Blog Action Day & World Food Day – The importance of Fair Trade Chocolate #BAD11

Today is a special day! Blog Action Day has chosen the topic of FOOD to commemorate World Food Day.

It’s only fitting that I talk about my favorite food on this day – chocolate – what was once known as Food of the Gods, and what today is still considered so by me, but not by everyone. As bustling as the chocolate business is, with millions of customers anxiously tearing open their wrappers to devour that amazing brown stuff that just makes them feel sooo good, there is comparably as much disconnect between the fact that the growers who make it possible for us to access the brown stuff in edible form are not feeling so good.

What am I talking about? Unfair trade. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be eating chocolate associated with exploited labor,  unfair wages, or environmental degradation. With the chocolate industry raking in over $13 billion last year you’d think the farmers harvesting this sacred bean would be adequately compensated. Sadly, this is not the case. With over 70% of the world’s chocolate production originating from beans grown in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, there is simply not enough transparency or standards monitoring the growing process. Large companies are paying for cheap labor, producing cheap, low-quality chocolate, and making huge profits. One way in which to guarantee accountability and know the relative impact of your chocolate is through consuming Fair Trade chocolate.

Fair trade certification basically ensures farmers and laborers are paid a fair wage for what they produce. Because of this direct link between the farmer owned cooperatives and the buyers, producers can avoid cost-cutting practices that sacrifice quality and are destructive to the environment. For example, Fair Trade chocolate is typically organic and shade-grown, meaning it is grown under the canopy of the rainforest rather than in a clear cut field. Under Fair Trade certification, slave labor is prohibited, and environmental and social standards are mandated through audits and the establishment of cooperatives. The WCF says there about 5-6 million cocoa farmers. But the number of people who depend upon cocoa for their livelihoods is 40-50 million people! So, by purchasing fair trade chocolate, you can make a difference by aiding farmers to earn enough to support their families and send their children to school.

TransFair USA certifies U.S. products, and FairTrade International certifies products elsewhere. I want to note that the certification process is costly, and it’s not perfect, but it’s a start in the right direction. I will explore it more in future posts, but for now, if you’re thinking about what bar to get – here are a few Fair Trade and organic options that are available widely:

Divine – benefits cacao growers in Ghana.

Theo – the first U.S. based bean-to-bar producer of organic, fair trade chocolate.

Equal Exchange – I’m a purist, but their caramel crunch bar is pretty delicious.

Alter Eco – with the help of an independent Swiss chocolatier, these bars don’t sacrifice quality. The company sells other non-chocolate products too, pretty cool.

What is your relationship to chocolate? How does it make you feel? What is your favorite bar? For those of you who do not like chocolate, whether it’s because you don’t have a sweet tooth, or you just haven’t been introduced to the right one…I can help. I urge you to keep reading in the hopes that you will, at some point, be compelled to try the good brown stuff.

If I can’t make a chocolate lover out of you, I want to appeal to your passion for the environment, conservation, poverty alleviation, green living,  sustainable agriculture and travel. All those things have connections to the royal cacao tree.

And, if that weren’t enough…climate change is now affecting cacao production. More on that in a future post. Stay tuned for a series on the most sustainable chocolate companies out there. I will be showcasing my favorite bar from each company;)

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5 Comments

  1. Taryn Washburn said,

    October 16, 2011 at 10:23 am

    When I was on the Theo tour they mentioned they had recently accomplished a “Fair for Life” certification. Do you know of any other chocolate companies that are going after this next level of certification?

    I had no idea 40-50 million lives are impacted by this stuff! Crazy!

    I am so thankful you introduced me to the “good stuff” like Kallari. Looking forward to following you cocoa journey and maybe I can join you when you are doing your research 😉

    • October 16, 2011 at 11:08 am

      Taryn,

      Thank you for your comment! Indeed, Theo is the first in the country to have acquired this new Fair Trade label of Fair for Life. It is provided by a Swiss certifier rather than by TransFair USA. When I interviewed Joe Whinney he said he was an advocate of this certification because it went a step further to ensure the entire supply chain (right down to Theo’s factory) is abiding by equitable business practices AND it offers this fee-for-service feature that frees up more money for Theo to direct towards assistance to the cocoa farmers. I’m thrilled that Joe Whinney is constantly looking for ways he can increase the price that the cocoa farmer receives for the cocoa beans Theo purchases. I’ll go into this more when I blog about Theo:)

      I will have to investigate what other chocolate companies are opting for Fair for Life. This investigation will almost certainly involve chocolate tasting, and I would be delighted for you to co-taste with me!

  2. October 17, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Coco-Zen offers Fair Trade chocolates. We use only organic and Fair Trade ingredients in all our treat… good chocolate that’s good for planet & for people!

    Coco-Zen is also very proud to donate chocolates to this year’s Reverse Trick-Or-Treat campaign organized by Global Exchange that helps to spread the word about Fair Trade chocolate.

    • October 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm

      Joyce,
      Thank you for alerting me to your site! I just checked it out and I absolutely love your company’s mission, especially the inspired tin can packaging. I will have to try your truffles. Where do you source your cacao from? I am adding CocoZen to my blogroll and look forward to future conversations!

      – Monali

  3. March 1, 2012 at 2:21 am

    We love fair trade products. They tend to be higher quality and better value in the long run.


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