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[greenyes] george and the chocolate factory : equitrade philosophy

george and the chocolate factory
Peter Heslam's avatar
Posted by Peter Heslam Fri, 02/09/2005 - 2:55pm ::

It?s a testimony to the creative power of the imagination that Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory has become a huge box-office success. That power is skilfully reflected in the
faces of the five children who visit the factory, and in the enchanting tour of the
factory led by its effusive though loopy proprietor, Willy Wonka. The result is a
tantalising moral fable that should appeal, on different levels, to all the family.

But the creative power of the imagination can also be seen, no less inspirationally, in
the life and work of a true-life chocolate magnate ? George Cadbury. Not only through his
impressive philanthropy but, crucially, in and through his business activities, Cadbury
achieved more in terms of social reform, the amelioration of poverty and spiritual renewal
than many political and religious leaders of his day.

As a Quaker, George determined, when he took over the family business with his brother in
1861, that he would pursue business neither as an end in itself nor as a route to
individual riches but as a means of serving humanity and extending God?s kingdom.

Business has the same potential today ? even when it comes to chocolate. While many cocoa
producers struggle in a global market dominated by only three companies ? Cadbury, Nestle
and Mars ? the recent sale of the fair-trade company Green & Black to Cadbury increases
the likelihood that sales of fairly traded chocolate will continue their rapid rise at our
supermarket checkouts.

Another hopeful sign is the emergence of a new form of ethical commerce known as
?Equitrade?. Whereas Fairtrade provides help to a relatively small (though growing) number
of farmers, Equitrade tries to raise the quality of life for the majority of poor people
by carrying out the processing operations, where most of the profits are made, in the poor
countries themselves.

Malagasy Foods, for example, has recently started harvesting and processing chocolate in
Madagascar. It thereby ensures that 40 per cent of its income stays in Madagascar, with an
extra 11 per cent benefiting the country through tax.

Equitrade?s rationale for processing chocolate in developing countries echoes some of
George Cadbury?s reasons for carrying out his company?s processing operations on the edge
of socially deprived Birmingham. The result, then, was transformation on an unprecedented
scale. The same could happen today ? if only we?re prepared to release the creative power
of our imaginations.

Peter Heslam

Peter Heslam heads up Transforming Business, a new research and development project at
Cambridge University that is developing a theology of transformative business. See

Dan Weisenbach
Columbus, Ohio

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