How Ethical Is Your Chocolate?

Posted on April 14, 2014 by  Lee Mccoy | 0 Comments

The fantastic Askinosie chocolate has a mission which is to exist to: 'to craft exceptional chocolate while serving our farmers, our customers, our neighbourhood, and one another, striving in all we do to leave whatever part of the world we touch better for the encounter.' Whilst  Divine Chocolate has a core set of values: 'To grow a successful global farmer-owned chocolate company using the amazing power of chocolate to delight and engage, and bring people together to create dignified trading relations, thereby empowering producers and consumers.' Both of these companies have ethics at the genesis of what they do, the actual implementation is markedly different, but each has a noble desire to treat impoverished people better. But it begs the question: shouldn't everyone involved in the chocolate industry have a 'mission statement' that meant something?

Big Business & Ethics
As you would expect, Hershey has one that is apparently to 'provide high-quality ... products while conducting our business in a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable manner.' Which is gives themselves a massive amount of room to manoeuvre - whether they actually do have a socially responsible supply chain is another thing, especially if you consider the issue of child labour.  I'm not sure they have achieved the true meaning of that mission statement.

But what about Cadbury? Their's is reportedly 'to promise their consumers and potential consumers that their company will always produce quality products in the market.' - which doesn't mention anything about ethics, despite making a hoo-ha about being Fair Trade (to some degree).

And Chocolatiers.co.uk - what do you stand for?
But what do we stand for? We've never actually sat down as a company and codified any set of standards or ethics and then crystalised them into a sentence or two and then be held accountable to it by industry folk, let alone our customers. Instead we have preferred to align ourselves with companies which understand that virtually all those who initially work with cocoa beans often earn a pittance unless chocolate makers resist the economic pressures to drive down supplier costs has Tesco have other mass-market companies do.

We also hope that our continual flow of information on our blog regarding the poverty in the chocolate industry and how it is plausible to be critical of the Fair Trade approach speaks more about our set of ethics than a quickly formed 'promise' tucked away on an 'about us' page.

How we source chocolate needs to change
But, what we are doing is taking greater care to source our chocolate and to ensure that all chocolate has Fair Trade certification or actively uses sources of cacao with UTZ Certification as a minimum. Fair Trade has its weaknesses, however, at least it is a 'label' that consumers understand - and that is a starting point. Our goal (and currently we're not affiliated with this organisation) is to ensure that at least 50% of the chocolate makers we stock are signed up to Direct Cacao (we currently stock Pacari and Amano which are signatories to the Direct Cacao declaration), with the remaining at least having an equivalent of Fair Trade (i.e. Zotter) or UTZ (Favarger) - an example of which would be Original Beans and Blyss Chocolate which go above and beyond conventional certification and is the ideal approach we would like our suppliers to take.

Using Direct Cacao as a guide
But what is this Direct Cacao declaration we mentioned? Their website states that it is their 'intention and desire to reverse 510 years of neglect and disregard for the flavour quality of cacao. We declare that this precious resource, which brings pleasure to so many, should not be treated as a mere commodity and that the work of those who grow cacao, without whom there would be no chocolate, should be given its due respect and value. We declare that we will work and strive for the recovery of heritage cacao and to preserve and protect this valuable resource.' The important element here is the view that cacao is a commodity. For confectionery it is, but we need to ensure that the lowest-cost economics that drive that industry is reversed in the 'fine flavour' industry. We have no hope of changing the world of corner shop chocolate, but we can change the 'fine flavour' chocolate industry.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the brands we stock and establish their ethical credentials.

  • Amano - A signatory of the Direct Cacao declaration - we intend to keep stocking their chocolate. [Source: Direct Cacao]
  • AMMA - Their mission is 'to recover and preserve the forest by means of cacao: environmentally responsible management, from the organic cultivation of the fruit to use of solar panels in the factory, with compensation of the carbon emissions and use of biodegradable packaging, print with organic ink.' - we are huge fans of Diego Badaró and will continue to stock their chocolate. [Source: Digital Presentation - be warned, it’s a huge PDF]
  • Askinosie - as stated above they are a very ethical brand which follows through and we will be restocking their chocolate after the summer. [Source: their Direct Trade page]
  • Beschle - their ethical stance is unclear. Unless we can resolve this satisfactorily we will not be restocking
  • Bonnat - our research shows that Bonnat do have economic and social programmes and they are members of Direct Cacao. [Source: the following tweet]
  • Bouga Cacao - Alex and Ulrike directly negotiate with the cacao producers in Ecuador and pay a fair price. We will be very happy to continue stocking their chocolate. [Source]
  • Coppeneur - the beans used in Coppeneur's chocolate are 'Direct Trade' where the maker works directly with the farmers and estate owners to purchase the beans. They are also raising the awareness of slavery in the chocolate industry. We would love to continue stocking their chocolate. [Source]
  • Daintree Estates - Tim and his team don't use any slave labour as they cacao estates are in Australia and the whole process is managed in an ethical way. We would like to continue stocking their chocolate.
  • Dolceria Bonajuto - I have no ethical information to hand, but I will seek it out and make a decision.
  • Chocolate Conspiracy - AJ uses only certified organic and Fair Trade (as well as Kosher) and meets our minimum standard (we also love his approach to unroasted cacao). We would like to continue offering his chocolate.
  • Domori - it appears that some of their chocolate may be Fair Trade and we know they directly work with estates and are firmly of the belief that they meet our ethical requirements. We will, however, seek more information. We aim to keep stocking Domori.
  • Favarger - they're Fair Trade and UTZ. We have only just stocked this Swiss maker and intend to keep stocking them as long as our customers give good feedback. [Source: conversations with their UK agent]
  • Grenada Chocolate Co. - they run their own plantation as a co-operative , organic are ethical, use 50% recycled wrapping with another 25% post-consumer-waste stock and vegetable -based inks. These lovely people certainly are ethical enough to keep on the site. [Source: their website] Member of Direct Cacao. [Source: this tweet]
  • Marou Chocolate - they pay a fair price for their cocoa but don't want to spend a fortune getting Fair Trade certification, but who can blame them. We love what they do and how they do it, so we are keen to keep supplying their chocolate. Member of Direct Cacao. [Source: this tweet]
  • Pacari - a signatory to the Direct Cacao declaration - we're very happy with that.
  • Patric Chocolate - Alan McClure pays a heap load more than the Fair Trade price and we're very happy with Patric's general approach. [Source: Interview]
  • Pralus - we believe most of their range is Fair Trade, we do know that it is organic and is made with recycled wrapping. We can be sure that their own plantation in Madagascar meets our requirements and are confident that the rest of their origins are. We will, however, seek more information and share it here.
  • Pump Street Bakery - Chris buys all of his beans direct from the growers.
  • Rozsavolgyi Csokolade - they trade directly with their cocoa beans and pay a 'fair price' (source wholesale brochure 2013). We are happy to continue to list their chocolate.
  • Slitti Chocolate - we have asked our contact at Sara for information.
  • Solstice - I've contacted Scott for clarification.
  • The Chocolate Tree - I know where their beans come from and we're happy with the ethical stance of the supplier of their beans. [Source: direct emails]
  • Vosges - they are 'working towards becoming wholly Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance Certified'. [Source: their website]
  • Wilkies - 'It is a priority for us to ethically source the finest organic Criollo cocoa beans'. [Source: their website] I've also contacted Shana who confirms that the beans she buys are purchased direct from co-ops where the sources are organic, Criollo and pays a fair price.

We feel we are doing fairly well. Of the twenty-three makers we currently stock, only the one I feel doesn't meet the grade, whilst two I am unsure of whilst another two I need clarification to confirm my views. That puts us at the 87% ethical mark. We made some mistakes at the outset, and can certainly improve to get the ratio of chocolate makers that we categorically know are ethical up to 100% by the end of the summer as well as expanding our ethical chocolate range to include the the likes of Friis-Holm, Blyss, Original Beans and other makers. 

 

 


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