Sinterklaas Goes Green!
De Groene Sint
The international charity Oxfam began a Dutch campaign to boost fair trade gifts for Sinterklaas in 2006. Fair Trade provides a fair price for products from developing countries, produced under good working conditions and sparing tropical forests.
The Green Sint is a special Sinterklaas helper because he helps people in poor countries. He doesn’t send money, but encourages people to buy products that give producers a fair price, enabling them, for example, to send their children to school.
Green Sint appeared everywhere—on television, in shopping malls, and with comedian Dolf James. His posters festooned bus shelters. Green Sint gave Minister of Development Agnes van Ardenne a green gift for Sinterklaas.
In 2007 the campaign targeted Fair Trade chocolate. Traditional chocolate production has exploited children’s labor, including child trafficking. In the Ivory Coast alone, 150,000 children, 12,000 of whom have been trafficked, work in cocoa production under horrific conditions. So, Oxfam Novib, the Dutch branch of Oxfam International, used De Groene Sint to draw attention to this situation.
Oxfam Novib brought out De Groene Sint chocolate letters, made by Tony’s Chocolonely, in 2007. These Fair Trade letters are made of chocolate grown and produced in ways that do not exploit growers or farm workers, and most especially do not utilize forced child labor. These “green” letters have been enormously popular.
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In 2008 Royal Verkade announced that all of their chocoate products would be produced by Fair Trade methods by early 2009. Verkade, one of the largest Dutch chocolate producers, is the first A-list chocolate producer to make this shift. This boosted Fair Trade cocoa production by twenty percent.
St. Nicholas Day, 2012, seven major chains provided Fair Trade chocolate letters: Lidl, HEMA, Vroom & Dreesman, Albert Heijn, PLUS Retail, Kruidivat and Jamin. Albert Heijn has pledged that all chocolate will be certified by 2015. All Dutch chocolate letters are now “good” chocolate, as certified by Fair Trade and UTZ, assuring consumers that farmers and workers are being fairly treated.
Surely, Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, would approve.
Below: Hema and Vrindavan
De Groene Sint videos
Groene Sint Commercial I
Groene Sint Commercial II
Children in Cocoa Production
More Groene Sint photos
Cocoa’s Child Laborers, Washington Post, June 5, 2019
But when the businesses initially  made the promise to eradicate child labor [in 2005, 2008, and 2010—now 70% by 2020], according to industry insiders and documents, the companies had little idea of how to do so. Their subsequent efforts have been stalled by indecision and insufficient financial commitment, according to industry critics.
De Groene Sint images courtesy of Oxfam Novib, used under terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivitive Works License.