Ethical chocolate update


I have previously reported on the ethical dilemmas posed by eating chocolate, due to the trafficking and exploitation of children in growing cocoa in West Africa (see My pleasure, their misery? and Easter eggs and slavery), and on the responses to my letters to chocolate manufacturers (see Fair Trade chocolate – report 1).

I have received some more replies, and have researched some more information, all of which is very revealing.

What the manufacturers say

I have received replies from three confectioners, and have researched a fourth on the web.

  • As previously reported, Cadbury (Kraft) uses Fairtrade cocoa for its Dairy Milk range of products, and would like to expand that commitment to other products in its range, but is presently unable or unwilling to because of the small number of Fairtrade certified growers.
  • Nestle Australia supports two “initiatives” – The Cocoa Plan, which is UTZ accredited and The Nestle Plan, which conforms to Rainforest Alliance & Sustainable Agricultural Network principles. Nestle says these programs provide for future sustainability of the cocoa industry and “acceptable labour practices”.
  • Darrell Lea didn’t reply to my first letter, but replied to a second letter. Darrell Lea has “recently” joined the World Cocoa Foundation and sources cocoa from suppliers certified by FLO-CERT, the company that supplies Fairtrade certification, though this doesn’t necessarily mean certification to the same standard. Other cocoa suppliers are Rainforest Alliance certified.
  • Ferrero Rocher has not replied to my letter, although, to be fair, the company has been the subject of an Easter campaign that may have generated a large amount of correspondence.
  • Lindt has a lot of information on its website about “Social Responsibility”. Lindt sources its African cocoa from Ghana, where it claims a “progressive governmental cocoa organisation” facilitates tracking of all cocoa and just payments to growers. Lindt is also a member of the World Cocoa Foundation, but does not use Fairtrade cocoa because those sources cannot supply Lindt’s needs.



It is difficult to assess all this. The chocolate companies present their efforts in a good light, as you’d expect, yet nevertheless, child trafficking and near-slave labour are still (apparently) rife. I have tried to obtain a responsible and fair assessment of the confectioners’ efforts, and this is as far as I’ve got:

  • Fairtrade appears to have more stringent labour requirements than Rainforest Alliance, UTZ and other certification schemes, but all these independent schemes guarantee better results than industry schemes.
  • Chocolate companies have not, so far, been very open about exactly what their practices guarantee and how much (in dollar terms) they actually spend on improving labour conditions in West Africa.
  • The money spent on poverty alleviation appears to be a small percentage of overall profits, and may be dwarfed by taxation avoidance by the same companies in West Africa. Stop the Traffik says: “10 years have earned the cocoa industry £600 billion. Only 0.0075% of this has been invested into improving working conditions in West Africa.”
  • Much of the current action appears to be aimed more at improving production than in alleviating poverty, though it isn’t always possible to be sure.

It seems likely that the companies are making improvements, but probably less than justice demands and that they have previously agreed to do. Consumers who care should continue to advocate for further action, particularly companies using independent certification with clear criteria, as is provided by Fairtrade.


Further action

How much will you do to reduce child trafficking and slave labour? You can in conscience buy the following products which are independently certified (at least in Australia) – but check for the Fairtrade logo because not all products may be certified:

  • Mars uses Rainforest Alliance certification on Mars Bars.
  • Cadbury / Kraft uses Fairtrade in its Dairy Milk range and Green and Black’s products.
  • Nestle uses UTZ certified chocolate for Kit Kats.
  • Ferrero and Hersheys are yet to produce a certified product.
  • Aldi Just Organic is Fairtrade certified.
  • Alter Eco, Chocolatier Australia, Cocolo and Heritage Fine Chocolate all have Fairtrade certified chocolates.

You can find out more, even write in support of Fairtrade certification, at these websites:

Will you join in advocating via letter or your choice of products? We may not always choose Fairtrade chocolates, but we can choose more.


  1. I work for Equal Exchange, one of the other companies feueartd in this article. We were the first company to sell Fair Trade coffee and other food products in the US, starting 25 years ago. We also happen to be a worker-owned co-operative, and have been dismayed at the weakening of standards in the FT certification world. The move by FTUSA is outrageous, but not unexpected. If you look at their tax returns (available on their website), you will see that they have received millions of dollars in donations from Green Mountain, WalMart, Levis, etc. at the same time that they have moved to weaken the global fair trade standards. Paul Rice and his top aides get salaries that top $200,000, even though his non-profit lost $1 million in 2010. It’s a bit unrealistic to expect the companies that have funded this push for lower standards to now push for higher standards.The real way to support small farmers, is to purchase only from companies that buy exclusively from small farmer co-operatives.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Christy. I am disturbed by what you say, so I did a little searching, and found there is an argument going on out there, and I’m afraid interested bystanders like me might find it difficult to understand the fuss.

    It seems to that the critics of FTUSA are not accusing FTUSA of compromising the price paid to workers on plantations, but are concerned about FTUSA allowing large corporations get FT certification. This suggests to me that the objective of FT (in the critics’ eyes) isn’t simply paying workers a fair wage, but supporting small farmers against conglomerates. Is that correct?

    I must say I find this problematic. I buy FT chocolate to pay a fair wage, not necessarily to promote a particular size of farming operation. My natural inclination would be to support the small operation against the large one, but that wasn’t what I thought was the FT objective.

    Can you point out if, and where, FTUSA is actually compromising the certification process? I am keen to understand, and to act appropriately, but don’t want to take sides in what may be more about rivalry than serving the poor. Can you assist me please?

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