Supply chains, wages and more: Fairtrade chocolate: What to look out for when buying

Chocolate is also one of the most popular sins in Germany.

Supply chains, wages and more: Fairtrade chocolate: What to look out for when buying

Chocolate is also one of the most popular sins in Germany. No wonder: it puts you in a good mood, tastes delicious in most cases and is also a wonderful gift. However, the happy treat also has a downside: its most important ingredient, cocoa, has a long history of exploitation. Not only that primeval and rain forests are cleared in favor of plantations. People, especially children, are paid starvation wages for hard labor in the fields. Fairtrade chocolate should prevent or at least curb this exploitation of people and nature and show consumers that they can buy and enjoy the chocolate with a clear conscience. What else you should consider when buying Fairtrade chocolate.

One of the best-known fair trade brands when it comes to chocolate is Tony's Chocolonely. The brand was founded after journalist Teun "Tony" van de Keuken found out that buying chocolate in many cases supports modern slavery and illegal child labour. Impact Editor Belinda Borck tells stern about the problems in the production of chocolate: "The value chain in cocoa is structured like an hourglass. On the one hand there are millions of small farmers who grow cocoa, on the other hand billions of Consumers. In the middle, there are only a handful of large chocolate companies that process most of the cocoa beans. Naturally, these large chocolate manufacturers want to make as much profit as possible, so it is in their interest to buy the cocoa as cheaply as possible."

The result: Prices are pushed down and the cocoa farmers receive less than one euro for their work at the end of the day. This income is well below the extreme poverty line. "This in turn means that farmers have to use the cheapest labor on their plantations, which in turn leads to child labor and modern slavery."

According to a 2020 report by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), 1.56 million children work in illegal conditions. At least 30,000 people are victims of modern slavery, according to the report. Borck explains further: "The Fairtrade seal, as an external certification, means that the cocoa farmers are paid a higher price for their raw material, so that this problem is counteracted. The seal is therefore a first step towards the livelihood of the cocoa farmers: to improve internally. Even though we have been Fairtrade certified since day one, we recognize that farm and cooperative certification alone is not enough."

Because even the additional certification premium does not guarantee the farmers a livelihood. More is needed for this, according to the expert. "For this reason, we have developed a model for calculating the price of cocoa (LIRP) based on state-of-the-art research, which enables farmers to achieve it." In addition, there is a premium and a cooperative fee, which even with fluctuating world market prices always allow the difference to the living income. It is therefore best to find out exactly which chocolate you are going to use and what the philosophy behind it is. In addition to Tony's Chocolonely, other brands are now also actively campaigning against modern slavery, including, for example, Jokolade (the chocolate from moderator Joko Winterscheidt and part of Tony's Open Chain), Fairafric, The Nu Company (here, in addition to fair trade, there are also vegan themes Enjoyment and climate change on the agenda) or Gepa and Rapunzel, both of whom also value organic products.

Since it is not always possible to obtain comprehensive information with every purchase in everyday life, certifications such as Fairtrade are an important step in the right direction for companies and often offer a good initial orientation for consumers, Borck believes. "By meeting certain minimum requirements through an external framework, companies embark on the path to incremental change." Nevertheless, chocolate companies themselves are responsible for their supply chains and their effects, not the certifiers. "In addition, it is the task of governments to pass laws that make every company responsible and thus make seals obsolete."

If you don't just value taste, but want to deal with the injustices in the chocolate industry, you should find out more: "It's important to question brands and seals and to see what's behind them. And you should incorporate this knowledge into your purchasing decision Because only when consumers ask questions and demand really fairly traded chocolate will there be enough pressure on the manufacturers to take responsibility," says Belinda Borck. And in the end, chocolate can be enjoyed even more with a clear conscience.

Sources: Fairtrade.de / Fair Report von Tony's Chocolonely / NORC Report 2020

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