Friday, May 12, 2017

Fair Trade and Chocolate

Fair Trade Challenge Image
This weekend, May 12-14, 2017, people around the world will be celebrating the growing practice of fair trade. Today I want to reveal what I've learned about fairtrade and the chocolate industry. Not all of it is as good as you may have been led to believe by the big announcement from some brand names. I want to talk about what fair trade is, how it connects with cocoa production and manufacturing, and how it affects consumers. I'm going to be using a lot of graphics and images from some organizations to demonstrate which chocolate making brands stand in terms of fair trade and I'll note which sites gave me with graphics as we go along.

Let's start with a definition of "Fair Trade" -- At the most basic level this simply means that the producers, the cocoa farmers and workers at cocoa plantations, are paid a wage that they can live on. It can also mean good treatment of workers by employers. However the specifics of what qualifies as fair wages and treatment varies and is certified by different organizations in different ways. Sometimes "Fair Trade" refers to a relationship between the chocolate grower and worker and the company that ultimately turns their raw ingredients into the chocolate products you buy. The phrase "fair trade" is used in a variety of ways. If you care, look into the brand of chocolate you are buying and into the organization that they received fair trade certification from, if they did at all. Given that "fair trade" is increasingly desired  by some consumers (if not backed by their spending), companies are putting those labels on their goods. We've seen enough lies from brands here on The Chocolate Cult to know you can't assume that what the label claims is true. Yes, you'll need to do a little work, folks, if you care.

Why should you care? Think about it this way. If you were paid horribly and had to work for a long time, do you think that you'd honestly do the best you could? Do you truly believe that you'd produce the best quality of products that you could under conditions you felt were unfair? If you want high quality products, safe chocolate, maybe you need to pay a bit more so that the producers and those working for them are motivated to the best job they can. I really like the below graphics as a simple visual of the benefits of fair trade.
Let's look at some graphs to show you what manufactures stand in regards to fair trade. You'll recognize some of the names of companies we've test and written about in the past.

There are a lot of brands not on the lists or the above charts, too. When you find a chocolate bar, when you walk into chocolate shop, check out the labels, ask the questions, and then look into the organizations that have verified this particular treat is whatever you are interested in be it fair trade, sustainable agriculture, or GMO free. Don't assume, research. But realize that you will pay more and decide if paying more worth it to you.

For me, when a brand is actually doing everything it claims on the label, it is worth paying more for most of the time.

Are you concerned about Fair Trade at all? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Sources Consulted for this Essay:

Green America

Fair Trade Challenge

The Good Shopping Guide

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade International

Lake Champlain Chocolates

Slave Free Chocolate

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