IMPACT
01/21/2015 06:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How 'Harry Potter' Fans Won Their War Against Child Labor

Orlando Sentinel via Getty Images

The fictional world of "Harry Potter" has made a profound impact on human rights in Muggle society.

And it used chocolate to do it.

Warner Bros., who owns the merchandising rights of the famed book and film series, announced before Christmas that "by the end of 2015, and sooner when possible, all Harry Potter chocolate products sold at Warner Bros. outlets and through our licensed partners will be 100 percent UTZ or Fair Trade certified," according to The Washington Post.

Joshua Berger, Warner Bros. president for Harry Potter Global Franchise Development, had written the proclamation to Andrew Slack, founder of the Harry Potter Alliance -- an advocacy group that works toward equality, human rights and literacy in honor of the magical series.

Through the Not In Harry's Name campaign, Slack and his alliance began fighting in 2010 to convince the entertainment company to switch its for-purchase chocolates to fair trade at Universal Parks & Resorts’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida.

As Yes Magazine reported, Warner Bros. has used cocoa from Behr's Chocolate, which has a poor record when it comes to child labor.

The company received an "F" rating from Free2Work -- an anti-slavery advocacy group that partnered with the alliance for its campaign. According to the group, Behr's Chocolate "has no public information available concerning any policies related to labor rights or monitoring its supply chain" and "was also not responsive to requests for additional information."

That was unacceptable to Slack and his army of 'Potter' fans.

"If 'Harry Potter' [as a franchise] were to be in alignment with the values of Harry Potter [himself], it could be a real symbolic and coherent victory," Slack told The Washington Post. "['Harry Potter' is] part of the culture. It represents righteousness, nobility, love, so much beauty and a place of safety that people go to, and moral authority. If the 'Harry Potter' brand were to move something like fair trade, it would be making a statement that not only is the 'Harry Potter' brand a cut above the rest, but that [other franchises] have to catch up to it."

Cocoa production is notorious for enabling child labor, according to the International Labor Rights Forum. Farmers that produce cocoa in the developing world are often low-wage and unable to afford the labor that's needed, the forum points out, leading them to access child workers -- even if it's sometimes through human trafficking.

"Children are exposed to chemicals, long working hours and the denial of a decent education," the forum explains. "Low prices in the cocoa industry have left smallholder farmers with impoverished incomes and with no choice but to pull their children from school and have them help on the plantation."

Globally, about 168 million children are victims of child labor, according to the International Labor Organization.

To be fair trade certified, farmers must receive an adequate price to grow their product, and slave and child labor practices are strictly prohibited.

According to the alliance's Facebook page, the campaign brought together Walk Free -- an organization fighting modern slavery globally -- and author J.K. Rowling to champion the cause. Through "friendly conversations" with Warner Bros., an online petition demanding the company change its source of cocoa and encouraging supporters to record videos of themselves speaking out against the practice, the alliance's pressure gave way to progress.

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