SMARTPHONES

QR codes accuse Hershey of child labor practices

Jul 14, 2011 04:46 pm | IDG News Service
Four organizations are mobilizing volunteers to put QR codes on store shelves, directing buyers to allegations about Hershey

by Nancy Gohring

QR codes have been used by shop owners to offer passersby information, in printed advertisements to offer users coupons and on restaurant menus to show photos of meals. Now, a group of activist organizations are using QR codes to warn shoppers about alleged child labor practices at Hershey.

Volunteers are invited to print out the cards with the QR codes and place them on store shelves in front of Hershey products. The cards say: "Hershey's chocolate is tainted with child labor."

The QR code opens a web page at raisethebarhershey.org that encourages people to take action in encouraging Hershey to disclose its supply chain down to the farm level and source only from farms that have been verified to not use child labor. The groups behind the campaign say that Hershey won't disclose specifics about its cocoa sources, which are mainly in an area of West Africa known for abusive child labor practices.

The groups involved include Global Exchange, Green America, International Labor Rights Forum and Oasis.

They partnered with Change.org, an organization that helps other organizations run various types of campaigns. Change.org came up with the idea for the QR codes, said Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, the fair trade campaign director with Global Exchange.

She expects that many people will hear about the campaign today and will place the QR code cards in stores this week.

She's hopeful that stores will be tolerant of the cards. "Freedom of speech rights are very sacred to so many people," she said. "There's a certain tolerance and respect within the private sector for people being able to express themselves."

QR codes are barcodes that people can scan by using applications on their smartphones that employ the camera on the phone. The codes most often launch a web page that offers the visitor information or coupons. Anyone can easily build QR codes using various free online tools.

The QR code action is part of a larger campaign the groups have designed to get the word out about Hershey. Global Exchange is also asking people this summer to make s'mores using fair trade chocolate and register with the organization each time they do. So far, 260 fair trade s'mores have been registered.

Hershey did not reply to a request for comment about the campaign.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com