Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chocolate Wars: A Book Review

Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers

Back in November as I was driving to Dallas for a  ladies conference, I was able to listen to an interview with the author of a new book, Chocolate Wars. Deborah Cadbury is a decadent of the famed chocolate family.  She wrote the book to give a history of the family chocolate business, but also to start the conversation about the purpose of business and the making of wealth.

Her forefathers felt that a wealth making business was to profit all - the workers, society  - not just the owners of the company. Cadbury's business plan and practices were based on Quaker values.

The whole book - all 323 pages - were a fascinating read. Ms. Cadbury pinpointed the problem with many business today - they are focused on making a profit for the short-term gain of the shareholders - not the long-term benefits for the workers. So many business today are sold at enormous prices all to satisfy the shareholders - many who have only owned shares for a very short time. After the business is in the hands of the new owners, they consolidate the old with the new leaving many without jobs.

That's exactly what happened when Cadbury was bought by Kraft just last year. One Cadbury factory closed - six hundred jobs gone.  All the while the Kraft's CEO, Irene Rosenfeld, walked away with $25.5 millions in shares and options.  And the cocoa farmers in West Africa earn around $2 a day.  Many of them have never seen huge profits from all the chocolate consumed in the world.

One part of the story that fascinated me was Cadbury as well as Hershey founder, Milton Hershey, gave the majority of their wealth away. They all began trust and foundations that would receive the money in order to support those in need. Much like today's Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who both have said that excess wealth would not be inherited by their children, but instead passed on to others in need.

Too bad more people and businesses are interested in their own wealth making instead of helping their neighbor.  The would be a better place is we all lived by Quaker  - Biblical - standards.

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