Have a Slavery-Free Holiday: Buy Ethical Chocolate

This isn’t intended to ruin your holiday cheer, but it definitely caused me to think twice before buying big-brand chocolate for an upcoming holiday fête: Much of mainstream chocolate contains cocoa produced by child slaves.

The largest U.S. manufacturers of chocolate—including Hershey and Nestle—get their cocoa from plantations in West Africa, which produce 75 percent of the world’s cocoa.

We may see some positive action soon from the mainstream chocolate industry: Nestle only recently decided to investigate child slavery in its supply chain. But, so far, Save the Children Canada reports that more than 312,000 children are working in hazardous and exploitative conditions on West African cocoa farms. And an estimated 15,000 of these children have been kidnapped or sold by their parents to work essentially as slaves.

Here’s the good news: there are many opportunities in the chocolate supply chain to eliminate child slavery from chocolate.

Fair trade organizations like Fair Trade USA (founded by Ashoka Fellow Paul Rice) have helped consumers identify alternatives to mainstream chocolate by certifying products sourced from cocoa farmers that are paid a fair price in exchange for adhering to socially responsible and sustainable growing practices. Divine Chocolate, for example, is certified Fair Trade and is 45 percent owned by its cocoa farmers.

Another company, Madécasse, takes fair trade a step further by manufacturing chocolate locally in Madagascar, thereby helping small cocoa producers generate even more income. Although Africa produces a majority of the world’s cocoa, according to Madécasse, less than 1 percent of chocolate is made there.

By making the chocolate in Africa, Madécasse generates four times more income than fair trade cocoa alone. (For your holiday baking needs, you can order blocks of Madécasse chocolate from the company’s website).

Other innovators are intervening by helping small cocoa farmers become more productive and acquire growth financing. For example, Cocoa Sustainability Partnership’s online forum helps smallholders in the Indonesian cocoa industry share information about sustainable farming practices, improving bean quality and market opportunities.

Another organization, Breaking Ground, is helping cocoa farmers in Cameroon—rural women entrepreneurs in particular—acquire seed funding and business skills to maximize their income.

Because many small farmers are being pushed out by large plantations, securing property rights for smallholders is another crucial element to supporting fair trade.

The fair trade certification industry is undergoing its own bit of turmoil; Fair Trade USA is changing its definition of fair trade. Still, I’m urging everyone I know to become a conscious consumer and consider buying ethical chocolate this holiday season.

As we wish one another abundance now and in the next year, let’s help stop child slavery and support safe and fair working conditions too.

This post is by Kristie Wang and was originally posted on Changemakers’ Ideas ExChange blog.


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From Slave to Student, Narayan is One in a Million

How Bad is Human Trafficking Around the World?


Photo credit: Nestle


William C
William Cabout a year ago


W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

Phyllis Prichard
Phyllis Prichard3 years ago

It's horrifying to think of children being taken from their parents, or even worse, being sold by their parents, to end up as slaves so that the rich can get richer! Adults should never be slaves
but they should work and be paid for that work. Children should never have to work...under any circumstances!! It's reprehensible to think that companies such as Hershey's and Nestles are guilty of dealing with suppliers that use child labor!! I love chocolate, but I can very easily
live without it, and I hope my tiny sacrifice helps in some small way.

Tim Keating
Tim Keating3 years ago

And while one is at it, please look for certified organic, as well. Fair trade certification doesn’t necessarily include this important component of sustainability. While some have argued that around 80% of fair-trade cocoa and coffee are also organically produced, that’s not true of other products, like bananas.

Organic cacao production, at least at this point, almost guarantees shade-grown, since it’s really the only way to grow cacao without chemicals — that is, the old way, under the shade of a canopy. That’s also why most of the organic cacao on the market is coming from Central and South America, since that’s where cacao is native. It is an understory tree by its nature.

So let’s make sure our chocolate (and coffee) are organic, shade-grown *and* fair trade. Then not only are we helping support rural farmers but also helping them keep diverse ecosystems intact and thriving.

In the New York region, the most readily-available organic producer is Green & Black’s, which, as of our very-out-of-date research, was sources at least some cacao from Belize (great — the Mayans of southern Belize can use the support). They are also reasonably-priced. Newman’s Own Organics can be found in some mainstream supermarkets as well as many “health food” stores, and also donates all proceeds to non-profits. They are perhaps the third-least-expensive organic bars in the New York market. Whole Foods carries some of thei

da c.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thank you for this information. An update to this data would be helpful to see what companies have changed their policies.

L X5 years ago

During this time of year, in the spring, when Christians celebrate redemption and Jews celebrate freedom from slavery, it is even more important for all of us to do everything we can to ensure that the rest of the world enjoys human rights, and ensure that we do not indirectly cause even more suffering.

Sarah Metcalf
Sarah M6 years ago

That's right--Fair Trade.

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B6 years ago

We can all help by also calling and writing companies like Hershey and Nestle, asking them to make their chocolate fair trade

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B6 years ago

thanks for telling the world

Karen Baker
Karen Baker6 years ago

Thanks great to know