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J.K. Rowling & Fan Activists Score Unprecedented Victory Against Child Slavery

Fan activism just landed a major victory. Warner Bros., the studio behind the Harry Potter movies, is moving forward with plans to make all Harry Potter chocolate sold at Warner Bros. outlets and through their licensed partners 100% UTZ or Fair Trade. This announcement culminates a four year, fan-led effort by the Harry Potter Alliance.

The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg reported on the victory, writing “The win comes after four years of organizing. And it’s a fascinating symbol of what activism might look like when it’s animated by fiction rather than political parties and when fans form coalitions with devoted advocates.” The article goes on to quote media scholar Henry Jenkins, who has told the Harry Potter Alliance that this victory for fan activism is without precedent.

Sarah George, Campaigner at Walk Free said “Walk Free and the Harry Potter Alliance united anti-slavery activists and Harry Potter fans in a passionate campaign to make Warner Bros. Harry Potter chocolates free from child slavery. When Warner Bros. announced that these chocolates would be UTZ or Fair Trade certified by the end of 2015, it demonstrated how immensely powerful a group of voices can be.”

The Harry Potter Alliance originally launched the campaign on Oct. 31, 2010 in a live broadcast with The Fault In Our Stars author John Green. When Warner Bros.’ chocolate supplier Behr’s Chocolate received an “F” from an independent report, fans sent cease and desist letters and “muggle howlers” encouraging the studio to ensure its licensees were not using child slave labor to produce the chocolate being sold in Harry Potter’s name. The HPA even started marketing and selling their own Fair Trade Chocolate Frogs. The organizing effort reached critical mass in 2013 when the HPA teamed with Walk Free, leaders of the global anti-slavery movement. Together, the HPA and Walk Free were invited to meet with Warner Bros. executives and at that meeting delivered over 400,000 signatures to Warner Bros. in June 2014.

The tenacity of fans paid off and the HPA landed a key ally: J.K. Rowling. Last spring, Ms. Rowling took up the cause and her involvement helped encourage Warner Bros. to change the sourcing requirements for Harry Potter chocolate.

Warner Bros. has officially pledged to make all of its Harry Potter chocolate products UTZ or Fair Trade by the end of 2015, writing in their letter “we value and appreciate the collective voice of the Harry Potter Alliance members, and Harry Potter fans all over the world, and their enthusiasm and love for the world of Harry Potter.” Speaking on behalf of J.K. Rowling, publicist Mark Hutchinson said, “I can confirm that J.K. Rowling is delighted that Warner Bros. and Universal are taking positive steps to source only certified cocoa for Harry Potter chocolate.”

HPA co-founder Andrew Slack said of the victory, “Albus Dumbledore told the students of Hogwarts that there are times where we must choose between ‘what is right and what is easy.’ Warner Bros. has chosen to do the right thing and Harry Potter fans everywhere should take pride knowing that because of their efforts, the chocolate sourcing for Harry Potter products will match the values of the book series.”

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