A very well-known fact is that I love chocolate. I don’t particularly like sweet things, but a really good square of chocolate is heaven for me. Unfortunately, chocolate is one of those areas that has a deep and murky history rife with problems with child labor, poverty, and environmental destruction. This makes buying ethical chocolate that is organic and fair trade or from a small family-owned plantation extremely important to me.
In 2020, the US government-funded a huge report into the problems with child labor in chocolate. The report by NORC at the University of Chicago estimated that around 2 million children are engaged in what they classify as hazardous child labor in the Ivory Coast and Ghana. By this, they mean that children are using machetes, toxic chemicals and carrying excessively heavy loads. This number of children represents 43% of the children within the cocoa growing areas, making it a massive problem.
Finding ethically sourced chocolate is not always easy, but there are resources to help. The major certification schemes that audit their farmers regularly are Rainforest Alliance (which forbids deforestation) and Fairtrade.
Before I get into my list of favorites, I must ask that you avoid Godiva chocolates. They have absolutely no policy on how they source their chocolate or on child labor at all! I also want to make a note that I am not including Tony’s Chocoloney in my top 5. Their chocolate is overly sweet and I am not a huge fan of their tactics, office politics, lack of vegan options, and they aren’t organic. I do however thank and acknowledge them for their exceptional work in raising the issues of slave and child labor in chocolate.
For a more in-depth look at ethical chocolate, please see the Ethical Consumer Guide to Chocolate and the 2020 Cocoa Barometer report.
Now, without further ado, here are my top picks:
This is one of the original sustainable companies. They focus on regenerating what they take out and supporting the families that grow their beans in remote rainforests. Original Beans have no official certification but are what a growing number of ethically-minded companies call Fair +. They source their beans directly from the farmers and offer high and stable prices which provides farming families a secure and stable income. Their farms have no reported incidences of child labor. They support 175 farming families full-time and 5000 families part-time through this model.
They have lots of flavors but my all-time favourite bar is Piura 75% Vegan Dark Chocolate from Peru. It is simply delicious: smooth, dark, hints of fruit but not particularly sweet and very well-balanced.
Cocoa Loco are 100% fair trade and organic (certified by the soil association.) Their beans come from the Dominican Republic from a community of small-scale farmers. By working with both Fairtrade and the Soil Association, their farms are regularly audited to ensure that fair wages are being paid (both Fairtrade and organic have these mechanisms) and that the natural environment is being protected.
I always buy my children their chocolate chickens at Easter. They are completely delicious and not huge. A hot chocolate spoon might also make its way into their stockings at Christmas.
This is one we can find in UK supermarkets fairly easily. They make superb hot chocolate and their dark chocolate bars are pretty yummy too. They pride themselves on empowering women within the market and are regularly audited by two different organizations.
This is a very small independent craft chocolate maker in Suffolk, UK. They have no formal accreditation but work directly with their farmers to ensure minimal intervention with the naturally growing vegetation. Individual farmers that they work with hold their own accreditations. They also do not source their beans from either the Cote D’Ivoire or Ghana.
I have two favorites. The first is the Crayfish Bay Estate Organic Dark Chocolate from Grenada. Rather amusingly, my parents bought me some of this when they visited Grenada saying that they thought I’d love it, not knowing that it was already one of my favorites! Again, a silky smooth, well-balanced fruit/bitterness ratio.
The second is their sourdough & sea salt bar. The sea salt is sourced from Halen Mon on Anglesey (Anglesey Destination Guide) and the ‘factory’ is worth a visit. The salt is simply second to none and really adds a distinctive flavor to this chocolate, which is balanced beautifully by the crunchiness of the sourdough.
Pacari Chocolates are pretty much the ultimate in ethical and sustainable chocolates. They top the chart in the Ethical Consumer Guide and have won scores of medals and awards to boot. Pacari is a family-owned Ecuadorian company with a simple mission: to produce the highest quality organic dark chocolate in the world in the most ethical and sustainable way possible. Their cooking range is fantastic, and I’m simply addicted to these Chocolate and Ginger covered Cocoa Beans!