Why You Should Buy Fair Trade Chocolate
Cadbury, Hershey's, and Nestlé – what do these three companies all have in common? They are not Fair Trade chocolate but with fewer than 5% of all cocoa produced with Fair Trade standards. Is this the norm?
The majority of the cocoa production from cocoa crops (about 70%) can be traced back to Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. This cocoa harvesting and production is sold to the large, mid-tier, and even smaller companies. Until recently, not much was known about the conditions of cocoa producers. However, much has come to light, including the poor work conditions, low pay and inequality between female and male wages.
History of Chocolate Trade and the Cocoa Bean
While the major producers are mostly located in southern Africa, the history of the cocoa bean begins in South America. This area has been used for centuries by the Mayans and Aztecs. These indigenous cultures consumed it as a bitter drink mainly during sacred ceremonies. It was considered such a highly revered product that, in some cases, it was used as currency.
After Spanish conquistadors invaded and took over the local cocoa bean-producing areas, they quickly took possession of the cocoa plants. It was this group that began adding sugar and spices to create chocolate. Finally, after 100 years, Europe caught onto this delicious food and chocolate spread like wildfire.
In 1992, the Fair Trade Foundation was established after endless discussions about the fair treatment of smaller coffee producers in Mexico. A few years later, in 1994, the initial certified Fair Trade product was launched - Green & Black's Maya Gold Chocolate.
Through the years, an increasing number of companies in various fields have switched to Fair Trade products, with a current number of around 4,500 in the UK.
How Chocolate Is Made & Fair Trade Certified Chocolate Practices
The process of creating chocolate begins with heavy labour at the farms collecting the cocoa pods from the trees. These pods need to be collected by hand and cannot be picked by machine as there is potential to damage the tree and blossoms of future pods. Afterwards, the pods are transported typically to a processing centre nearby. The seeds are then stripped from the pods, fermented, and dried before leaving the farm.
Only after the above process will the seeds from the pods be ready to send to chocolate manufacturing factories, where the final steps are performed primarily by machines.
The farmers perform the most labour-intensive steps, yet they're the lowest paid entities. The Fair Trade Federation aims to resolve the wage issue alongside unsafe work environments and child labour in many industries.
The Fair Trade certification requires the following to ensure better treatment of workers:
- A safe working environment for everyone involved
- Sustainable and eco-friendly farming practices
- Better pay for the workers involved according to the Fair Trade minimum
- Funds that positively benefit the local community
- No child labour or involuntary labour
Injustice for Cocoa Farmers
Larger corporations that produce items like chocolate, coffee and more have been searching for ways to create products for the least amount of money possible. In turn, they can churn a higher profit. However, it negatively impacts the workers' lives and makes it nearly impossible to support their families. While these companies are benefitting from the hard work of these families, they're continuing to avoid taking responsibility for the unfair labour practices that are occurring.
Many people are surprised to find out that there is modern-day slave labour occurring in the chocolate trade industry. As noted by the Fair Trade Foundation, the average cocoa farmer is making about $1.00 per day. This amount is almost half of what those considered at the extreme poverty level earn. What's more, women on cocoa farms earn about $0.25 per day.
Even with the UK Dispatches investigating companies like Cadbury and Fortune offering information and statistics on the unfair treatment of workers and child labourers, the problem of unethical cocoa farming continues to exist.
The reality is that chocolate is a 130 billion dollar industry, while only about two billion dollars is being fed back to Ghana. This amount is not solely paid out to the farmers; it's also given to those who source and resell the cocoa to larger corporations. Farmers only receive about 7% of the amount back, exemplifying the disparage between how much money these larger companies are making by paying very low amounts to cocoa farmers.
Fair Trade Chocolate Brands
Switching to one of the brands that produce chocolate according to the Fair Trade standards is a step in the right direction. As a consumer, you can put money toward products and companies that support your beliefs.
By choosing one of the 5% which adhere to producing Fair Trade certified cocoa and other ingredients, you're supporting fair wages and better work environments for farmers. In addition, by supporting slave-free chocolate, you're letting larger brands know that they need to amend their ways and pay better wages.
Tony's Chocolonely is adamant about creating change globally by encouraging consumers to choose Fair Trade chocolate over cheaper, mainstream candies. Tony Chocolonely believes that by implementing their three pillars (awareness of slave labour in the cocoa industry, producing slave-free chocolate and creating consumer action), the future of chocolate and cocoa production will become slave-free.
At PLAYin CHOC, they have always been crystal clear; their supply chain is 100% ethical and transparent. They have never used and will never use child, slave or animal labour.
Their specially sourced Peruvian criollo beans are grown on small, family-owned farms where the farmers receive a decent salary, and the cacao is fairly traded. They also use the finest Criollo beans, which were once called the ‘queen of beans’ by ancient Mayans as they were regarded as the food of the gods. They ensure a high-quality, aromatic, luxurious chocolate.
In addition, all their chocolate is UK-made and certified organic by Soil Association. It’s created from only three plants – cacao beans, Madagascan bourbon vanilla and coconut – and packaged in home compostable, recycled and recyclable packaging. We like to think the incredible taste of PLAYin CHOC chocolate is all the sweeter for its fair treatment of workers and our ethical stance.
Chocolatey Clare is a Dublin-based business that sources its chocolate ethically. However, the company takes it a step further by choosing vendors who also offer support to the local communities through various initiatives.
The vendors are selected based on a code of strict company ethics which include, but are not limited to:
- Fair pay and proper treatment for supply chain workers
- The absence of slave labour or child labour for any ingredient in the process
- Avoidance of any sales platform that uses unfair labour procedures
By incorporating the above ethical codes and sustainable, eco-friendly packaging, Chocolatey Clare is providing a positive option for consumers to pursue.
With more knowledge of Fair Trade chocolate and ethical chocolate trade, consumers are better adept than ever to make choices that benefit the workers and environment in the chocolate industry. The best way to take a stand against companies that don't follow Fair Trade practices is simply by choosing companies that do as often as possible.
And don't forget, your wallet is your vote. Choose wisely.