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Customers urged to avoid buying from leading chocolate firms over ‘inadequate’ ethical standards

Customers urged to avoid buying from leading chocolate firms over ‘inadequate’ ethical standards

A number of leading chocolate brands have been criticised for having “inadequate” ethical standards in their cocoa supply chain.

An investigation by Ethical Consumer (EC) found that only 17 out of 82 well-known chocolate brands were judged to use chocolate from suppliers that ensured cocoa farmers were paid a sustainable income.

A fair price is based on a consultative process with workers and traders to ensure the sum covers what it costs to grow their crop.

Around 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa comes from west Africa, but four in 10 cocoa-growing households in the Ivory Coast are estimated to use child labour, and six in 10 in Ghana, according to the report.

Popular brands such as Cadbury, Mars and Nestlé were deemed inadequate by EC because they did did not meet the criteria judged by EC.

The chocolate has to be: Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade International; better than fairtrade, including payment of at least the Fairtrade premium; or value-added-at-source (the chocolate was made in the country where cocoa was grown thus creating more profits for the country of origin).

Around 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa comes from west Africa (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Around 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa comes from west Africa (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Brands that were deemed adequate and were recommended by Ethical Consumer include Tony’s Chocolonely, Raw Chocolate Company, and Chocolate Madagascar.

Jasmine Owens, a researcher at Ethical Consumer, said: “The chocolate industry is incredibly unequal, with many cocoa farmers living in poverty while international chocolate companies are raking in billions of pounds.

“Most of the world’s chocolate is grown in west Africa, and the conditions for farmers are in general really appalling. But it’s European and UK consumers who eat most of it. So we really do have a huge amount of power and responsibility over conditions for farmers in west Africa because we’re the reason why they’re harvesting the cocoa.”

In 2022, Channel 4’s Dispatches found 10-year-old children were using machetes to harvest cocoa for chocolate supergiant Mondelēz’s supply chain. One father from Ghana dssaid he “has to use his children” to help with the harvest in an effort to produce more bags of cocoa, including his 10-year-old daughter.

A Nestlé spokesperson told the Guardian: “We believe that Ethical Consumer’s assessment of our approach does not reflect the comprehensive detail we provided about our work, and therefore does not represent the extent of our efforts to sustainability source cocoa for our products.

“At Nestlé, we have pioneered industry-leading projects and initiatives to further improve the sustainable sourcing of cocoa for our products and to help improve farmers’ livelihoods.”

A Mars spokesperson said: “Our ambition is that 100% of our cocoa is responsibly sourced globally and is traceable (from the farmer to the first point of purchase) by 2025. Going beyond the current level of certification standards and practices and committing us to action across three focus areas that put cocoa farmers, communities and the environment at the center of our efforts.

“We’re taking concrete action to make a difference in cocoa growing communities, because we know that actions speak louder than words, which is why we launched our Cocoa for Generations strategy in 2018 – a farmer-first initiative, backed by a billion-dollar investment over 10-years, that addresses farmer income and welfare in a multifaceted way because it is proven that pricing alone isn’t the answer.”

Mondelez, who own Cadbury’s, did not respond with a comment but referred to its 2022 sustainability report where it pledges to source all of its chocolate through its Cocoa Life programme by 2025.