Unethical Cacao?

Chocolate is loved by people all over the world, but it’s not the ‘innocent indulgence’ it’s been made out to be.

In fact, some of the biggest chocolate brands, like Nestle and Hershey’s, are “unsure” of where exactly their cacao comes from. And while steps have been taken to ensure that cacao is sourced ethically, without a clear understanding of their supply chain, big brands are unable to ensure ethical practices at all levels.

A Background of Cacao

6 million cacao farmers are working everyday to ensure that we get to eat the chocolate that we love. Over 50 million people are employed in the cacao business and depend on it for their livelihood.

Most of the cacao farms are situated in West Africa, in the countries of Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria. West Africa is responsible for producing 70% of the world’s cacao, with Ghana and Ivory Coast making up more than 50% of the produce. With so many dependent on this business, cacao makes up a large chunk of the export revenue earned by these countries. In fact, 60% of the export revenue of The Ivory Coast comes from cacao.

Why Did Cacao Production Become Unethical?

The West African countries mentioned above depend heavily on the export of cacao for their economic stability. However, African countries are developing nations, with poverty, debt, unfair competition, and supply chain issues constantly on the rise.

These difficulties, coupled with the world’s demand for cacao, have forced cacao farmers to resort to desperate measures. And while the world consumes chocolate at an alarming rate, a cacao farmer in Africa is paid a meagre $2 per day for their work. This salary can barely meet their living expenses and so they look for ways to cut costs.

The need to create a sustainable livelihood while supporting the country’s economy has forced cacao farmers to turn to child labour to minimize expenses. And since most African families are poverty-stricken, children are forced to start working early to help support their families. The need for cheap labour has led to a drastic rise in kidnappings, trafficking, and the sale of children.

The Larger Problem

The children working on cacao farms are exploited ruthlessly, being made to work hundreds of hours a week, with little or no remuneration. They are beaten or punished when they try to run away and given dangerous jobs involving sharp tools and machinery, just so large chocolate companies can harvest the profits.

But the bigger issue is that today these large companies are aware of the exploitative practices on cacao farms and have made no move to rectify the problem. One reason is because supply chains are long and complicated and it can be difficult to trace a bag of cacao beans back to its original source.

The other, more important reason (to the companies at least) is the fact that ethical practices would mean a drop in their profits. The companies would have to pay cacao farmers fair wages, ensuring that everyone working for the farmers receives fair pay as well. This would lead to an increase in the final price of their products, leading to a drop in sales and a subsequent drop in profits.

Alternative Solutions   

While an increase in the price of chocolate may sound terrifying to you as a consumer, it’s the only way to liberate those being treated unfairly and made to work against their will at cacao farms. By buying chocolates made from ethically-sourced cacao, you shift consumption patterns and give companies greater impetus to produce fair trade chocolates.

One of the easiest ways to help, as an individual or a company, would be to find ethically-sourced cacao from companies. For example, we’ve partnered up with an organic, ethical cacao farm in Peru. We ensure you get the best quality cacao while the farmers and everyone along the supply chain is paid their due. Additionally, we’ve been added on the food empowerment project – foodispower.org – to the list of ethical chocolate to consume.

Peru is also known to produce some of the best cacao beans in the world! Their locals have been drinking brewed cacao for generations. In fact, the Aztecs of Peru used to make a spicy, chocolatey drink out of cacao back in 1900 B.C!

As a company, it’s important that our products help to elevate and not degrade the quality of human life. And by sourcing cacao ethically from our partners, we can ensure that everyone along the supply chain, from the smallest cacao farmer to the final distributor gets a fair shot at equality.