Harry Potter fans are a dedicated lot. But they’re in the news this week because they banded together for a cause considerably bigger than an update on what Ron’s doing with his life post-Hogwarts.
Andrew Slack founded the Harry Potter Alliance in 2005, inspired by J.K. Rowling’s experiences with poverty and her work with Amnesty International. After meeting with Lisa Valdez, a labor advocate who educated Slack about child labor abuses – especially in cocoa production – Slack was inspired to launch a campaign on Halloween 2010, asking Warner Bros. to meet new standards for chocolate production in its Harry Potter-themed merchandise. (The company produces, among other items, real-life “Chocolate Frogs,” a treat from the series.)
Thanks to the efforts of the Alliance, anti-slavery organization Free 2 Work was able to review the practices of Warner Bros.’s chocolate supplier for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Parks & Resorts. The group gave the supplier an F, “largely because transparency issues prevented auditors from determining if the producers met Warner Bros.’s stated standards,” according to The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, the Alliance partnered with another anti-slavery group, Walk Free, to put pressure on Warner Bros., and it also reached out to Rowling’s lawyer.
These actions worked: Warner Bros. thanked the Harry Potter Alliance for its partnership and released a statement shortly before Christmas that read, “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.”
Slack and Walk Free have since praised Warner Bros. for its responsiveness throughout the campaign, and Rowling’s publicist told the Post that she was “delighted” at the result.
“Harry Potter, more and more, is becoming a classic, and one that children are growing up on, with all seven books having been written,” Slack told the Post. “It’s part of the culture. It represents righteousness, nobility, love, so much beauty and a place of safety that people go to, and moral authority.”
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