When shopping for basic necessities such as milk, bread or snacks, it is common to look at the price tag. Some might buy the most expensive item, but most will probably buy the cheapest. Either way, both consumers have probably questioned why brands vary in pricing, even though it is basically the same item. When people are constantly buying the cheapest item, this is called commoditization. Commoditization can have negative consequences for the farmers in developing nations producing these commodities.
“When we pay less than $2 for a chocolate bar, we are paying for the systemic poverty of millions of families,” said Emily Stone during a presentation to the United Nations. Stone is the CEO of Uncommon Cacao. This company and 16 others spoke at the U.S. Institute of Peace to discuss ideas on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030; more specifically, the “Decent Work and Economic Growth” goal.
Uncommon Cacao is a company that specializes in cacao, which is the basis for chocolate. The company gives farmers in developing nations access to a steady market that provides fair wages and working conditions. Uncommon Cacao began its work in 2010, building Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize to create meaningful market access for smallholder cacao farmers.
The company’s argument is that cheap food equals cheap labor, which is why they are advocating for de-commoditization.
The Washington Times reports that the company is working to de-commoditize the cacao supply chain by training farmers in higher-quality production. They plan to buy cacao directly from thousands of farmers and pay them higher prices for better quality chocolate. This system produces what is known as Certified Sustainable Cocoa.
Thankfully, the demand for Certified Sustainable Cocoa is on the rise. Hershey’s says it’s committed to using only 100 percent sustainable cocoa by the year 2020, which means impoverished farmers working these cocoa plants will likely see a rise in pay very soon. Uncommon Cacao already has the ear of the United Nations; hopefully, they can influence the 16 other companies present at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
The hope is that Certified Sustainable Cocoa will become a norm for chocolate in the future. With pressure from activists and workers rights organizations coming down on companies like Hershey, sustainable cocoa will ensure that farmers begin to see a way out of poverty, finally being able to earn more than a chocolate bar’s worth of pay each day.
– Vicente Vera