The chocolate industry is a lucrative trade, with multi-billion dollar chocolate brands producing some of the most well-known sweet treats on the planet. Yet behind the façade, these companies hide a despairing reality, continually reluctant to protect vulnerable children in cocoa-growing communities.
Child labor can be witnessed on many cocoa farms across Africa, but it is most prevalent in Ghana and Cotê d’Ivoire, the two largest exporters of cocoa beans. Currently, in these locations, more than 1.5 million children miss school and work in the cocoa industry. Exposed to dire working conditions, toxic chemicals and inhumane punishments, many child laborers work up to 100 hours each week. The most common reason for hiring child workers is that cocoa farm owners do not earn a profit that would sustain adult salaries. In Ghana, farmers make roughly one dollar a day, and in Cotê d’Ivoire, this figure is worryingly worse. Given both countries’ large contributions to the global chocolate trade, they only earn about 6% of the total profits in the multi-billion dollar industry.
While the chocolate industry has been known for perpetuating a vicious cycle of child exploitation as greed fuels the low prices of cocoa beans, a growing number of ethical chocolate brands are dedicated to eradicating child labor and improving wages for farmers.
5 Ethical Chocolate Brands Fighting Against Child Exploitation
- Tony’s Chocolonely (Netherlands) – Tony’s Chocolonely is a Dutch confectionary brand launched by journalists shocked at how rife child labor was within the industry. Creating a chocolate company that is 100% humane was the goal. Its cocoa beans are easily traceable, as the company only works with two distinct partners. Necessary pay increases are offered to farmers, adding Tony’s Chocolonely premium, which is almost $350 for Ghanaian farmers, in addition to the Fairtrade premium. The company also emphasizes the need for teamwork in its mission, asking consumers to sign petitions and encourage their governments to introduce stronger laws that demand more transparency in the industry.
- Lucocoa (U.K.) – Founded in London in 2015 by the human rights activist Amarachi Clarke, Lucocoa has the goal of promoting ethical chocolate. On its company blog, it frequently highlights outrage about child labor in the industry, emphasizing that the trade is still in need of a “chocolate revolution.” The company is also part of the Ethical Chocolate Register, which comprises the most ethical and sustainable chocolate brands worldwide.
- Tosier (U.K.) – Tosier is a family-run chocolatier based in Suffolk that wishes to make the industry as transparent as possible. It proposes that Fairtrade is not good enough anymore, as it does not actively enforce child-labor-free cocoa, suggesting businesses should strive to be part of the Direct Trade. Companies practicing this buy directly from the source and initiate strong relationships with farmers, providing them with a more substantial wage than big corporations otherwise would. The brand proudly emphasizes on its website, “Small maker. Big values.”
- Beyond Good (USA) – Beyond Good is a U.S. company that both sources its cocoa and makes its chocolate in Madagascar, providing a range of skilled jobs in its factory to 105 local people. By manufacturing chocolate at its source, Beyond Good can work alongside its farmers, provide safe practices and offer stable incomes. Working with the Bristol Zoological Society, this company is able to protect endangered lemurs that inhabit the trees within its 375 hectares of land. Its unique business model benefits humans and animals alike.
- Shahamana Farms and Chocolate (Ghana) – A former child laborer in the chocolate industry, Hon. Nelson Donkor did not attend school for many years, instead working long hours on a cocoa farm in Ghana. His first-hand experiences prompted his desire to create a chocolate brand that was fair and free from corruption. Now the owner of his own chocolate farm, he urges consumers to buy chocolate from companies directly in touch with farmers and emphasizes the necessity for employees to receive living wages. He says, “With fair prices, child slavery will be a thing of the past.”
Long gone are the days when consumers could use ignorance as an excuse for funding unethical corporate giants that utilize child labor. When consumers pack pressure onto chocolate brands, they can enforce change. Investing in ethical chocolate is an investment in a child’s future.
– Yasmin Hailes