Since chocolate was first discovered and loved by the Europeans, slave labor has been used to grow and harvest cacao. Slaves had to deal with horrific working conditions, malnourishment, and poor treatment from their owners—which caused life expectancy to be incredibly low. Even though slavery was abolished across the globe, many issues of forced labor and child labor still exist today. Cocoa farmers, especially in West Africa, have been depicted as either the exploiters—through their use of child labor and slavery like conditions—or the exploited—by big chocolate companies and the global market (Martin, Lecture 7 slide 23). For example of the exploiters, in Bitter Chocolate, the author points out that “Macko learned of another category of labour that he couldn’t quite fathom. 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 120). In regards to the exploited, when talking about the villagers who farm cacao, the author claims that “their primary activity here is to produce cocoa for the international market. As such, they earn just enough money from cocoa sales to pay for rice and cooking oil. There’s usually nothing left over” (Off 5). However, neither depiction is entirely accurate. There are much deeper issues than this simple binary suggests. According to Video 1 below, the number of child laborers more than doubled in Côte d’Ivoire from 2010 to 2015 to 1.6 million, and the government and big chocolate companies’ efforts to curb the issue have not worked. Also, as is seen in Figure 3, farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana receive only $0.50 and $0.84 per day, respectively—showing a huge divide between the compensation of the farmers and the profit of large chocolate companies. As is evident from these passages, there are major issues that surround the current marketplace for cacao. But, as consumers become more and more socially conscious about what they buy, some chocolate companies—and world organizations—have made it their mission to protect workers, pay them properly, and give their customers an ethically sourced and delicious product.
One such company is CACOCO, a Santa Cruz, California based drinking chocolate company, started in 2014, that has made it their mission to provide ethically sourced chocolate to its customers, and to protect and help the Earth in the process. According to their website, “CACOCO is the purest form of cacao directly sourced from beyond-organic farms, that not only improve the health of the environment but produce a chocolate that showcases the finer nuances of well-maintained soil and cultivation and highlight the terroir of the region” (“About Us”). It is their stated mission to “source the Earth’s purest ingredients from regenerative food systems, provide customers healthy, safe and delicious products with uncompromised quality, service and integrity, [and to] create and implement the most sustainable methods and systems for our organization” (“About Us”).
In this course, we have raised many questions regarding the ethics of cocoa production. One of the main things we talked about is that some companies don’t know where exactly they are getting their cacao from, so they have no idea whether or not their product is ethically sourced. This means that they could be getting cacao from farms who use child labor or slave labor to grow and harvest their product. To counter this, all of CACOCO’s cacao is currently sourced from organic and regenerative farms in Ecuador (“About Us”). This way, they are able to know exactly where their product comes from, and they can more easily make sure that all of their cacao is produced and harvested the right way. Another main issue we discussed was fair and steady compensation. It is no secret that a very small portion of the profit from a chocolate bar goes to the farmer, but as Figure 2 shows, it is actually the smallest share overall at only 3%. To make matters worse, as the price of cacao—a commodity—fluctuates, so does the income of farmers, meaning a drop in the price of cacao can have a drastic impact on the farmers and their families.
Fortunately, CACOCO’s cacao is Fair Trade Certified, which means that, according to Fair Trade USA, “producers and businesses we work with adhere to strict labor, environmental, and ethics standards that prohibit slavery and child labor and ensure cocoa growers receive a steady income, regardless of volatile market prices” (“Where to Buy”). Thus, given their certification, CACOCO checks the boxes for all these criteria—meaning that our worries of slavery and child labor, as well as unstable and unsustainable income that we discussed in class, are nothing to worry about when purchasing chocolate from CACOCO.
CACOCO even goes a step further in their efforts for ethically and sustainably sourced cacao by trying to help the Earth in the process, as all of their packaging is compostable and made from 100% recycled materials (“About Us”). Their website even claims that “each purchase you make of CACOCO Drinking Chocolate directly supports the vision of a planet where natural ecosystems are managed intelligently, resources are utilized respectfully, and people are treated well at each step of the process” (“About Us”). CACOCO is also working with Terra Genesis International (TGI) “to build a regenerative network of businesses committed to rebuilding supply chains based on regenerative principles” (“About Us”). Thus, CACOCO seems to be doing all it can to create an ethically and sustainably sourced chocolate product.
On the other hand, some companies have been slow to change—or have yet to change much at all. One such example is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which is now owned by Lindt & Sprüngli. I want to specifically name Ghirardelli inside of the Lindt umbrella in order to emphasize how close to home these problems are—because Ghirardelli chocolate is everywhere in the US, especially in retail stores. According to Lindt & Sprüngli’s 2017 annual report, Ghirardelli ranks No. 3 in the US in terms of dark chocolate sales (Lindt). Ghirardelli also became the No. 2 baking brand in the United States in 2011 (“About Ghirardelli”). Thus, it is important to emphasize that when I discuss Lindt & Sprüngli, I am also discussing Ghirardelli (and vice versa).
Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was founded in 1852 in San Francisco, California. In 1865, “a Ghirardelli employee discovers that by hanging a bag of chocolate mass in a warm room, the cocoa butter drips out, leaving a residue that can be processed into ground chocolate. This is known as the Broma process and produces a more intense chocolate flavor than other techniques” (“About Ghirardelli”). Shortly thereafter, the company expanded their business from the western United States to the eastern United States, China, Mexico and Japan (“About Ghirardelli”). In 1965, Ghirardelli Square became an official city landmark, and later received National Historic Register status—solidifying itself as a staple of the Bay Area (“About Ghirardelli”). It has also partnered with Disney to create a Disney Studio Store in Hollywood, and continued to innovate with their famous Ghirardelli Squares—turning classic treats into best-selling holiday and dark chocolate candies (“About Ghirardelli”). They were acquired by Lindt & Sprüngli in 1998 (“About Ghirardelli”).
Ghirardelli chocolate, over the past one hundred and fifty years, has become an American staple in the chocolate industry. However, they have been slow to fight the injustices of the chocolate supply chain. They claim to “comply with high standard of ethics and sustainability in the procurement of our raw materials and in their processing into high-quality LINDT chocolate” (“The Commitment”). However, contrary to CACOCO, Lindt has no fair trade or labor certifications as of 2017 (Figure 1). Instead, they are “self-certified.” Although this beats no certification, their self-certification doesn’t hold them to the rigid standards of Fair Trade Certifications, and they aren’t accountable to anyone outside of themselves. But, in their defense, Lindt has instituted a program called the Lindt & Sprüngli Farming Program, which aims to “to trace ingredients back to their origin and support farmers according to their specific needs” (“Sustainably”). This program supports local farmers and helps them to apply “good agricultural, social, environmental and business practices in the management of their farms” (“Sustainably”). This allows Lindt to also verify social and environmental practices of the farms within the program in order to make sure their cacao is ethically and sustainably sourced (“Sustainably”). Lindt also aims to limit intermediaries—or “middle men”—between themselves and the farms to make sure they receive fair payment for their product (“Sustainably”).
According to their website, “over 85% of Ghirardelli cocoa beans are sourced through the Lindt & Sprüngli farming program” (“Sustainable Cocoa”). And, as of 2017, 79% of Lindt’s cocoa was certified (Figure 1). Although these numbers are higher than some chocolate companies, that means that 15% of the cocoa beans Ghirardelli gets have unknown origins (at least based on their website, which has no further mention of where the other 15% of cocoa beans come from) and 21% of Lindt’s total cacao in 2017 went uncertified. CACOCO sources 100% of their cacao beans from regenerative and organic farms in Ecuador—meaning none of the cacao’s origins are unknown. Thus, Ghirardelli doesn’t know whether or not some of their cacao comes from farms with poor working conditions, slave and child labor, or unfair wages. However, Lindt has made it their goal to go to 100% certified cacao by 2020—which would be a major step towards fixing issues of the cacao supply chain (Figure 1).
In addition to Lindt’s farming program, they have also introduced the Lindt & Sprüngli Suppler Code of Conduct Agreement and the Lindt Cocoa Foundation. The Code establishes “minimum standards, such as requirements regarding industrial wastewater treatment, air emission and environmental reporting” while also prohibiting the use of “corruption, bribery, discrimination and child labor” (“Sustainably Sourced”). The Code also “insists on freely chosen employment, fair compensation and working conditions, as well as freedom of association and obligates suppliers to pass these principles on to sub-suppliers” (“Sustainably Sourced”). Any purchase order made by Lindt requires the supplier to sign the Code of Conduct Agreement, and failure to uphold these obligations results in termination of the supplier contract (“Sustainably Sourced”). Secondly, the Lindt Cocoa Foundation’s job is “ to work towards achieving social and ecological sustainability in the cultivation, production and processing of cocoa and other ingredients used in chocolate production” (“Sustainably Sourced”). Thus, with these two initiatives, Lindt is trying to fix many of the issues that plague their cocoa supply chain—although without outside certification, it is harder for consumers to judge the strength and reach of these initiatives. Although this is a step in the right direction, Lindt has a lot more to prove to consumers that want to hold them accountable—and it starts with some sort of third-party certification, such as a Fair Trade Certification, and meeting their goal of 100% certified cacao by 2020.
Both companies are running initiatives to try to combat the problems of the cacao supply chain. CACOCO is a relatively new company that epitomizes the direction of which consumers are heading in regards to socially and environmentally conscious consumption. CACOCO is Fair Trade Certified, provides zero waste packaging, and preaches the importance sustainability, responsibility, and health—all in an effort to maximize consumer and producer happiness. Ghirardelli, on the other hand, is not Fair Trade Certified, but they are fighting injustice in other ways. Their farming program, along with the Lindt Cocoa Foundation and the Supplier Code of Conduct Agreement, are making steps towards a more transparent and equitable growing and harvesting environment in their cacao supply chain. With the completion of their goal of 100% certified cacao by 2020, they too would be well on their way towards creating a better, more equitable, and safer world in cacao farming.
As consumers, it is our duty to be as conscious as we can in order to create change. Companies that are doing the right thing, that are fighting the injustices of the cocoa supply chain, are the ones that should receive our money. As more and more issues are brought to light, it is up to us to hold these companies accountable for their sourcing of raw materials, and to make sure it is done as sustainably, and equitably, as possible—because we have as much of a duty to make a difference as they do.
- “About Ghirardelli.” Ghirardelli Chocolate , Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, http://www.ghirardelli.com/about-ghirardelli.
- “About Us.” CACOCO, CACOCO, drinkcacoco.com/pages/about.
- Lindt & Sprüngli. Annual Report 2017 NAFTA Markets. Kilchberg, Switzerland: Lindt & Sprüngli, 2017. Lindt & Sprüngli. Web. 2 May 2019.
- Martin, Carla. “Lecture 7: Modern day slavery.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 27 March 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation.
- Off, Carol. 2008. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet.
- “Sustainable Cocoa Farming.” Ghirardelli, Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, http://www.ghirardelli.com/sustainable-cocoa-production.
- “Sustainably Sourced.” Lindt & Sprüngli, Lindt & Sprüngli, http://www.lindt-spruengli.com/sustainability/sustainably-sourced/.
- “The Commitment of Lindt & Sprüngli to Sustainability.” Lindt Chocolate World, Lindt & Sprüngli, http://www.chocolate.lindt.com/world-of-lindt/sustainability/our-commitment/.
- “Where to Buy Fair Trade Chocolate.” Fair Trade Certified, Fair Trade USA, http://www.fairtradecertified.org/shopping-guides/fair-trade-chocolate.
- “Is There Child Labor in Your Halloween Candy? Chocolate Scorecard Identified Good, Ghoulish Companies.” Green America, Green America, 11 Oct. 2018, http://www.greenamerica.org/press-release/there-child-labor-your-halloween-candy-chocolate-scorecard-identified-good-ghoulish-companies.
- Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 7).
- Martin, Carla. “Lecture 1: Chocolate Politics.” AFRAMER 119X: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, 30 Jan 2019, Harvard College. Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation (slide 8).
- Riggs, Ayn. “CREER-Africa Is Featured on News Story about Child Labor in the Cocoa Sector.” YouTube, Aljazeera, 12 Nov. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=64&v=2lk_OMPDlJc.