8/30/16

Sweet Tooth: The cost of Chocolate.


I love chocolate. Despite my sensitive teeth, I really, really love chocolate. I like to bake with it, I like chocolate ice cream…. hot cocoa, chocolate bars…. Chocolate chip pancakes, banana bread with chocolate (I love excuses to add chocolate to recipes!)… you name it! However, with that being said, I also have a conscience and I am aware that not all chocolate is full of good juju. Unfortunately, a lot of the mainstream chocolate available is produced through very questionable means. It is estimated that about 160,000 slaves work for the cocoa industry in Ivory Coast, a popular region for cocoa growing in Africa, and a source for many large chocolate companies. It might be 2016, but slavery is still very much a problem within our global society. The chocolate industry is just one of many who rely on such labor. Given that chocolate is such a popular product, and one, which I happen to love; I wanted to explore the issue deeper.

As a bit of a chocolate addict, I have tried a few different fair trade certified chocolate products in the past. I understood the basic premise and benefit that comes from the fair trade seal, but I hadn’t really understood the full picture of what it can mean when the chocolate I purchase isn’t fair trade. It can sometimes feel overwhelming to try and do good in every choice, and purchase that you make and I’ll admit that there are many aspects of my life in which I fail. We’re all human though and there is always room to evolve and improve. We can do better. We should do better.

Unfortunately much of the chocolate that I do purchase on a regular basis, comes from brands that source their chocolate from places like the Ivory coast, and are not fair trade or organic (which also prohibits the use of slave labor). Some companies have committed to sourcing fair trade in the future, like Hershey’s who says they will have fair trade chocolate by 2020, but here’s my question: If others can do it now, and are doing it now, why can’t they? Why must we wait another four years before they commit to eradicating slave labor from their products? I’ve also found it interesting that there are many companies (like Cadbury and Mars) for example, which offer some fair trade options in other countries (like in the UK) that are fair trade, but not within the US market. That one just seems wrong to me…

See, we don’t need chocolate to survive (though trust me, there are many instance in which I have truly felt that way). We may love it, but we can live without it, so it can be argued that we can pledge to buy fair trade chocolate because when we don’t, we are support child slave labor, violence, corrupt practices and greed. I know now every battle can be won, and sometimes it can feel like a losing battle. But no $0.99 bar of chocolate is worth the child labor – slave labor that is often involved. At least not in my opinion.


According to Fair Trade USA, “Fair Trade certification ensures that farmers receive a fair price, allows farmers to invest in techniques that bring out the flavors of the region, and strictly prohibits slave and child labor.” Fair trade benefits the farmer, the worker, and the consumer. It allows us to purchase chocolate guilt-free.





It might be difficult to let go of some of your favorite chocolates, but I encourage you to try and accept the challenge of doing so. It can be done. Need some inspiration? The Harry Potter Alliance challenge Warner Brothers when they found out that the Chocolate Frogs they sold weren't produced fair trade. They felt that the idea of slave labor, specifically child labor, went against everything that Harry stood for (which, it does). Through hard work they eventually got Warner Brothers to commit to fair trade chocolate frogs. Change is possible and voting with your dollar can make quite the impact!

So from now on, I am going to do everything I can to only purchase fair trade, or organic chocolate. I will think twice before I purchase from companies which I know to be offenders.  Looking for some brands that are fair trade? This post provides 17 companies which are fair trade. If you've got some favorites, I'd love to hear them in the comments!

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