If you want to ‘show love’ on Valentine’s day, buy from compassionate chocolate companies

New research by Ethical Consumer reveals that 50% of the companies analysed in our chocolate study don't have an adequate policy in place on child labour and cocoa sourcing.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we are urging supermarkets and Big Choc to put people before profit, and consumers to buy from more ethical chocolate companies.

High profile chocolatiers such as Ferrero Rocher, Guylian and Green & Blacks (owned by Mondelez) have been found to be ‘simply not doing enough’ to end child labour (and the poverty that drives it) in the chocolate industry.

Hotel Chocolat, another brand the report found to have ‘insufficient policies’ in place recently boasted of rising sales at Christmas, as consumers continue to flock online to purchase sweet treats in lockdown.

Meanwhile, supermarket own-brands of chocolate account for over a third of those given Ethical Consumer’s ‘worst’ Cocoa Sourcing rating – including Sainsburys, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Aldi, Asda, and Morrisons.

Guilt free chocolate?

For our shopping guide to chocolate, we contacted 40 companies to establish if they had sufficient cocoa sourcing policies in place. In this industry, good policies include dealing directly with the farmer, having traceable supply chain measures and being 100% Fairtrade Foundation certified.

Child labour and poverty

We also looked into what they were doing to tackle poverty and child labour on the ground. Shockingly, child labour in cocoa has increased by 14% in the last decade, in absolute terms. Children are often engaged in hazardous use of machetes and toxic chemicals and carry excessive loads.

Sadly, the absence of cocoa sourcing policies means that abuses such as forced or child labour are all the more likely. Too many companies are ‘turning a blind eye’ to addressing the extreme poverty of farmers that causes child labour.

Cocoa is produced by millions of dispersed small farmers. The child labour used by nearly all farmers is from their own family. This is the result of extreme poverty which in turn is caused by low cocoa prices, with only about 6% of the price of a chocolate bar going to the cocoa farmer.

Companies have now been pledging to tackle child labour in the cocoa industry for twenty years and still very little progress has been made. Despite efforts from governments, our data reveals progress is far too slow, and the big names are simply not stepping up.

Top of the chocs: ethical chocolate brands

This Valentine’s Day Ethical Consumer urges consumers to start buying with their heart and support brands which achieved our best score for cocoa sourcing policies.

These are:

Companies with insufficient policies

These were:

Consumers have the power to send a message to chocolate CEOs that we will not tolerate the speed at which they are prepared to address the issue by buying our guide’s highly rated ethical alternatives.

Overall Best Buys for chocolate

Our Best Buys were Beyond Good, Chocolate Madagascar, Divine, Fairafric, Mia and Pacari.

They were chosen as companies which are “going beyond” in some respect, in tackling the poverty that is at the heart of the problem, including going beyond certification, by making the finished product at source, or being partially owned by cocoa farmers themselves.