The Brutal Reality of the Chocolate Industry
Behind the sweet taste lies a dark reality of inequality in the chocolate industry. From child labour to low wages, the people who grow and harvest cocoa beans are often face harsh working conditions and unfair treatment.
However, there is hope. A few companies are leading the way to address these issues and promote a more ethical and sustainable chocolate industry.
From bean to bar...
The chocolate industry is worth over $100 billion, and yet many cocoa farmers earn less than $1 a day. According to the International Labour Organization, over 2 million children in West Africa alone work in the cocoa industry, and they are often exposed to dangerous chemicals, forced to work long hours, and denied an education. Furthermore, many cocoa farmers lack access to education, healthcare, and clean water.
The cocoa supply chain involves several stages, including cultivation, harvesting, fermentation, drying, and processing. However, the root cause of the child labour issue in the cocoa industry is poverty, which forces many families in cocoa-producing countries to rely on child labour to supplement their income. The typical Ivorian cocoa farm is small, and the farmers earn an annual household income of about $1,900, which is well below the poverty levels defined by the World Bank. As a result, many parents cannot afford to send their children to school and instead use them for labour on farms.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of these issues and are demanding more ethical and sustainable chocolate products. This demand has led to the rise of companies that prioritise social and environmental responsibility in their chocolate production.
We all have a responsibility...
By supporting companies that prioritize social and environmental responsibility, consumers can help address the inequality in the chocolate industry. By paying fair prices for cocoa beans and investing in community projects, these companies are empowering cocoa farmers and promoting sustainable practices.
In addition, supporting ethical chocolate also has a positive impact on the environment. Companies that use sustainable farming practices help reduce deforestation and promote biodiversity. By choosing organic and fair trade products, consumers can also reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals and support better working conditions for farmers.
The Companies Leading the Way
KUAPA KOKOO FARMERS UNION is a Ghanaian chocolate company that is owned by its cocoa farmers. This means that the farmers have a say in the company's decisions and share in its profits. They also receive a premium price for their cocoa beans, which helps them earn a living wage. In addition to this, the company also provides training and resources to farmers to help them improve the quality and yield of their cocoa beans.
Divine Chocolate UK is a chocolate company that sources its cocoa beans from small-scale farmers in West Africa. The company uses fair trade practices and pays farmers a fair price for their cocoa beans. The farmers also receive a premium, known as the Fairtrade premium, which is invested in community projects such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Divine Chocolate also has a traceability system in place that allows consumers to trace their chocolate back to the farmer who grew the cocoa beans.
Tony's Chocolonely is a Dutch chocolate company that is committed to making 100% slave-free chocolate. The company works with cocoa farmers to ensure fair wages and better working conditions. They also have a traceability system in place that allows consumers to trace their chocolate back to the farmer who grew the cocoa beans. According to the company, their chocolate is made without the use of child or forced labor. Tony's Chocolonely also invests in community projects such as education and healthcare.
Alter Eco is a US-based chocolate company that uses organic and fair trade practices. The company works directly with small-scale farmers and pays fair prices for their cocoa beans. They also use sustainable farming practices, such as agroforestry, which is better for the environment and the farmers. In addition to this, Alter Eco invests in community projects such as education, healthcare, and clean water.
Endangered Species Chocolate is a US-based chocolate company that donates 10% of its profits to wildlife conservation efforts. The company sources its cocoa beans from fair trade co-ops and uses organic and sustainable farming practices. Endangered Species Chocolate also invests in community projects such as education and healthcare.
Madécasse Chocolate is a chocolate company that is made entirely in Madagascar, from the cocoa beans to the finished product. The company works directly with small-scale farmers and pays them a premium for their cocoa beans. Madécasse also invests in the local economy by hiring and training workers in Madagascar. The company made 2.8 Million Chocolate Bars in Madagascar last year. According to the company, their chocolate is made without the use of child labour and is free from harmful chemicals. Madécasse also supports local community projects such as education and healthcare.
Small changes, big impacts…
In conclusion, the chocolate industry has a long way to go to address the issues of inequality, child labour, and unsustainable practices as the market share lies outside of the companies we have highlighted here.
And whilst I’m not claiming to be an activist demanding everyone change there ways and boycott major chocolate brands, there are small changes we could all make in our buying habits to support companies like Kuapa Kokoo and have a small yet measurable impact on the real futures of our neighbours.
Kuapa Kokoo, Divine Chocolate, Tony's Chocolonely, Alter Eco, Endangered Species Chocolate, and Madécasse are just a few examples of companies that are leading the way in promoting a more ethical and sustainable chocolate industry.
Let's not forget that behind every chocolate bar, there are real people who work tirelessly to produce this much-loved treat. These individuals often work in difficult and dangerous conditions for very little pay. We owe it to them to demand better working conditions and fair pay.
When we choose to buy chocolate products that support fair trade and sustainable practices, we are contributing to a better world. By supporting these products, we are helping to ensure that cocoa farmers and workers are paid fairly and work in safe conditions. So the next time you indulge in a piece of chocolate, consider choosing a product that supports a better world.