By Momo Wilms-Crowe
I love chocolate. And looking at the $95 billion in chocolate sales in 2016, it’s pretty clear that I’m not the only one who does. However, this sweet industry has some major environmental and social issues that makes it less appetizing.
Cacao farming is notorious for its exploitation of labor. The international confectionary giants (Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle) harvest most of their cocoa from West Africa, directly supporting an industry that uses child labor, low pay and an exploitative structure to keep prices artificially low. Cacao farmers make an average of two dollars a day, with most of the profit going to the CEOs and company owners who often live far away from the realities of production. Women are especially impacted in this system, because they are often unable to own land and thus restricted to the lowest paying jobs.
The environmental impact of chocolate production must also be considered. Industrial cacao production uses high levels of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Additionally, many chocolate bars contain palm oil. Although it may give the candy a nice shine, oil palm farming causes massive deforestation, impacting the families and communities as well as the global environment.
Alas, my fellow chocoholics. While I may have painted a dark picture, I promise not all is lost.
Many brands are developing sustainable methods of production in combination with working with small farming cooperatives—keeping a more direct chain of production. As ethical consumers, we have the power (and responsibility) to support these brands.
For example, BIJA, a company that provides delicious bars with an equally delicious mission statement. They are committed to “changing lives one bar at a time” through working directly with women’s co-ops to produce the nest bean- to-bar chocolate. Women are given the opportunity to run their own businesses along with investing in their future and community. BIJA chocolate is also certified organic and fair trade, with simple ingredients (cocoa beans, cane sugar, and cocoa butter). My current favorite is their 70% Toasted Coconut.
In case you needed another reason to eat chocolate, the unprocessed and straightforward ingredients are good for your body, too. Dark chocolate is high in minerals, with a 100g bar of dark chocolate providing 67% of your recommended daily value of iron. Y’all, there’s your excuse to eat a whole bar at once (but who are we kidding -- we don’t need an excuse).