“If you know what’s going on in the beginning of the value chain, it’s not possible to enjoy chocolate.” – Hank Jan Beltran, Chief Chocolate Officer for Tony’s Chocolonely
My partner, being the wonderful man that he is, occasionally brings me home a bar of chocolate.
The chocolate he buys me is always dark, delicious, and – most importantly – fair trade [he knows me very well]. But I haven’t always purchased fair trade chocolate. I hadn’t even heard of fair trade products until last year when I started learning about ethical shopping. But over the past year – and especially the past few months – I’ve become aware of the dark side of the chocolate industry to such an extent that [like Beltran says above] I can’t even enjoy chocolate if I can’t guarantee that no humans have been mistreated in order to provide me my little luxury.
For me, chocolate is not worth the suffering it is causing around the world.
So what exactly is the deal with fair trade chocolate?
A while back, Brett brought me my first bar of Tony’s Chocolonely chocolate, which gave me my first glimpse into the chocolate industry.
Turns out, the chocolate we enjoy here in the US comes at a very high price for the farmers in West Africa [and other places around the world] and many other real human beings in the supply chain.
Don’t believe me? Watch one of the newest episodes of Rotten, a documentary series on Netflix.
No, really. Go watch it.
Anyone who consumes chocolate [which is pretty much every human in the developed world] should know the truth about how chocolate is grown and harvested and purchased and produced for us to enjoy from the comfort of our big homes and the extravagance of our fancy kitchens. We should know how this chocolate made its way from Africa all the way to our countless convenient grocery stores filled with aisles upon aisles of every food you can imagine.
And as soon as we know the truth, we need to change our actions to prioritize the humans whose lives depend on this product for their livelihood. Even if we can’t see them and may never meet them – humans all over the world are worthy of being treated with respect and human decency. We, as part of the largest consumer culture on the planet, have a responsibility to demand the ethical treatment of everyone in the supply chain of the products we purchase.
So, how do we do that?
Enter fair trade certifications [Fairtrade, Utz, Whole Trade, etc] which ensure that products are being purchased at fair prices AND that all levels of the supply chain are being treated ethically AND often provides additional funds to support the local industry and economy.
[Look for these symbols when shopping.]
Yeah, it’s gonna cost us more. God forbid I have to pay an extra $2 for my chocolate bar to ensure that the farmers who grew the cocoa beans can feed their children tonight. I mean really, we are the most wealthy country and simultaneously the most concerned about an extra $1.
Fair trade is often criticized as not being effective, being a form of “greenwashing”, and only benefiting rich companies – but these all sound like excuses to me. And if there is anything I’ve learned from growing up in middle class America, it’s that we love making excuses to keep more of our money to ourselves.
You might think that a good solution is to stop buying chocolate altogether, but these farmers rely on income from cocoa farming, so it’s good that we all love chocolate so much. We just have to take more responsibility for the process. We need to prioritize people over our pocketbooks. We need to put our money where our mouths are.
I’ve had several kinds of fair trade chocolate. I like Theo a lot.
But, in my opinion, Tony’s Chocolonely is one of the greatest chocolate companies right now because they are promising that they have accountability at all levels of their supply chain AND they are trying to end slavery in the entire cocoa industry.
Tony’s is a chocolate that I can truly enjoy.
Look around, you may find another great chocolate company doing good things and taking good care of it’s people. If you find some, let me know! I love chocolate!