Choose Fair Trade Certified chocolate
If you feel guilty scarfing down that piece of chocolate, assuage your guilt (at least from a social responsibility viewpoint) by choosing Fair Trade Certified chocolate. Fair trade chocolate comes from cocoa farmers who are guaranteed a fair wage with safe working conditions while practicing environmentally sustainable farming methods.
Find it! Fair Trade Certified chocolate
Using cocoa from Bolivia and Ghana, Alter Eco produces an array of chocolate bars, some unadorned for chocoholics, like the Dark Blackout Chocolate bar with 85 percent cocoa, and others with tasty add-ins like the Milk Moka chocolate bar which blends Swiss milk chocolate with gourmet South American coffee beans. All their chocolate is also Certified Organic.
The Kuapa Kokoo cooperative in Ghana grows the cocoa beans that are made into Divine Chocolate products and the farmers also own a share of the company. They carry a variety of bars including smaller snack-size bars, chocolate coins, and little egg-shaped treats.
The cocoa in Equal Exchange's organic chocolate products come from three farmer cooperatives in the Dominican Republic and Peru. Offerings include an organic chocolate espresso bean bar, an organic dark chocolate bar with pure cocoa nibs (bits of roasted cocoa beans that give it crunchiness), and an organic milk chocolate bar with ground hazelnuts. They also sell organic baking cocoa and hot cocoa.
This UK-based company got its start in 1991 and they have a wide range of organic, fair trade chocolate bars as well as hot cocoa and baking cocoa. The Maya Gold bar was their first product to earn the UK fair trade certification in 1994. It's a blend of rich, dark chocolate, a twist of orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of vanilla. Search Green & Black's site for retail locations.
The first US chocolate company to offer Fair Trade Certified chocolates, Ithaca's Art Bars use cocoa from the El Ceibo Cocoa Co-op in Bolivia that's also organic. The range of five flavors goes from milk chocolate to extra dark chocolate. Each Art Bar contains a collectible card with one of 24 artworks from adult and child artists.
This California-based company offers a wide line of chocolates from various chocolate bars to flavored cocoa mixes, truffles, Valentine's Day chocolates, and coffee beans dipped in 65 percent bittersweet chocolate. Their products bear the seal of Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).
Choosing Fair Trade Certified chocolate helps you go green because...
- It promotes ecologically sound, often organic, small-scale farming practices.
- It supports the economic and social welfare of small producers in developing agricultural communities.
The average American consumes about 12 pounds of chocolate per person annually. But for the 5 to 6 million cocoa farmers and the 40 to 50 million people whose livelihoods depend on cocoa, life may not be that sweet: they frequently see a disproportionately small portion of the profit from chocolate sales. In fact, just one penny from a candy bar that sells for 60 cents typically goes to the farmer, according to Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO).
Inadequate pay for farm labor creates both environmental and social ills. Farmers who aren't able to maintain a livelihood farming cocoa often clearcut their land to sell the timber or graze livestock. Dangerous working conditions and forced child labor are ongoing problems in West Africa, particularly in the Ivory Coast, where 40 percent of the world's cocoa is produced. The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) estimates that close to 300,000 children work on cocoa farms with abusive child labor situations in West Africa.
Fair trade practices ameliorate both conditions. Fair trade fosters an economically stable relationship between consumers and farmers in Asian, Latin American, and African countries, while promoting safe, humane labor conditions. In the United States, Fair Trade Certified cocoa (which is made into chocolate) is marketed under strict guidelines set forth by TransFair USA, a nonprofit organization that monitors fair trade practices in developing agricultural communities under the umbrella association Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International. TransFair USA operates under the following principles:
- Fair price: Cocoa farmers receive a minimum price for their crop and an extra price premium if their cocoa is certified organic, guaranteeing that they make a living wage.
- Fair labor conditions: Safe working conditions and no forced child labor are key.
- Direct trade: Importers buy the cocoa from Fair Trade producer co-ops as much as possible to allow farmers to develop business acumen and to cut out middlemen who take part of the profits.
- Democratic and transparent organizations: Decisions about how to invest revenues are made democratically by the farmers and farm workers.
- Community development: Money is invested in social and business development projects that farmers and workers decide upon such as scholarship programs, organic agriculture training or building health clinics.
- Environmental sustainbility: Protection of the environment is an integral part of farm management with restricted use of fertilizers and pesticides and no genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Farmers are encouraged to work toward organic certification.
Though it's estimated that fair trade chocolate accounts for less than 1 percent of the chunky $60 billion global market, it's on the rise, nudging its way into the gourmet chocolate-with-a-conscience niche. Worldwide sales of fair trade chocolate vaulted 93 percent in 2006, with the US overtaking the UK to become first in sales of Fair Trade Certified cocoa. Cocoa began to be certified by TransFair USA in 2002 when the total tally came in at 14,000 pounds. Growth has been steady and strong with close to 2 million pounds certified in 2006, which represented a 75 percent jump over the previous year. Fair Trade Certified cocoa—which comes from Belize, Bolivia, Cameroon, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, India, Ivory Coast, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru— is available at more than 1,600 retail locations around the US.
Fair Trade Certified versus organic
While Fair Trade Certified cocoa is often grown organically via ecologically sustainable methods (80 percent of the Fair Trade Certified cocoa in 2006 was also certified organic), the actual designation signifies only how the cocoa was traded, not how it was grown. When chocolate is organic, it will display a "Certified Organic" label on the packaging. When chocolate is certified both Fair Trade and organic, it will display two separate labels signifying this.
Fair trade evolution
Critics of the fair trade movement think that it doesn't go far enough and that it perpetuates the colonial economic structure. They feel a shift in ownership is needed to give the farmer greater control. This is exactly what has happened at Divine Chocolate, a company founded in 1997 in the UK that is 45 percent owned by Kuapa Kokoo, Ghana's 45,000-member co-op of cocoa growers. The farmers have a say in how the chocolate is produced and sold and they share in the profits. The company announced its first dividend distribution to shareholders in May of 2007, the year in which Divine Chocolate also launched a US company that is 30 percent owned by Kuapa Kokoo.
Another twist on the idea of greater autonomy occurs in the rare instances when the cocoa farmers go bean to bar, meaning they not only grow the cocoa beans but they also make the chocolate bars, like the Kallari cocoa farmers in Ecuador. They gradually moved from just selling their cocoa beans a decade ago to making their own organic chocolate in a factory they rent. They now earn four times as much then they did by only selling their beans. The Grenada Chocolate Company has grown and produced their own organic chocolate from their start in a solar-powered factory. They decided not to become Fair Trade Certified and their website states their intent "is to revolutionize the cocoa-chocolate system that typically keeps cocoa production separate from chocolate-making and therefore takes advantage of cocoa farmers." Traditionally, cocoa beans are almost always exported, and the chocolate-making process takes place in another country.
Related health concerns
It's not often that you find something that tastes like a little slice of heaven that also might help, not harm, your health. Chocolate, with antioxidant flavonoids that come from its source, the cacao plant, is such a food—but like a two-edged sword, it may also damage your health if you partake of it in large amounts. The main potential benefits from eating a bit of dark chocolate (which trumps milk chocolate or chocolate syrup) are a reduced risk of heart attack, a drop in blood pressure, a reduction in insulin resistance (a risk factor for diabetes), and improvement in arterial blood flow. Natural cocoa powder is even higher in antioxidants than dark chocolate, so use it in hot chocolate or when baking. Just watch the calories when you indulge (six or seven chocolate kisses contains about 150 calories).
- genetically modified organism (GMO): The genetic make-up of two organisms are merged to create a desired byproduct that could otherwise not be found in nature.
- Worldwatch Institute - Good Stuff? Chocolate
- Consumer Reports Greener Choices - eco-labels: Fair Trade Certified
- New American Dream - Buy Fair Trade, organic cocoa and chocolate
- IFAT - the global network of Fair Trade Organizations Try their fair trade computer game called Choca Monkey.
- Reuters - Chocolate is the latest US organic heavy-hitter
- Global Exchange - Reverse-Trick-or-Treating: Kids Give Chocolate Back on Halloween to Their Neighborhoods and the World
- TreeHugger - The Bitter Truth About Chocolate
- TransFair USA - 41 Percent Increase in Global Fair Trade Certified Sales Benefits 1.4 Million Farmers
- TransFair USA - Fair Trade Almanac 1998-2006
- The Economist - Chocolate: Thinking out of the box
- WebMD - Health by Chocolate