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.
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.