One of those things that everyone loves: chocolate. But do you know that it’s best to opt for fair trade chocolate brands? The production of chocolate has been controversial, to put it mildly. This most popular of food items has been the result – the blood, sweat, and tears – of slave labor.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are millions of child laborers working in coffee and cocoa farms worldwide. These children are often exploited, forced to work long hours with little pay, have no time off, and have very few rights, if any.
- Why is Fair Trade Chocolate Important?
- What is Fair Trade Chocolate?
- How Can We Support Cocoa Farmers?
- 16 Fair Trade Chocolate Brands Try
- 1 // Alter Eco Foods
- 2 // Beyond Good
- 3 // Dapaah
- 4 // Divine Chocolate
- 5 // Endangered Species
- 6 // Equal Exchange
- 7 // Evolved
- 8 // Green & Black’s Maya Gold
- 9 // Innocent Chocolate
- 10 // Lily’s Sweets
- 11 // LUV
- 12 // Loving Earth
- 13 // PASCHA Chocolate
- 14 // Phillip Ashley Chocolates
- 15 // Theo Chocolate
- 16 // UnReal
Why is Fair Trade Chocolate Important?
Chocolate today is a US$100 billion global industry. The United States, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium produce the most chocolate, the finished product that we all consume. The biggest players are, of course, Mars, Mondeléz, Nestlè and Hershey, and a few others (which are non fair trade chocolate brands btw).
An estimated 2.1 million West African children are thought to be involved in the harvesting of cocoa. UNICEF estimates 200,000 of them are involved in the worst forms of child labor on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast (where child labor is illegal). These are not just children from the Ivory Coast, but children who have been smuggled in from Mali and Burkina Faso to work on the cocoa farms.
History of Chocolate
Chocolate is ubiquitous today, but it has a long and interesting history. From its beginnings several millennia ago as the Mesoamerican cacao plant, to its journey around the world and into each and every store, market and mall, the story of chocolate adds flavor to the story of human societies. The Aztecs called it chocolatl. Until relatively recently, in around the 1400s, chocolate was a drink, and something you used as offerings to the gods and as currency (or to trade with colonizers from Spain, and later France and Belgium). It then spread to Europe and received rave reviews. And while it had been enhanced with chili peppers, vanilla and water in the Americas, the Europeans went the other way and made it sweet. They also added eggs, milk and even wine.
Chocolate of course played a major role in the global slave trade, along with sugar. Countless people were put to work as slaves to produce cocoa beans and sugar cane, to satisfy the increasing European lust for the sweet dessert. Cultivation of cocoa beans sprung up in many parts of the colonized world, and, today, West Africa produces almost two-thirds of the world’s cocoa; Ivory Coast alone produces 43% of the world’s cocoa beans.
What is Fair Trade Chocolate?
Fair trade chocolate is chocolate that is sourced from farms that pay fair wages to the workers, and promote sustainable practices in their production processes. Fair trade aims to address environmental and social challenges around deforestation, climate change, child labor, and social inequity.
The Cocoa Protocol
Two US senators introduced legislation in 2002, called the Cocoa Protocol, mandating a labeling system for chocolate, in an attempt to quell the child labor in the industry. It initially required chocolate companies to specify if their chocolate was child labor-free. The chocolate industry, led by the companies I mentioned above, raised a fuss, and this requirement was made voluntary. After further fuss-making by the big companies, it was decided that there would be public reporting, but by African governments, and that the companies would establish an audit system and poverty remediation measures.
Basically, the Cocoa Protocol was made toothless and converted into a marketing tool by the chocolate companies. Since the Cocoa Protocol was signed, the chocolate industry has made nearly a trillion U.S. dollars. According to Stop the Traffik, only 0.0075% of that money has gone into improving the conditions for children in the chocolate industry in West Africa.
Fair Trade Certification
Then how do we gauge if something is fair trade? Official Fair Trade certification for chocolate is currently awarded by non-profit organizations such as:
Rainforest Alliance’s stated mission is “to create a more sustainable world by using social and market forces to protect nature and improve the lives of farmers and forest communities.” They work to make sure farms will pay fair wages to the workers, and that the workers receive “at least the minimum wage based on a 48-hour working week or national legal working hours limit, whichever is lower.”
Fairtrade’s stated mission is “to connect disadvantaged producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives.” They work to guarantee a Fairtrade minimum price. They have other programs to teach farmers about business and help them invest in their own business.
Fair Trade Federation
Their mission includes promoting fair trade, paying promptly and fairly, and cultivating environmental stewardship.
Fair For Life
Fair for Life is a certification program for fair trade in agriculture, manufacturing and trade – and prioritizes responsible supply chains.
SPP (Símbolo de Pequeños Productores)
SPP is an intercontinental network of small producer organizations. The focus is on the recognition of farmers’ work, on high quality products, a dignified life, and a healthy planet for all.
How Can We Support Cocoa Farmers?
We can consume more consciously and mindfully. According to Stop the Traffic, we can:
1. Buy certified chocolate
Ethical certification is still the most credible assurance against forced, child and trafficked labor. Look out for these logos on the chocolate products:
2. Ask chocolate companies to commit to 100% ethically sourced cocoa
3. Tell retailers to stock more certified products
Vote with your dollars, in other words. And scream from the rooftops for companies to produce fair-trade products. Demand for them.
4. Donate to organizations working to improve the conditions of the children caught up in forced labor.
Donate to Stop the Traffic
THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE DETAILS.
16 Fair Trade Chocolate Brands Try
1 // Alter Eco Foods
certified B Corp | certified Fair Trade | non-GMO | organic | compostable packaging | offset carbon emissions
2 // Beyond Good
single origin | empowers Madagascan & Ugandan farmers
3 // Dapaah
locally-sourced | vegan
4 // Divine Chocolate
certified B Corp | farmer co-ops
5 // Endangered Species
sustainable farming | conservation projects
6 // Equal Exchange
USDA certified organic ingredient | small farmer co-ops
7 // Evolved
gluten, dairy & soy-free
8 // Green & Black’s Maya Gold
9 // Innocent Chocolate
10 // Lily’s Sweets
11 // LUV
12 // Loving Earth
certified organic | unprocessed & uncooked | antioxidants
13 // PASCHA Chocolate
14 // Phillip Ashley Chocolates
luxury chocolates | premium ingredients | sustainability
15 // Theo Chocolate
ethical | organic | Fair Trade
16 // UnReal
Try these sustainable snacks if you’re looking for healthier snacking options. Do you have any suggestions for fair-trade chocolate brands?
Please share this post? Thank you!
THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE DETAILS.
Lia Walsh says
Mmmmmm, what’s better than fairtrade chocolate?!?! 😀
I’m not sure what region this list is trying to cover (I’m Canadian, for example), but I honestly think any list about fairtrade chocolate is incomplete without Divine! It’s an incredible company that is owned by the cocoa producers themselves, and they have tons of amazing vegan options. Definitely worth checking out! (The original distributor was in the UK, I think, but they also have an American-based one now, too! In Canada, you can only usually find them in Ten Thousand Villages, which isn’t in every town, unfortunately.)
For those in Canada, we have the Camino brand, which also has lots of vegan chocolate (in fact, I sell some of them through my store, linked in my name, if you’re curious). They’re pioneers in the Canadian fairtrade community because it’s only thanks to them that we even have proper fairtrade standards in Canada! (They didn’t exist back in the 90s when Camino started!)
This list is a great reminder of some favourites (I’d nearly forgotten about Lily’s!), but I wanted to add to the symbols that people can look for! As a side note, I don’t know that most fair trade advocates consider Rainforest Alliance or UTZ fair trade. There are certainly multiple organizations that verify or certify fair trade goods, but the most commonly-recognized ones are Fairtrade International (the one you listed!), Fair Trade Federation and Fair For Life. More recently, the SPP (Símbolo de Pequeños Productores) has become important, too, as their standards are some of the highest and they also stand specifically for small producers who are the most vulnerable producers in the world market. Advocates that don’t recognize Rainforest Alliance or UTZ, it’s not necessarily because they’re awful, but because they aren’t specifically fair trade (the way that vegan is great, but it’s not the same thing as fair trade). This is a point that I try to engage with people about when I can because there are SO MANY SYMBOLS OUT THERE! It gets overwhelming, so it’s hard to stay on top of all of them! It took me forever to learn all this stuff, so I try to save people a bit of their time and lay it out for them in one place, in case that’s handy!
In any case, I love that you’re talking about ethical consumerism, because it’s so important, and it gets lonely out here when so few people are aware of the impact that our consumer choices make! The fact that you’re marrying your love for cruelty-free products with kindness to our fellow humans is important and so appreciated! Just wanted to stop in and let you know that your work is getting noticed and also to offer to be a resource for you if you think of a way that I can help out. Don’t be shy. 🙂
Sending a virtual hug!
Your comment is pure joy for me:D I’m so glad you took the time to write such a thoughtful and info-packed comment. I will be updating my post with many of the points you have mentioned (if that’s ok). I love chocolate, but was so heartbroken when I found out what happened “behind the scenes” in order to make the bars we enjoy. But knowledge is power, and with this growing community of ethically- and environmentally-conscious people, it seems less hopeless. We need to do all we can to make a difference, even if it seems sometimes (most times, really) like nothing is helping.
I’m so glad you stopped by. Thank you for the solidarity. Please keep up the great work you’re doing. Your website is beautiful (both in content and looks;)). I wish you the very best<3
Virtual hug back!
Lia Walsh says
And thank you also for your lovely comment, EcoAnouk! I would be honoured to see some of this info included in your post, so please take whatever you like! If you’d like to link to any products in the store, let me know and I’ll come up with a referral system for you so that you can get a little something when your visitors click through and make a purchase. Stay awesome! 🙂