Avoiding the gift of chocolate exploitation

When you say “I love you” this Valentine’s Day with chocolate, why not make the effort to make sure it’s “slave-free?” Then it will be something that is truly good for the heart in more ways than one.

From Wikipedia’s Fair trade page:

“Fair Trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as social and environmental standards. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate and flowers.”

There is another web site called Stop Chocolate Slavery that explains it like this:

“If you want some chocolate, but don’t want to exploit people, Fair Trade chocolate is probably your best bet. “Fair trade” was a term coined fairly recently, apparently in contradiction to so-called free trade.”

Here’s even more of the “bitter truth” from TreeHugger.com:

The truth behind chocolate is not-so-sweet. The Ivory Coast is the world’s largest cocoa producer, providing 43% of the world’s cocoa. And yet, in 2001 the U.S. State Department reported child slavery on many cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. A 2002 report from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture about cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and other African countries estimated there were 284,000 children working on cocoa farms in hazardous conditions. U.S. chocolate manufacturers have claimed they are not responsible for the conditions on cocoa plantations since they don’t own them.

Looking at a list of fair trade chocolate companies, notably missing are companies like Hershey’s and M&M/Mars that control the lion’s share (about two-thirds) of chocolate production in the United States.

So before you give your sweets the sweets you might want to do a bit of quick research and find out if  your chocolate has been certified as “fair trade.” That makes a tasty gift even better!

Remarkably, finding an up-to-date list of what is and isn’t fair trade chocolate in the United States is rather challenging.

Looking for a place to shop that offers fair trade products? You can use web sites like TransFair USA and others to find retail locations.

Here is a site that claims to be a comprehensive list of organic chocolate suppliers. I even have a couple tins of Dagoba on my counter at home. Green Promise: Organic Chocolate Suppliers.

26 responses

  1. You can also look for certifications like Rainforest Alliance and IMO Fair For Life. Whole Foods has these in their Whole Trade program, with Fair Trade Certified. They all prohibit child labor, forced labor and slavery and they all require audits to make sure.

    Organic doesn’t mean the labor and wage conditions are fair. It’s related to the chemicals and processes and ingredients used in farming and product recipes.

    There are also companies that aren’t certified that have their own fair-trade type programs and they are open about the source, labor conditions and prices for farmers. Check out Taza and Askinosie, dong great things . You really need to ask companies about their practices, not just count on a label. Labels cost money for farmers and companies and small farmers and companies can;t afford that. Best for them to put their money into feeding their families (farmers) and paying farmers more (companies).


  2. Beautiful comment, Lauren. Thanks for that extremely useful information!


  3. One more reason to feel guilty for eating chocolate! Thanks for the education – I honestly never knew any of that! Thanks for teaching me something new today. 🙂


  4. Yikes! Sorry about that. 🙂 It’s not that hard to find fair trade, though. You just have to look a bit further than Hershey and M&M/Mars. (Although I’ve heard the latter is taking steps in the fair trade direction.)


  5. Counter Culture Clown | Reply

    I insist my chocolate be made with 45% slave. Ground up and mixed in with the caramel if possible. They add a certain sweet taste that only comes with torture-levels of forced labor.

    I am the Counter Culture Clown, and I support making slaves into chocolate.

    Children, however, not good for chocolate. They should be used in strawberry milkshakes, to add a creamy texture.


  6. You haven’t lost your touch! 🙂


    1. Counter Culture Clown | Reply

      You know who else hasn’t lost my touch? Your mom.



  7. So sad.


  8. It’s better knowing than not knowing, though, right? It’s not that much effort to find out what’s really going on in places like the Ivory Coast that provides us with our rich chocolate goodness.


    1. Yes. Of course. Ignorance is not bliss, despite what they say. Just depressing sometimes. Have you ever been to story of stuff (dot) com?


      1. PS I don’t know how accurate SoS is, as I’ve read several articles against it, and I’ve read several articles for it – – I guess it just depends who is trying to get their point across.


  9. Look at you go, flaunting those powerful critical thinking skills! I’m so proud of you! 🙂

    There are indeed some criticisms of the fair trade approach. I’m not saying that we should automatically hang our hats on one thing or the other. “Fair trade” might best be used a launching point to knowledge. In the end it’s up to each of us to decide for ourselves what is right for us.


  10. Hey, U-Girl. I just spent my lunch break watching that video. Guess what?


    That video is awesome!!!


    I’ve been talking about a lot of the stuff in that video for years. Things like consumption, the size of American homes (I think I mentioned that previously on my blog), affluenza, happiness of Americans declining or holding steady since the 50’s, yada yada yada.

    You really rocked my world today.


    1. Fabulous! Glad I could make you happy!


    2. Another area where we can cut back greatly on environmental damage is by not eating meat, which you no longer do, and by not drinking alcohol. How much energy is used to create alcohol? Planting grain for booze rather than for food or leaving the land natural for wildlife, energy used for harvesting, distilling, transporting, exxpenses from liver damage and drunk drivers and on and on. Wow, I’m sure a killjoy!

      For one year I was an editor at a commodities news service, which reported on commodities throughout the world, everything from cocoa (which is highly perishable), grain, orange juice, petroleum, coffee beans (my favorite are hard green Guatemalans), cotton, gold, cattle, just about anything that we need. It was fascinating and kind of depressing.

      Where is U girl’s video. Did you post it?


  11. Alcohol? That’s in the one natural resource we have left in the abyss. Once it is gone there will be nothing left. Oh noes, please don’t try to take that away from me. 🙂

    But I keed again. I can take it or leave it. I guess I probably should leave it for good. Pretty soon it will be nothing left be me, water and the alfalfa sprouts! 🙂

    I don’t know why U-Girl didn’t actually make the web site a link. Probably out of politeness or something. Here’s is the link which we should all promote to the best of our ability!



    1. I watched part of a couple of the videos. I think cap and trade is crap, too. We definitely need to find alternative sources of energy and cut back on consumption, as she talks about in the two videos I scanned.

      However, the CO2 issue is undergoing a massive re-think in the scientific world. Even the now disgraced Phil Jones of the CRU (climategate), which provided much of the data that has now been discredited along with Michael Mann’s discredited hockey stick, admits that his department hid the decline in global temperatures in the past decade.

      CO2 is important to governments as an issue because they can use it to get us to give into massive taxation and carbon trading (which will make the people in charge of it very rich) if populations feels it’s saving the planet. Politicians and some scientists justify it, even when they know it’s a fraud, because it will bring down energy usage.

      I recently went to an environmental meeting, where those leading the discussion said that the big environmental issue of the coming decade is water quality. Less than one percent of the water on earth is usable to humans. When we can’t get clean water, we’ll have to drink more beer, so take back everything I said about cutting back on alcohol consumption. I read that in the past, people in England did drink beer, even for breakfast, because it was safer to drink than their polluted water.


  12. I admit I knew absolutely nothing about cap and trade. You and I once briefly discussed “carbon trading,” which, at the time, I shrugged and said it sounded good to me, at least in theory.

    The cap and trade video on storyofstuff.com was very educational to me, and I can see how it would probably end up being just another in a long line of mechanisms for fraud which would only make things worse by allowing the real problem of pollution to go uncorrected while a greedy few made big bucks.

    I think we’ve had enough of that sort of thing.

    I will say this: Some “facts” in the video really threw me for a loop. The video was so fast-paced that a lot of stuff got slipped in there, not necessarily all of which I’m ready to stipulate is axiomatic. I sent the video to a conservative I know and he aborted the viewing at the section pertaining to flame retardant chemicals in breast milk, which happens to be a point that I actually do accept as axiomatic. The research on that has is conclusive and has been out for years. It’s not a theory, it’s a fact. If he had kept watching, though, I’m sure he would have found plenty more to quibble about, including the point you raise.

    If every single fact in the video doesn’t necessarily hold water it still painted a pretty convincing picture for a system that is seriously if not irrevocably flawed.

    Water? One sixth of the humans on planet Earth currently do not have access to clean drinking water. I’ve been thinking for decades now that the next serious wars on Earth may have something to do with water.


    1. I live in an area of abundant water, which is one reason I don’t mind living here even though it gets so cold, but I don’t take the water for granted. We’ve had droughts. At the environmental meeting, the speakers did say that billions on earth don’t have access to clean water. We really take it for granted. I’ve got a story in my drafts about that, based on a trip I took to Honduras where I stayed for a time in an upper middle class neighborhood. Even there, you couldn’t drink the water nor use it to wash your vegetables or brush your teeth. Despite my vigilance, without going into details, I got the worst case of you know what in my life!

      At the meeting, a speaker also said that the world would need about seven planets worth of materials to live as the average American does and five planets to live as the English do. Whether it’s seven , five, four or whatever planets, we are not consuming at a sustainable level. I still marvel at a glass jar, a simple thing that we take for granted, and possibly toss into the trash. And yet, think of what it takes to make one of those, even though it is created from silicon, the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust.


  13. One amazing fact about water: A staggering number of humans choose to live in places where there isn’t sufficient water to support human life. Las Vegas leaps to mind as the poster child for this. But, like you say, there are plenty of other places, even places we don’t normally think about as ever needing water, where drought can still strike. If humans live someplace where water has to be transported in for their survival, they may not realize it, but they are living on a precipice.

    The war scenario I imagine involves two countries on a river. Country #1 is upstream of Country #2 and takes the amount of water it needs. Country #2 says, “Hey, we’re not getting enough, can you please leave us more?” To which Country #1 replies, “Hey, we only take what we need. We’re not taking less.”

    When bodies start hitting the floor it isn’t too hard to imagine that being a cause for which the inhabitants will be willing to take up arms.

    I hope us humans figure some shit out before it ever gets to something like that, although sometimes it feels like we’re already there in a lot of ways.


  14. By the way, I love Mason jars. 🙂 When I first moved to the small town on my little quest for voluntary simplicity I bought a bunch of them and did some home canning. Nothing hard core with a pressure cooker or anything like that, but I did a lot of hot water bath canning. And I use Mason jars for all sorts of other things. 🙂


  15. Yes, Mason jars are awesome! I have some, too, I used to do some canning. I learned that if your jelly doesn’t jell, adding more pectin won’t help.

    People are pushing rain gardens in the Kansas City area, which involves planting native plants with deep root systems that will absorb and filter rain water. They also encourage collecting water from your gutters to water your grass and gardens. we get an average of 37 inches of rain here every year, although in recent years we’ve gotten more and haven’t had to water our lawns at all. In western Kansas, I just learned that you don’t own the water that falls on your roof and that you can’t capture it. I found that hard to believe and want to check into it, but if water is in short supply I can see how various people will try to control it.
    Here’s a sytory about T. Boone Pickens buying up water rights. He thinks it’s the new oil. If the link doesn’t work google T. Boone Pickens water rights.


  16. HEY! Are you making fun of my politeness! XD

    You both might be interested in the book, Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte. I like the book because there is no propaganda behind it. Elizabeth was curious to see where her garabage went and what happened to it along the way, and as a result, she wrote this book. I was able to listen to her speak, and I actually spoke to her for a time afterward. Like I said, she had no agenda when she started this book. She ended up learning a lot. And I did, too!


    1. Also, Oil on the Brain by Lisa Margonelli is another fantastic book, though obviously written with an agenda in mind. But I learned a lot about OPEC and laws regarding oil, etc.


  17. […] 2010? Me either. The only record I have of that date is a lame post about Valentine’s Day and chocolate. While the biggest worry in my life was some inane holiday, a 23-year-old young man was having his […]


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