Not so sweet after all?


Mia Warren

Excuse me. What?

June 28, 2021

Haribo’s sweets have been a staple of kitchen cupboards and snack drawers around the world since the company’s international expansion in the 1960s, but perhaps this childhood treat is not so innocent.

In recent years the German confectionary company has come under serious fire for its exploitative working conditions, unethical animal-testing and wasteful packaging. These accusations are no joking matter and its time Haribo takes some accountability as a major corporation with such a huge international presence.

Haribo’s “supposed“ efforts to tackle the ubiquity of plastic packaging are laughable. Despite professing to care about managing their impact on the environment they continue to use polypropene packaging which is not easily recyclable. In fact, as recently as 2018 volunteers from around the world collected and recorded over 187,000 items of trash from beach clean-ups and the Haribo company ranked among one of the world’s biggest contributors to plastic pollution (*face palm*). Quite frankly, Haribo’s environmental responsibility statement is woefully vague and reads like some unpaid intern was tasked with writing a corporate mission statement after having only looked up the definition of ‘sustainability’ in a Webster’s dictionary. Perhaps Haribo thinks that with a healthy dose of greenwashing they can convince the world they have a well-executed sustainability policy. Yeah...nice try.

Most shockingly of all, in 2017 the German TV series Markencheck broadcast an explosive exposé documenting Haribo’s use of slave labour in Brazilian plantations. The documentary showed workers harvesting carnuba wax, a key ingredient that gives Haribo gummies their glossy finish. These workers were expected to work long days for only $12 all while being refused clean-water and toilet breaks. How can this be okay? Haribo MUST carry out more rigorous checks into the working conditions of its suppliers. Sadly though, this issue is not unique to the Haribo company, according to figures published by the Global Slavery Index approx. 40.3 million people today are victims of modern-day slavery.

To add further insult to injury, the 2017 exposé shone a spotlight on the company’s ties to animal cruelty. Upsetting scenes showed pigs farmed for gelatine in unsanitary conditions, some even suffering from open sores and infections. There is no earthly reason why Haribo (a HUGE corporation with an annual revenue of nearly €2 billion) should not have the proper procedures in place to thoroughly oversee all aspects of it’s supply chain. So the take-away? While Haribo’s colourful assortment of brightly-coloured gummies might hold a soft spot for many of us as a nostalgic childhood treat – it’s time we outgrow their corporate immaturity! Unless Haribo drastically cleans up their act we cannot in good conscience kick-back with a pack of their fruity sweets any longer.

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