Tag Archives: Environmentally Friendly

Alter Eco – Changing The Chocolate Industry As We Know It

The chocolate industry has received significant criticism in the past decades for unsustainable practices stemming from questionable labor practices, use of low quality ingredients, poor production standards and problematic advertisements trends. These troubled elements combined have been brought to light by professionals analyzing the human, environmental, economic and social impact of chocolate on communities across the world. Indeed, most of the problems highlighted within the industry are still rampant today. Very few companies can pride themselves for having sustainable practices from a bean-to-bar perspective. Alter Eco, based out of California, France and Australia, prides itself in providing its clients with “healthy, sustainable and socially responsible foods” (Alter Eco, 2015). Through its high standards for quality and social responsibility, Alter Eco is a powerful response to the problems highlighted with today’s chocolate industry and attempts to mitigate the problems rampant within the multi-billion-dollar industry of cacao.

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Alter Eco Foods provides its clients with a multitude of products ranging from chocolate bars, truffles, quinoa, and rice. Mathieu Senard, the co-founder and CEO of Alter Eco, states: [The company] started with chocolate, and then [evolved to] grains such as quinoa and rice. Our goal is to buy directly from cooperatives and, more importantly, pay a fair price” (Kaye, 2017). Alter Eco’s mission remains the same through its line of products. The company prides itself in its concept of “full circle sustainability” for all the products in its line. Full circle sustainability, in its most basic form, presents solutions to most of the problems highlighted by specialists in the chocolate industry. Most of the problematic companies view sales and production as a two-way street between the client and the business. Alter Eco views its everyday business practices from a different perspective by adding the environmental impact of production in their equation. With its globalized market, Alter Eco Foods is showing its competitors that sustainable practices in the labor, ingredients, production and marketing spheres is both attractive and delicious to consumers across the world.

The issue of child labor is an epidemic in Cacao plantations across the globe, and even more dominantly in Cote D’Ivoire. Chanthavong, in his analysis of child labor in chocolate production, writes: “Slave traders are trafficking boys ranging from the age of 12 to 16 from their home countries and are selling them to cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire. They work on small farms across the country, harvesting the cocoa beans day and night, under inhumane conditions.” The problem of child labor, regardless of the production goals, is an incredibly sensitive issue that many governmental and non-governmental organizations are attempting to handle. In its efforts to limit the spread of child labor in Cote D’Ivoire and across the glove, Alter Eco sources its cacao beans from South American farmer-owned plantations, more specifically Peru and Ecuador. Furthermore, the company sources its Cacao butter from Dominican Republic, cutting any sort of possibility for economically- or socially-encouraging abusive labor practices. The company undoubtedly prides itself in its “single origin, highest quality cacao beans.” Alter Eco’s sustainable labor standards go much further than avoiding cacao originating from questionable sources with risk of child labor involvement. The company aims to rectify the issue of unsustainable labor practices through fair trade relationships, development programs, and women empowerment programs. Fair trade relationships are at the forefront of the sustainable labor practices push forth by the company’s values. Professor Martin from Harvard University writes: “Landlessness remains a serious problem among the descendants of enslaved people throughout the cocoa producing world today.” To further remedy these rampant issues, Alter Eco prides itself in sourcing all of its products from small-scale, farmer-owned cooperatives. Alter Eco is partners with the Institute of Marketecology (IMO), Fair Trade USA and the Fair Trade Labelling Organization (FTLO). This list of high-level certifications provides clients with the certainty that the labor practices for producers are socially acceptable and sustainable and that the values of the company for providing producers with good living and working conditions are followed.

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Alter Eco’s efforts to offer a socially- and ethically-acceptable product do not stop at the location and origin of its labor force. The company put in place a variety of development programs in order to increase the likelihood of sustainability of its producers and workers. Its Fair Trade Premiums, which allocate money throughout the supply chain, have allowed Alter Eco’s sugar cooperative, Alter Trade, to build a training center for their employees in the Philippines, simultaneously serving as an assistance center for families to visit. Furthermore, in its full-circle attempt to provide all workers with social and economic support, Alter Eco addresses an underlying issue in today’s farming practices in its development of leadership and empowerment programs for women. Women within the farming industry are often viewed as second-class individuals due to the utterly and outrageously outdated assumption that they will not be as useful as men on the land. Alter Eco writes: “Gender equality is an important aspect of the Alter Eco business model, all the way down to the field.” Through such a stance, Alter Eco attempts to remedy the gender disparity and inequality within the farming industry through maintaining that “women will assert their due role and space in both the management of the homestead farming economy and in the governance of [the land]” (AlterEco.com).

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The issue of unsustainable environmental practices within the chocolate industry is one Alter Eco addresses with strength. Indeed, as stated earlier, Alter Eco prides itself in adding the environment in its equation for sustainable production practices, which is something very few businesses work towards. Professor Martin from Harvard University, in her presentation entitled “Psychology, Terroir, and Taste,” states that Terroir and Harvesting practices can strongly affect, both positively and negatively, cacao quality and quantity. Furthermore, “the use of pesticides on the farms can lead to the destruction of part of the soil flora and fauna through both physical and chemical deterioration” (Ntiamoah, 2008). Alter Eco prides itself in assuring that all of its cooperative farms maintain their fields within American and European standards for organic certification. Such a certification makes sure the consumers are aware of what they are getting: a product “free of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes, and [that] must not [have been] processed using industrial solvents, irradiation, or genetic engineering” (Henry, 2012). Such sustainable ecological and organic practices put forth Alter Eco’s values in promoting a product that is good for farmers, earth, and consumers. Alter Eco’s efforts in promoting sustainable environmental practices do not end at the farm or on the plantation. Although the company goes to great lengths to maintain its organic certification, it even goes steps further in pushing forward its values of sustainability. Through its commitment to becoming a carbon-negative business, Alter Eco has already received its Carbon-neutral certification, which confirms the company offsets the same amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) as it produces. “Alter Eco works closely with PUR Project and [its] farmers to plant trees for the amount of CO2 [produced]” (Alter Eco, 2017). Furthermore, in its efforts to become a carbon negative business, Alter Eco started its emission subdivision called PUR Project. “Contrary to offsetting, which consists in handling carbon compensation in other places by uncorrelated people and means, the insetting includes the handling of carbon compensation into the commercial dynamics of the company” (PUR Project, 2017). In other words, Alter Eco’s insetting efforts are rooted deeply in the idea that you must give back to the soil and air from which you took. In having an impact within its supply line, Alter Eco can assure that its efforts are not in vain, and that, although it plans to plant an additional 7,776 trees in 2017, the 28,639 trees (Alter Eco, 2017) already planted since 2008 are truly being put to good use to reinvigorate the soil from which so much is produced.

Alter Eco’s efforts to make their products more environmentally-friendly do not stop at their carbon-neutral status. They indeed go even further to make their products truly “full circle sustainable.” The packaging in which their chocolate and truffles are placed are fully compostable. Plastic and the conventional polyethylene packaging are quite detrimental to the environment due to the astronomical quantity of plastic sent to landfills or that finishes its life course in the oceans. The packaging developed by Alter Eco provides an eco-friendly alternative to the original plastic packaging found for most chocolate bars. This new packaging is made from compostable materials, GMO free, and without any toxic ink. Mathieu Senard adds: ““We believe the impact of our packaging is just as important as the product itself. How could we call ourselves a responsible, sustainable company when much of our packaging was going to landfills to live for hundreds of years?” (Alter Eco, 2015). This question raised by Senard is one answered by very few companies, which makes Alter Eco that much more efficient in its goal of changing the dynamics of chocolate production across the globe. To top off its environmental goals, Alter Eco has partnered with the 1% For the Planet Fund, which gives 1% of the company’s sales to a non-profit with environmental improvement goals.

 

 

Businessman David Ogilvy was once quoted for saying: “The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.” Advertisements and marketing are truly at the forefront of the chocolate industry’s sales. Whether it is for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, or Halloween, chocolate advertisements are all over television networks, the internet, and social media. Nonetheless, there are many problems and complaints associated with today’s chocolate industry and its marketing techniques. During her lecture at Harvard University about “Race, Ethnicity and Gender” in today’s chocolate industry, Professor Carla Martin elaborated on today’s chocolate marketing techniques and its associated prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination. Most of this discrimination comes in the form of racism or sexism. Women are portrayed as irrational in the presence of chocolate while men are portrayed as sexualized bodies. Simultaneously, race is also being portrayed in stereotypical and offensive ways. Alter Eco attempts to go against all these rampant problems with marketing for chocolate. The company presents its potential buyers with an honest, informative advertising. Fagerhaug (Honest Marketing, 1997) writes: “The main point about honest marketing is to run the business in such a way that a customer at any time can feel the certainty any customer longs for; that he or she made the right choice.” When a customer purchases a product from Alter Eco, there is a directly associated certainty in the quality and honesty of the product received.

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In conclusion, Alter Eco attempts to provide its clients around the world with a sustainable chocolate product that tackles most, if not all the problems associated with today’s chocolate market. Through its fair labor practices, honest ingredients, conscientious production techniques and reliable advertisements, Alter Eco gives its customers exactly what they can expect. If more companies put as much care and attention in their products as Alter Eco does, the world would be a much better place. Alter Eco is undoubtedly part of the solution to the problems in the world’s chocolate and cacao industries.

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Works Cited:

“Alter Eco – B Corporation”. B Corporation Website. Fair Trade & Organic Foods, 2017.

“Alter Eco Foods”. AlterEco.com, Web. Accessed 05.03.2017.

“Alter Eco 2015 Impact Report”. AlterEco.com. Pages 7/7. 2017.

Business Wire Magazine. Alter Eco Logo Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160419005633/en/Alter-Eco-Unveils-Annual-Full-Circle-Sustainability-Social

Chanthavong, Samlanchith. “Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote D’Ivoire.” TED Case Studies. American University. Pages 17/17. 2017.

Fagerhaug & Andersen. “Honest Marketing: A Coherent Approach to Conscientious Business Operation.” Norwegian University of Science and Technology. 2017.

Henry, Alan. “What Does Organic Really Mean, And Is It Worth my Money?” Lifehacker.com. 2012.

Laye, Keon. “Alter Eco Wants to Make Chocolate a Regenerative, not Extractive, Industry.” Triple Pundit Online Publishing, 2017.

Lovely Package. Alter Eco Packaging Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://lovelypackage.com/alter-eco/

Martin, Carla D.“Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements”, Harvard University, CGIS, AAAS 119x, 2017.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, abolition, and forced labor”, Harvard University, CGIS, AAAS 119x, 2017.

Martin, Carla D. “Psychology, Terroir, and Taste”, Harvard University, CGIS, AAAS 119x, 2017.

“Mission/Values.” Fair Trade USA. Fair Trade USA, 2016.

Ntiamoah, Augustine. “Environmental impacts of cocoa production and processing in Ghana: life cycle assessment approach.” Journal of Cleaner Production, Print. 2008.

Plan Vivo. Pur Project Logo image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://www.planvivo.org/

Smedley, Tim. “Forget About Offsetting, Insetting is the Future.” The Guardian. Web, 2015.

Squicciarini & Swinnen. “The Economics of Chocolate”, Oxford Scholarship Online, 2016.

Slave Free Chocolate. Chocolate’s Slave Trade Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/

The Problem of Child Labor in the Cocoa Plantations. Africa News Service, Feb 2, 2012

WordPress.Willandmegan. Alter Eco Chocolate Bar Image. Media Image (Jpeg). Web. 05.03.17. https://willandmegan.wordpress.com/tag/alter-eco/

Better than Your Average Chocolate Company

Dandelion Chocolate: A New Kind of Chocolate Company

Dandelion, a bean to bar, small batch chocolate company based in San Francisco, is a socially conscious company who focuses on making a quality product, that not only benefits the company and consumers, but ensures that the producers and farmers also receive fair treatment. Within the chocolate and cacao market, there are many issues with the chain from the cacao bean to the chocolate bar. For example, farmers receiving little pay, child labor, slavery, high certification costs, etc… Dandelion Chocolate is a company that works to combat these issues within the cacao supply chain by transparency and open communication throughout the process, direct sourcing, and the eradication of certifications on their products. Dandelion Chocolate is not labeled Fair trade, or Organic, but in their own way, they are able to create a brand with quality ingredients and  Through these tactics Dandelion has created a meaningful, quality and sustainable brand that has sought to continually learn about and better the cacao supply chain.

By analyzing the Dandelion Sourcing book from 2015 I will highlight the mission of Dandelion Chocolate and how they are focused on not just creating a quality product that sells, but they are interested in “good business practices [that] can foster positive social, environmental, and economic change.” (Gore) Also if we compare Dandelion Chocolate to Big Five Chocolate companies or other Fair Trade or organic companies we are able to see that Dandelion is truly taking an approach that is solving these cacao supply chain issues.

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This is a picture of the Dandelion Chocolate store in San Francisco. From the start of your visit, they want you to know that they have a simple recipe, made with high quality ingredients. 

image found from: http://www.shipstation.com/stories/dandelion-chocolate/

Exploiters and the Exploited

Big Five chocolate companies such as Hershey, Mars, and Cadbury buy bulk cacao. This bulk cacao is not sourced directly or through fair trade, meaning there are no social regulations on the farms that they buy their cacao from. Often, there is this notion that the Big Chocolate companies “exploit” West African cacao farmers. For example, someone observing the workers noted, “the villagers seem to make everything for today, living hand to mouth with little remaining for tomorrow… their primary activity here is to produce cocoa for the international market. As such, they earn just enough money from cacao sales to pay for rice and cooking oil. there’s usually nothing left over.” (Off, pg. 5) Furthermore, These companies do not practice transparency in their sourcing and because of this it is likely that they are buying from places who have child labor, slavery and are receiving wages that are hardly survivable on. The farmers are trying to make money by harvesting cacao but this ends up in them exploiting members of their communities and families. For example, another observation noted, “Mack learned of another category of labor…What his informers described sounded a lot like slavery, and what made the stories even more horrifying was that it seemed the slaves were children.” (Off, pg.120) The Big Chocolate companies are buying this cacao and there is no security for these farmers in what they receive from the sales of the cacao they harvest.

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This is a picture of child slavery. Larger companies such as the Chocolate Big Five do not practice transparency in sourcing cacao. Meaning, it is likely that thier products come from farms where they practice child slavery.

 

image found from:http://www.foodispower.org/slavery-chocolate/

Cacao Sourcing Transparency

Dandelion makes it a goal to have transparency through their whole process of sourcing. This company is clearly making an effort to allow their customers to learn about their process and how they source their cacao. Publishing and uploading their “2015 Dandelion Sourcing Book” is something that opens the conversation for consumers to see their ethics in sourcing. Consumers are able to see where and who Dandelion trades with, also, consumers are able to see how much Dandelion pays for their cacao in comparison to how much other companies pay for cacao. This detail allows the consumer to know what their money is going towards and and ensure that the farmers and producers are being justly compensated. Dandelion says, “We pay as much as two times the world market price (and sometimes more) for the beans, providing a premium between seven and seventeen times greater than the Fair-trade standard of $200 per tonne.” (Gore) This compensation not only gives the consumer peace of mind, it also helps to guarantee a better quality cacao bean. Paying a higher amount for cacao helps to reinforce the farmers and producers incentive for harvesting better beans.

Chocolate makers like us are willing to pay far more than the world market price for high quality beans, which means the price we pay for cacao is completely detached from the volatility of the world market price. Instead, what we pay depends upon the quality of the cacao, what the farmer believes it is with and what our customers will pay for a finished chocolate bar. (Gore)

For Dandelion Chocolate, it is not just about creating a chocolate bar that sells, they are socially conscious and take into account all the people involved in the process. They practice transparency so that every step in the bean to bar supply chain is open and people know what their money is going towards.

Fair Trade Critiques

Fair trade is a great thing. “[Products] that bear [this] logo were made with respect to people and planet. Our rigorous social, environmental and economic standards work to promote safe, health working conditions, and protect the environment…When you choose products without eh Fair Trade label, your day-to-day purchases can improve an entire community.” (Fair Trade USA) The overall mission of Fair Trade is to help these farmers that companies source from receive fair treatment and fair payment. Though these ideals seem as if they will benefit the farmers, there are a few critiques of the Fair Trade industry.  Though fair trade aims for fair treatment and fair compensation for all parts of the cacao supply chain, critiques show that farmers still receive little compensation, there is a lack of evidence that fair trade actually helps, and the fair trade certification is very expensive. Dandelion Chocolate works to combat these issues and critiques of Fair Trade by ensuring quality products without the certifications. The certifications are so expensive that it is hard for the farmers to get in the first place, and then they have to be renewed every few years. For example, “in Tanzania, it costs $8,000 just to get the organic certification auditors to visit a farm.” (Gore) Fair Trade also has not been shown to have evidence of results. For example, a report from the Institute of Economic Affairs states, “Even analysts sympathetic to the movement have suggested that only 25 per cent of the premium reaches producers. No study ever produced has shown that the benefit to producers anything like matches the premium paid.” (Wallop). Dandelion’s lack of certifications does not mean that they have a product of lesser quality. They directly source their cacao from farms and visit these farms throughout the year. They believe that “the burden of proof is their responsibility” (Gore) so they go to the farms themselves if they want to see the cacao production ethics and quality. This is a way in which they are able to guarantee quality of the cacao they source while avoiding the steep certification costs. 

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These are workers from Dandelion Chocolate, who are traveling to cacao farms. They are ensuring ethical practices and quality cacao beans. 

Image found from: https://www.dandelionchocolate.com/category/industry/

Dandelion: An Environmentally Friendly Company

Dandelion claims to use only two ingredients in their chocolate, “cacao beans and cane sugar.”  The cacao beans they source are directly sourced and use ethical treatment of the farmers. As I mentioned, they pay more for their cacao to incentivize ethical practices on the farms they receive it from, as well as better quality cacao. Not only does Dandelion practice good relationships with the people they work with and the farmers they source from, Dandelion practices and fosters a sustainable and nurturing approach to sugar cane farming. Their sugar is bought from “Native Green Cane Project” where “the project aims to replace traditional sugarcane farming methods that ravage natural ecosystems with new methods that return the land closer to it’s natural state.”(Gore) The land is an important part in producing materials for Dandelion’s chocolate and they are making sure that they are using environmentally friendly methods to produce these ingredients. So far, with the “Ecosystem Revitalizing Agriculture” system there is “23x more biodiversity than conventional sugarcane farms… a 20-30% increase in yield per hectare, and the drastic reversal of the operation’s carbon footprint.” (Gore) Dandelion has really made an effort to be transparent in all parts of the cacao supply chain. With this transparency, we are able to see the steps Dandelion Chocolate has taken to fight issues displayed in the cacao supply chain by Big Five Chocolate companies and Fair Trade Certifications.

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Dandelion makes a product, socially and environmentally friendly. They travel to different cacao farms to ensure quality and ethical practices and source  their sugar from an environmentally friendly farm.    

Image found from: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2013/02/dandelion-chocolate-san-francisco/

Conclusion

Dandelion is not a perfect company, however they make a really good effort to be better for the environment, farmers, customers and everyone they work with. With their transparency and 2015 Sourcing Report we are able to learn where they get their materials and ingredients from, how much they pay them, the ethics and methods they use, etc… This transparency shows initiative and an earnest attempt to combat the issues with the cacao supply chain.

Works Cited

Gore, Molly. Dandelion Small Batch Chocolate 2015 Sourcing Report. Rep. San Francisco: Dandelion Chocolate, 2015. Web.

Wallop, Harry. “Fair Trade Does Not Help the Poorest, Report Says.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 4 Nov. 2010. Web. 02 May 2016.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New York: New, 2008. Print.

Fair Trade USA.” What Is Fair Trade? Fair Trade USA, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

Gore, Molly. “Dandelion Chocolate.” Dandelion Chocolate. Dandelion Chocolate, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.