The Value of “Saving”


In a large, non-descriptive conference room, senior executives converge. Copies of  Excel spreadsheets, filled with data of various forms (tables, charts, and lists), are spread across the long table. Each sheet itemizes every minute detail, down to a fraction of a penny, of last year’s sales reports.

The topic for this routine meeting―this year’s budget.

The CEO begins by asking everyone to turn to pages 5-10 in their packet, particularly tables 1-5, and then questions how the company can cut costs, obtain new clients, and survive in the current economy. The executives, noses down, reviewing the facts and figures in front of them, start to feel the pressure to think of both cost-cutting measures, as well as growth plans. The CEO continuously taps the table, demonstrating that he is still awaiting a response from someone, anyone.

While this meeting takes place, solely to review commodities using fractions of pennies, individuals work day and night in harsh unsafe conditions earning fractions of pennies, if anything. Then living, held captive, within these same properties of unsanitary, confined conditions, never to escape. Mariam, a 12-year-old child is taken from her home, and trafficked to work in a cocoa farm in Ivory Coast, West Africa. She is lured away in the promise of a better life, only to discover a life of hunger, abuse, and captivity. An unnamed 13-year-old child spends her days cleaning iPhone screens for 13-15 hours a day at the Foxconn  factory in China. Yaya, 15-years-old, and Zanga, 16-years-old, fight to escape a cocoa farm, and run night after night in the dark searching for freedom. Freedom from being beaten for slow work, or wanting to leave their abusive capturers to find the better life they were once promised.

For both the CEO and the senior executives these fractions-of-a-penny savings represent a rectified number on a spreadsheet, table, or chart. This number can even symbolize a possibility for a bonus or promotion. However, these same fractions of a penny embody something drastically different to Mariam, Yaya, Zanga, and the millions of individuals in their same situation. Cost-cutting measures promote the increase of child labor, forced labor, and unfair wages in unsafe conditions, therefore, cultivating modern-day slavery.

The decimals and fractions on these spreadsheets represent more than sheet 5, table 2. These numbers personify the individuals working to produce the very items that these figures describe. Where are their names, wages, and working conditions on these spreadsheets representing the supply chain? Has this company ever visited the facility that produces their products to understand the impact of these cost-cutting measures?

To learn more watch The Dark Side of Chocolate video:


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