this approach often does not take into account additional labor needed to harvest the extra crop—whether that’s in the form of hired day laborers, or children or women working without pay.

In order to tackle the persistent problem of child labor in the cocoa sector it must be addressed head-on, through community-based child labor monitoring and remediation systems. This means that any program touted to be fighting child labor must not only be educating farmers about the problems of child labor, but also regularly looking for child labor. That’s the monitoring part. When child labor is identified there must be clear and swift procedures to ensure the child is removed from harm and appropriate authorities are notified. That’s remediation. Offending farmers must establish a plan and timeline to correct this behavior. If the problem is not corrected a responsible company should choose to cease working with this farmer. Fair Trade International certification includes a child labor monitoring and remediation program. And Nestle, in partnership with the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), is rolling out a community-based child labor and remediation program, with a goal of covering all its farmers by the end of 2016.

Learn More:
Our “Big Chocolate” scorecard looks beyond certification, at six of the largest chocolate companies’ efforts to address child labor in their supply chains. This scorecard can help you choose consciously as you purchase your next chocolate treat, and more importantly, can help you raise your voice to the world’s largest chocolate brands, to let them know you expect your favorite chocolates to be made without child labor.

Take Action:
One company that’s not included in the “Big Chocolate” scorecard, but is found in many malls and convenience stores, is Godiva.  Owned by Yildiz, Godiva is not one of the top six chocolate companies by size, but it does sell significant amounts of chocolate in the US, and it lags behind many of the larger companies in its commitments to address child labor in its supply chain.  Sign our petition to Godiva calling on the company to stop lagging behind its competitors in preventing child labor in its cocoa. 

Looking for Better Chocolate Options?
While the major chocolate companies still have work to do to address child labor in their supply chains, many smaller brands already offer fair trade options—which means they have long-term, direct relationships with their farmers and guarantee a minimum price. Check out these brands here.

Organic Cocoa, From Ghana with Love

On A Recent Visit To Ghana, I Met With Some Of The First-Ever Ghanaian Organic Cocoa Farmers.

organic cocoa
Organic certified cocoa from Ghana.

Five years ago, if you wanted to buy an organic chocolate bar, you would have had a hard time finding one with cocoa from anywhere in West Africa. Despite the fact that the region is the largest producer of cocoa in the world, providing raw cocoa to companies like Hershey, Mars and Cadbury, it simply did not have organic certified cocoa farms. In Ghana, for example, which supplies roughly 30% of the world’s cocoa, the government long reserved the right to apply pesticides on all cocoa farms in the country to prevent plant diseases they feared could threaten the entire harvest. And, while fair trade production—which limits the use of certain chemicals—launched in Ghana in 1995, organic was still an impossibility for almost two decades.

Recently, however, things have started to change, and several industrious Ghanaian farmers are producing some of the first organic certified cocoa in in the country. Late last year I had the chance to visit Ghana for a series of meetings focused on boosting farmer incomes—an issue we’ve advocated for at Green America for years. At the meetings I was able to meet dozens of cocoa farmers from throughout West Africa. Many of these men and women had produced cocoa their whole lives, and came from long lines of cocoa farmers—so they were experts.

IMG_0960
Farmer Francis Otu explaining cocoa production.

Francis Otu is one of the farmers I met. Francis has been cocoa farming for a long time, but started using organic methods in 2006. He is a member of Cocoa Organic Farmers Association (COFA). Located in the Brong Densuso area of Ghana’s Eastern Region, COFA is the first organization producing organic cocoa in Ghana. COFA has four communities (clusters of farms) owned by over 600 different members. Even though Francis started using organic insect repellents in 2006, such as neem, it was not until more recently the government blocked off COFA’s communities from regular pesticide treatments. Combined, members of COFA own 1250 acres of land, which equates to roughly 950 football fields that are no longer being treated with chemicals.

 

IMG_1160
Cocoa pods up close.

Cocoa farming, organic or not, is intense work. Unlike large-scale farms here in the United States that sprawl for acres and rely on machines, cocoa farms are typically are very small, just 3 to 5 acres, and must be harvested by hand. At first glance, the farms don’t seem like farms at all, but forests. On the farm I visited during my visit, the cocoa trees were well spread out; their branches created a cool and quiet canopy for all of us standing below, and the ground was covered in dead leaves. These leaves, which I initially imagined had fallen randomly, were actually part of the farmers’ pest-prevention measures, staving off weeds from growing in the ground.

Francis is passionate about organic farming and using no synthetic chemicals. When I asked why, he stated, “because it is healthier for me, as the farmer, for my land, and for the consumers in Europe who buy my cocoa.” After the three year transition period required to obtain organic certification, he can also make more money. “It’s very difficult to make a living as a cocoa farmer, but as an organic farmer it’s a little better. I make a premium of 20 cedi per bag I sell.” (roughly $5).

IMG_1139
Inspecting fermenting cocoa beans.

Cocoa pricing is always a little confusing. In Ghana, COCOBOD, the government’s central cocoa marketing branch, sets the price of cocoa each year. For this growing season, the price was increased to 420 GH¢ per 64kg bag, or $105. Francis and his peers then earn $110 per bag. From conversations I had with several of the farmers attending the conference, it seems 1 acre of land can yield about 4 bags per year, which for most farming families would equate to only $1680 annually. The Cocoa Barometer found that most cocoa farmers in Ghana and their children live on just $0.86 per day, well below the global poverty line of $1.25/day. Child labor, a symptom of extreme poverty, has been a known problem in West African cocoa fields for more than a decade. In a 2015 survey, Tulane University, commissioned by the US Department of Labor, found that more than 2 million children in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire work in hazardous conditions growing cocoa, such as burning fields, applying agrochemicals, carrying heavy loads, and not attending school.

drying cocoa
After the cocoa pods are picked, and the beans inside fermented, they are laid out to dry in the sun.

While organic certified cocoa does command a higher price than conventional, if there is no buyer interested in organic, the cocoa will be sold as conventional. Francis explained that though he started using organic methods nearly a decade ago, earning certification and finding buyers took many years. Right now, COFA sells its cocoa to a Swiss chocolate manufacturer, but still has no US buyers. When I asked what would help Francis and his peers most he said, “more direct relationships with buyers so that we can make long-term investments in our farms and maintain quality.”

Globally, organic cocoa production is still a minute portion of all cocoa sold. The ICCO estimates that just 15,000 tons of more than 300 million tons is grown under organic conditions, or .05%. And less than 30% of this cocoa comes from West Africa, according to the FAO. However, the emergence of organic cocoa in Ghana could not come at a better a time. Consumer demand for organic products is growing at a strong pace, cocoa included. According to Euromonitor International, global organic chocolate sales were estimated to have nearly doubled from $171 million in 2002 to $304 million in 2005.

francis trees
Francis pointing out one of his cocoa trees.

The purpose for my visit to Ghana was to learn from farmers what challenges they face and what it would take to make cocoa farming a long-term, profitable livelihood for farmers. Cocoa farmers throughout West Africa live in extreme poverty—malnutrition, remote homes, no access to schools, and no regular income–despite the world’s voracious consumption of chocolate. At the meetings, Francis declared to all of us that “just like a cocoa tree needs nutrients like water and sunlight to survive, so too do cocoa farmers. If cocoa farmers can not earn a decent income for their work, there will be no chocolate.” For our part as consumers, we have a delicious job to do—buy and eat more organic and fair trade certified cocoa, to support all the men and women who pick each and every pod.

Check out our Chocolate Scorecard to find organic and fair trade chocolates, and to find out which companies are lagging behind.

Photos by Emilie Schoots and Elizabeth O’Connell.

Chocolate is Big Business on Valentine’s Day

Between the  gifts for sweethearts and the cards for colleagues, Americans spent nearly $19 billion on Valentine’s Day last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Part of that spending, a whopping $1.7 billion, was spent on just candy and chocolate. It’s likely that 2016 could yield similar figures.

But how much of this money makes it’s way back to cocoa farmers?

Cocoa Infographic v3Annually, the global chocolate industry commands more than $83 billion.  Since most chocolate on store shelves in the United States comes from West Africa, Green America has been persistently pressuring US cocoa companies to step up and take care of the workers—and child laborers—in their supply chains.

This infographic traces the conventional cocoa supply chain in an effort to show where the majority of the money consumers spends on a chocolate bar ends up.

Purchasing fair trade chocolate from companies that have more direct relationships with farmers is important, as is ongoing pressure on manufacturers, processors, and traders, to improve the situation for farmers and their families.

Check out our Chocolate Scorecard to find organic and fair trade options for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day.

Click here to download the 1-page version of our Infographic.

Safe, Green and Fair Holiday Gifts for Kids

Gifts.

Celebrating greener holidays can mean reducing the number of gifts you give, choosing instead to focus on relationships and the spiritual meaning attached to the holiday season. Still, many find great joy in sharing gifts with the children in their lives. Fortunately, there are many wonderful gift ideas guaranteed to bring a smile to a child’s face while supporting the giver’s commitment to a just and sustainable future at the same time. The following gift ideas are all from companies that are green, family-owned, or fair trade—or even all three!

 

Toys

Fair Indigo Stuffed Dog
Fair Indigo’s Stuffed Dog

From giraffes, to penguins to raccoons, Fair Indigo’s fair trade Stuffed Animals span the entire animal kingdom. Made by artisans in Peru. $25.90

Maple Landmark train
Maple Landmark Midget Railway Set

Maple Landmark’s Midget Railway box set includes six train cars and is made in the US from sustainably harvested pine. $41.00 Member of the Green Business Network

Upavim Craft’s Baby Cow Snuggle Blanket is fair trade and made of super soft fleece. It will surely delight any baby. $15.50

Global Mamas fair trade Kid’s Cape is perfect for games of pretend. The cape is gorgeously printed with magic stars and moons by artisan women in Ghana. $20.00

The Wooden Wilderness Animal set, available at Naturally Playful, is great for games of pretend and teaching kids about the outdoors. Made in the US. $26.00 Member of the Green Business Network

Fair Trade Winds’ Pixie Ring Rattle is an easy-to-hold crocheted baby rattle. Handmade in Bangladesh from soft cotton by rural women who work flexible hours from home. $16

bella luna wonderworld-little-tool-box-wooden-toys
Bella Luna Work Bench

Bella Luna’s Wooden Toy Work Bench will provide hours of fun for any junior carpenter. Made with sustainably harvested rubber wood and non-toxic dyes. $32.95 Member of the Green Business Network

The Wishbone 2-in-1 Balance Bike, available from Hazelnut Kids, is made from recycled materials. Rather than having to buy multiple bikes to introduce your child to cycling, this one well-made bike can be enjoyed for many years. 3-in-1 bikes also available. $199 Member of the Green Business Network

Pocket Discs are great for playing inside and out. All are fair trade with dozens of designs to choose from. $19.99 Member of the Green Business Network

Color by Nature color pencils are handmade and fair trade in Chile out of twigs. Available at Ten Thousand Villages. $18.00

One World Project’s Muchacho and Muchacha fair trade piggy banks teach kids to save. $30.

 

Haba Fantasy Blocks
Haba Fantasy Blocks

HABA’s Fantasy Blocks are ideal for creative play. Includes 26 non-toxic pieces, all made in Germany. $44.99

Build a Bouquet, from Green Toys, allows for any little gardener’s creativity to grow. All Green Toys products are made of 100% recycled materials in the US. $27.99.

Fair Trade finger puppets, from Finger Puppets Inc. offer numerous themes of finger puppets for creative play. $2.99 each.

Used Toys: Let’s face it—kids grow up too fast. Because if this, its often possible to find very gently used toys in yard sales, church sales, and on craigslist. Pleygo, a new service specializing in just Legos, makes it easy to buy used Lego sets.

Books

Global Babies includes full color portraits of babies from around the world.

Click, Clack, Moo – Cows That Type tells the story of farm animals who come together in a non-volient way and bargain collectively for better treatment. Available at Better World Books new and used.

Used Books: It’s very easy to find used books on sites like Better World Books. Choose some of your favorite books form when you were young to share with your favorite little people.

Clothing & Accessories

This festive fair trade “Hooty” bib from Upavim Crafts will have your littlest ones eating in style this holiday. $11.50

Monkey Backpack by Handcrafting Justice. This adorable, fair trade backpack is perfect for kids to carry to school or other activities. Made in Thailand, backpacks also come in elephant and owl! $28.00

Safe Sand Indoor and Outdoor sand, available in 25-pound bags, is ideal for sandbox play and molds when wet. Safe Sand is low-dust and non-toxic, with no asbestos, no lead, no crystalline silica dust. $25.00 Member of the Green Business Network

Global Mama’s fair trade sun hat is perfect from shielding new baby on sunny days. Made by artisans in Ghana. $20.00

This fair trade Felted Flower Purse is perfect for carrying any tiny person’s tiny things. Available at One World Fair Trade. $15

Final Considerations

Because so many baby products, like monitors and toys, require batteries to operate, consider a rechargeable battery set as a gift for mom and dad to reduce waste.

And lastly, no products can replace love and care. Any time you can spend playing with the kids in your life will be very well received. If you are looking for activities to do with a little person, consider picking up some art supplies to work with them on a craft project, or take them on a special outing like a nature walk or puppet show.

This post was made possible with the suggestions of many Green America members. Thanks to Carmen, Andrew, Paula, Denise, Alix, Kate, Jennifer, Leslie, Antonie and Jerry.

Find our 2014 Safe, Green Toys recommendations here. 

Choose Better Chocolate This Halloween

cocoa factsWe’re calling on consumers to choose chocolate for visiting goblins and witches that supports cocoa farmers and their families! That means buying from a chocolate company that has a direct and long-term relationship with the farmers it purchases from.

Along with our partner, the International Labor Rights Forum, we’ve developed an informational card which can be printed and handed out along with the treats, so you can help spread the word about the injustices of the cocoa sector!

How it works:

1. Download our quarter-page flyer and print out as many as you like for your trick-or-treaters
2. Order or buy direct trade or fair trade chocolate minis*
3. Attach 1 mini to each card with double sided tape or non-toxic glue
4. Share with your visitors and their parents

Background:

Over 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, where cocoa farming families, with an average of 6 people, live on roughly just $2 per day. As a result, over 2 million children are relied on to harvest the cocoa crop each year. For years, Green Americans have campaigned to put an end to hazardous child labor in the cocoa fields.

The good news is that consumer pressure works. Major chocolate companies have started to take action to address the problems in their supply chains. The bad news is that many of the company solutions are too small and slow to really fix the problem.

We need to keep up the pressure on companies, and in the meantime we need to support the chocolate companies that are doing it right.

*Where to find Better Chocolate:

Support cocoa farmers this year by choosing better chocolate for your trick-or-treaters. Download our informational cards now!

Standing up for Human Rights Defender: Andy Hall

Thai Embassy
Greenpeace, Green America, ILRF, and Humanity United met with the Thai Embassy in DC in support of Andy Hall.

For more than 30 years, Green America has worked to expose social and environmental injustices that occur around the world, especially along the supply chains of products American consumers enjoy, like electronics, clothing, chocolate, and other food.

Our work is often possible because of committed individuals on the ground, working to shed light on some of the worst human rights abuses—such as the forced labor and human trafficking that has been happening for years in Thailand’s seafood sector.

Andy Hall, a human rights researcher and activist based in Bangkok, has worked to shed light not only on the seafood sector, but also the fruit industry in Thailand. His reporting on Natural Fruit, a pineapple processing company, uncovered serious labor right abuses including use of child labor, unlawfully low wages, confiscation of workers’ official documents, excessive overtime and poor conditions. It also resulted in Andy’s being charged with defamation by the company under investigation. In Thailand, defamation is a criminal offense, meaning that Andy is facing jail time for blowing the whistle on a company that was breaking the law.

Andy’s case was already tried once and he won. However, the Attorney General in Thailand appealed the case and Andy is once again going to trial on October 19th 2015. If he is found guilty he could be imprisoned for seven years.

Today, Green America and our allies presented a letter to the Thai Embassy in DC, in support of Andy Hall and all whistle blowers. The letter was signed by 44 international organizations, and we presented it with the International Labor Rights Forum, Greenpeace, Humanity United, and the Child Labor Coalition.

You can read the full letter here.

To show your support for Andy Hall you can sign a petition and contribute to his legal fund. Read more about Andy’s case in The Guardian.