Chocolate, Cotton, Coffee and Computers: is Ethical Consumption Possible?

The cocoa bean, the primary ingredient in chocolate, is grown in tropical ecosystems in the Global South, while chocolate is consumed predominantly in industrialized economies in the Global North. Due to cocoa’s disparate geographies of production and consumption, any forest loss (and associated social and environmental impacts) occurs far from the immediate purview of consumers. Despite growing media attention about these issues, the average chocolate consumer remains in the dark about the exact social and environmental impacts of their purchases. As the presentation will show, similar environmental, social and labour challenges exist in the coffee and cotton industries, as well as resource extraction needed for computers. All these industries, especially the chocolate industry is addressing these issues at this very moment, and this presentation will explain the challenges and opportunities in doing so. Very practical ideas for how teachers can teach these topics.

Target Audience



10:15 AM - 11:45 AM

This session is full.


  • UVic
    Marlea Clarke

    Marlea Clarke (BA, University of Calgary; MA and PhD York University) is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria. Prior to joining the department in 2010, she was a post-doctoral fellow and lecturer in Labour Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton (2005-08), and worked as an educational specialist with the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa (2009-10). Between 1996-2003 she lived in Southern Africa, where she worked as a researcher and educator, much of this time based at the Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group (Institute of Development and Labour Law, University of Cape Town), where she remains affiliated as a Research Associate.

    She specialises in Comparative politics and the Global South (Africa). Her broad research interests are globalisation, employment and labour market restructuring from a comparative and feminist political economy perspective. Her research has focused on African political economy and development, with a particular focus on post-colonial transitions to democracy, state and labour market restructuring, state-civil society relations, and labour movements and community resistance in South Africa in both contemporary and historical contexts. She welcomes the opportunity to work with graduate students interested in any of these areas of study.

    Her published work includes contributions to Third World Quarterly; Work Organisation, Labour and Globalisation; Canadian Journal of African Studies; Work, Employment and Society; and Law Democracy & Development. Dr. Clarke’s book (jointly authored with Wayne Lewchuk and Alice de Wolff) titled Working Without Commitments: The Health Impacts of Precarious Employment, examines the implications of rising precariousness in the contexts of social exclusion and workers’ health and well-being in Canada (Montreal & Kingston: McGill Queen’s University Press, 2011).

    She is the co-editor (with Carolyn Bassett) of two special issues of the Journal of Contemporary African Studies: ‘Legacies of Liberation: Post-colonial struggles for a democratic Southern Africa’ (2014) and ‘The struggle for transformation in South Africa: unrealized dreams, persistent hopes’ (2016).

    She is currently working on a new project (2015-2020) funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) titled: Fast Fashion and decent work: labour standards in clothing production networks in sub-Saharan Africa. This project builds on her previous work on labour and global commodity chains to explore labour standards and emerging regional trade networks in the garment industry in sub-Saharan Africa.

    In her free time she can be found cycling, backpacking or hiking in the Canadian Rockies.