Skip to main content

Ethical Chocolate

Find ethical, sustainable and fair trade chocolate: ratings for 84 brands of bars of chocolate and chocolate snacks, with recommended brands and ones to avoid.

Is all fair trade chocolate equally fair? What are chocolate brands doing about child labour? We look at the big ethical issues including colonialism in the cocoa sector, palm oil and deforestation, child labour, cocoa certification, as well as who makes vegan chocolate, and how to find ethical and responsibly-sourced chocolate to suit your budget.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a shopping guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

Learn more about us  →

What to buy

What to look for when buying chocolate:

  • Is the chocolate value-added-at-source (marked S on our table)? This means chocolate which was manufactured in the same country where the cocoa beans were grown. It directly challenges Europe’s stronghold on chocolate industry profits.

  • Is its cocoa Fairtrade International or Rainforest Alliance certified? These certifications make it more likely farmers will receive above poverty wages.

Subscribe to see which companies we recommend as Best Buys and why 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying chocolate:

  • Is it owned by a mega multinational? Multinationals dominate this lucrative industry and their own-brand sustainability schemes are generally unfit for purpose.

Subscribe to see which companies to avoid and why

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 100) Ratings Categories

Our Analysis

Is chocolate ethical?

Child labour, poorly paid farmers, and unjust global distribution of profits are key ingredients in the global chocolate industry. Multinationals are also cashing in on the vegan market, launching vegan versions of well-known brands, but are these ethical or eco friendly?

With hundreds of options available, this guide will help you choose sustainable and ethical chocolate brands who are making a difference to people and planet. The brands rated in this guide scored from 0 points up to the near maximum, so ethical chocolate is available, and at different prices to suit different budgets.

Europe’s guilty pleasure

The majority of the world’s cocoa is grown by small farmers in West Africa, where it’s the source of livelihood for millions of people. But cocoa farmers receive barely any of the chocolate industry’s $100 billion revenue: estimates range between 6% and 11%.

Few farmers can afford chocolate and many have never tasted it, with over half of Ivory Coast’s cocoa farmers living below the global poverty line, and their countries taste virtually none of the industry’s profits either.

After cocoa beans are harvested (64% of the world’s beans are grown in Africa, 15% in South America and 13% in Asia), the majority are exported to international companies for the most profitable production stages: processing, packaging and retail.

If the beans were distributed equally worldwide, Europe would get 9%, but instead we import an astronomical 50% of the world’s cocoa. After manufacture, most of the world’s ready-to-eat chocolate (75%) is exported by Europe, though much of this is European countries selling to their neighbours.

Europe eats more chocolate than anywhere else, eating between 45%55% of the world’s supply, followed by the US at 18%. Europe therefore eats the most chocolate and the most profit … despite the fact you can’t even grow cocoa here.

Chocolate’s colonial origins

Europeans had no concept of chocolate before the colonial period. Cocoa originally grew in South America, where it was consumed for thousands of years as a bitter drink. European colonisers added sugar to it, and it was first made into a solid in Britain in the middle of the nineteenth century.

When European powers started losing imperial holds on cocoa-producing areas like Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela, they pushed for production to expand into Africa instead, which had a good cocoa-growing climate, even though it’s not an indigenous crop, and lots of cheap labour.

Lifecycle of a cocoa bean: from bean to bar

How does the cocoa bean get turned into a sweet and smooth chocolate bar?

Cocoa beans are harvested by families, who ‘might’ receive just $500 per year. The beans are passed onto intermediary suppliers, and are exported on ships across the world. The beans may end up in a big pool of for example Mondelēz ‘Cocoa Life’ certified beans. They could be turned into a Cadbury’s chocolate bar which we buy in a shop, ultimately enabling Mondelēz's CEO to get paid an annual USD$18 million. 

infographic of lifecycle of cocoa bean from field to chocolate bar

Are chocolate certifications effective?

Fairtrade International and Rainforest Alliance (which former certifier UTZ merged with) are the only large-scale cocoa certifiers that guarantee a premium. Low income is the root cause of cocoa issues like child labour and deforestation, so a premium on top of the market price is important, but the premium from Fairtrade is more than three times as high as the premium from Rainforest Alliance.

  • Best = Fairtrade International
  • Adequate = Rainforest Alliance
  • Usually unfit for purpose = corporate sustainability schemes.

How is the price of cocoa determined?

Cocoa pricing is complex. There’s ‘farmgate’ price, which describes exactly what the farm gets paid. The Ghanaian and Ivory Coast governments agree this price with international chocolate companies. It’s $1,330 per metric ton (MT) in Ivory Coast, for example.

However, this price increases when the cocoa leaves the farm and passes over to intermediaries. So, another important figure is the ‘Free-On-Board’ (FOB) price, which refers to the price on export. In Ivory Coast the government has set this to $2,347 per metric ton.

What’s the impact of Fairtrade certification?

Fairtrade minimum price

Part of the Fairtrade model is to have a minimum price, which must be paid when the market price falls below it. In our last chocolate guide (2020) the minimum price was lower than the Ivory Coast government’s price, so the Fairtrade minimum effectively wasn’t doing anything. However, in 2021 the government lowered its price, meaning that if a company bought chocolate on Fairtrade terms those farmers wouldn’t face as much of a financial hit. This shows how Fairtrade helps limit farmers’ exposure to market volatility.

The Fairtrade Minimum Price at FOB for cocoa is $2,400 per MT ($53 above the minimum market price at FOB required by the government in Ivory Coast.)

The Fairtrade premium

Buyers also have to pay a Fairtrade premium (community investment) of $240 per MT.

The premium goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use – as they see fit – to improve their social, economic, and environmental conditions. Combining minimum price and premium, buying Fairtrade chocolate contributes an extra 12.5% into the Ivory Coast farmers’ community than non-certified chocolate. (NB, 'fair trade' isn’t a protected term, so sometimes it means virtually nothing. Make sure you’re looking for Fairtrade’s official logo or the words: “Fairtrade International”. We have an article on fair trade labels and certification schemes for food.)

What’s the impact of Rainforest Alliance certification?

Sustainability Differential

Rainforest Alliance requires payment of a Sustainability Differential (SD): an extra payment made to certified producers on top of the market price.

At the time of writing this was $70 per MT, meaning that farmers signed up to its scheme receive an extra 3% on top of the market price.

It doesn’t have its own minimum price like Fairtrade, however, so if the market price drops farmers could still find themselves in the lurch (but they’ll still be getting $70 more than non-certified farmers).

Sustainability Investments

Rainforest Alliance also requires payment of Sustainability Investments (SI), which are cash or in-kind investments from buyers that should help farmers reach compliance with Rainforest Alliance’s standards.

But we found no information on whether there was a minimum SI, what the average SI was, or how impactful SI investments actually are.

Do corporate sustainability schemes have any impact?

Most big chocolate companies have their own sustainability schemes, for example Mondelēz (Cadbury)’s ‘Cocoa Life’, Nestlé’s ‘Cocoa Plan’, Hotel Chocolat’s ‘Gentle Farming’, and Mars’ ‘Cocoa for Generations’.

But these schemes tend to cover just a proportion of the company’s cocoa suppliers, as opposed to 100%, meaning some farmers get the benefits but others get none. As Sandra’s story in the Channel 4 Dispatches programme shows (see below), even conditions on farms participating in schemes can be terrible – which may not come as a surprise to those of you who have doubts about multinational corporations marking their own homework.

A 2023 Oxfam report says: “robust, public data on the income effects of companies’ interventions are virtually nonexistent … The price premiums paid by companies are too low to make a significant difference in farmers’ incomes … Without more pronounced and ambitious efforts by companies, a living income will remain an illusion for most farmers across companies’ cocoa supply chains.”

Example: Hotel Chocolat

Hotel Chocolat’s Gentle Farming programme pays $2.33/kg, which is lower than Fairtrade but much higher than market rates. But there’s no clear figure stating how much of its overall cocoa is sourced through the programme.

What should big brands be doing about cocoa certification?

Despite what their sustainability reports claim, big chocolate brands are dragging their feet when it comes to improving conditions for cocoa farmers. The Ivory Coast and Ghana governments accuse chocolate companies of doing “everything possible” to prevent the cost of cocoa from increasing, and even trying to drive it back down.

According to Oxfam, there are two clear options for big companies who want to take meaningful action towards a living wage for cocoa farmers:

1. Honour the Living Income Differential (LID): Companies’ public statements of support for the LID have according to Oxfam “not been shared by their procurement teams”, with companies using bargaining power to offset the higher costs.

2. Honour the Fairtrade Living Income Reference Price (LIRP) model for cocoa. This means making additional payments to farmers to enable a living income. Tony’s Chocolonely is the only company to have adopted this at large scale. See further below for a profile of Tony's.

How do chocolate brands score for their cocoa rating?

We considered a brand’s cocoa sourcing policy to be ‘adequate’ if 100% of their cocoa was:

  • Certified by Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade International
  • Better than Fairtrade, including payment of at least the Fairtrade premium
  • Value-added-at-source
Infographic showing chocolate ratings
Copyright: Moonloft for ECRA

The following were adequate and did not lose marks for this rating: '57 Chocolate, Chocolat Madagascar, Cocoa Loco, Conscious, Divine, Fairafric, H!P, Love Cocoa, MIA, MonChoco, Moo Free, Ombar, Pacari, Raw Chocolate Company, Tony's Chocolonely, and Vego.

Brands that didn’t meet these criteria were considered to have an ‘inadequate’ cocoa sourcing policy and lost half a mark in the Workers’ Rights category. The majority of brands’ cocoa sourcing ratings were inadequate.

If you are wondering why Booja Booja scores highly in the table but is not one of our recommended brands, it's because its cocoa sourcing policy was inadequate.

Child labour and deforestation in the cocoa industry

Cocoa farmers’ income is so low that it’s commonplace for them to rely on child labour and deforestation to get by. Up to 9 out of 10 Ghanaian and Ivory Coast cocoa farmers don’t earn a living income, and net income of cocoa farmers continues to fall.


Cocoa trees need at least three years to become productive and while they typically have an economic life of 30 to 40 years, yields start to decline after about 15 years. This means that just to maintain production farmers may find themselves embroiled in cycles of deforestation to boost short-term yield.

Ghana and Ivory Coast have lost around 94% and 80% of their forests in the past 60 years, one-third of it to make way for cocoa. About 40% of Ivorian cocoa is estimated to have come from inside protected forest areas, technically making it illegal.

It’s been hoped that agroforestry could be part of the solution. This means growing cocoa under moderate shade (like rainforest canopy) rather than full sun. Company reports are full of Agroforestry Action Plans and numbers of seedlings distributed. However, survival rates of distributed trees is less than 2%. But some NGOs see this as an area in which increased investment from companies is a positive thing that could see more impact in future.

Child labour

You’ve almost definitely eaten chocolate made using child labour: 4 in 10 cocoa-growing households in Ivory Coast are estimated to use child labour, and 6 in 10 in Ghana.

The following are significant risks to child cocoa farmers:

  • sustaining scars from weeding using machetes
  • neck damage from carrying heavy loads on their heads
  • being injured by sharp tools used to crack open cocoa pods

Ivory Coast’s government has taken steps aimed at curbing child labour, including trying to make chocolate companies pay prices high enough for farmers to live on without resorting to child labour, but the issues are far from being resolved.

image: children cocoa farm ethical chocolate
Cocoa farmers resort to using child labour because they don’t have the income to employ adults. Image source: Mighty Earth.

Palm oil and chocolate

Some brands add palm oil, a significant driver of deforestation, to chocolate or other products.

The following received our worst rating for palm oil: Cadbury, Ferrero Rocher, Galaxy, Green & Black's, Kinder, Kit Kat, Maltesers, Mars, Milka, Nestlé, Smarties, Thorntons, and Toblerone.

See our feature on palm oil free chocolate for all the company ratings on this.

Ethical vegan chocolate

Nearly every brand sells a vegan option, but only the following are fully vegan businesses:

Despite using lots of dairy, the vast majority of chocolate brands lack adequate discussion of animal welfare, failing to ensure cows are allowed access to graze outdoors for a minimum number of days per year. Our article on the lifecycle of a typical dairy cow looks into ethical issues of dairy in more detail.

Sandra who worked on cocoa plantations as a child

Voices from the supply chain

In 2022, Channel 4 visited several farms that were a part of the Mondelēz ‘Cocoa Life’ sustainability scheme. One Ghanaian cocoa-farming family in the Cadbury supply chain share their story.

One farmer, wearing the Mondelēz t-shirt he’d been given upon joining Cocoa Life, was struggling to feed his family despite having joined the scheme several years before.

“Since the start of the season in 2021, I have harvested 6 bags. Last season I harvested 8.” He said he “has to use his children” to help with the harvest in an effort to produce more. He was set to receive £500 in total wages for the year: insufficient to even cover average household food costs.

10-year-old daughter
One of his daughters, aged 10, took time off school to help harvest cocoa. She was once bitten by a rattlesnake on the cocoa farm. Her father took out a loan to pay for the medical treatment.

17-year-old daughter
His other daughter Sandra, aged 17, had been working on the farm for four years. She was badly injured by a machete while weeding.

“We were weeding like this [motions around her ankles]. So mistakenly, I cut my leg. I was wearing slippers.

“There wasn’t money to go straight to the hospital, so we went the next day. I’ve been injured many times but this is very serious.

“I would like to become a midwife or a nurse… It’s very difficult because at times they [cocoa farmers] will go and borrow money from the bank for us to get something to eat. So, when they finish caring for the cocoa, the money has already been spent.”

Mondelēz says it prohibits child labour and has been making significant efforts through its Cocoa Life programme, and refutes allegations that it benefits from child labour.

Take action

Journalist Antony Barnett, who interviewed Sandra for the Channel 4 documentary, says speaking with her “moved me to such an extent” that he donated the costs for her first year at university, and is trying to crowdfund the remainder.

Can you donate so that Sandra can qualify as a midwife?

Barnett says “Sandra did very well in her first year and very much looking forward to starting again in September 2023. The midwifery course is 4.5 years and there’s an outstanding £3750 that's needed … p.s. I’m still boycotting Cadbury”.

You can donate via Justgiving.

Is there ethical sugar-free chocolate?

Some brands make sugar-free chocolate, either milk or dark varieties.

Sugar-free milk chocolate (plant-based or dairy milk): Conscious, Hotel Chocolat, LindtPlamil, Raw Chocolate Company.

Sugar-free dark chocolate: Booja Booja, Chocolat Madagascar, MIA, Montezuma’s, Ombar, PacariSeed & Bean.

Interestingly, Cadbury Dairy Milk contains more sugar than it does cocoa. The UK legal minimum amount of cocoa in a chocolate bar is just 20%. Ingredients are listed by weight so you can get some idea of its makeup by looking at the packaging.

Who makes organic chocolate?

Many brands make organic chocolate, either as all of their range, or some of the bars. The brands are: Booja-Booja, Cocoa Loco, Divine, Fairafric, Green & Black's, MonChoco, Montezuma’s, Moo FreeOmbar, Pacari, Plamil, Raw Chocolate Company, Seed & Bean, Vego

Infographic of typical costs of a £1 bar of milk chocolate. Text and numbers are in the article.
Source: Channel 4 'Dispatches: Cadbury Exposed'

Typical costs of a £1 bar of milk chocolate

The average breakdown of cost of a typical £1 bar of milk chocolate is as follows:

  • 11p for farmer (includes cultivation costs and local taxes, and is the only money that stays in the cocoa-growing country)
  • 12p taxes
  • 48p manufacturing and distribution
  • 29p retailer

These figures are from a Channel 4 programme. 

They do not take into account what might be seen as other costs such as on the environment e.g. from growing and transport or on animals for the dairy milk.

Ethical chocolate: value-added-at-source

If you want to take the profit out of gluttonous European hands (while still enjoying some actual chocolate in your own) then value-added-at-source (VAS) chocolate enables you to do this.

VAS chocolate is chocolate that was manufactured in the same country that the cocoa beans were grown in, meaning more profits stay inside the cocoa-growing country.

Benefits of buying VAS chocolate

  • Your money adds to the wealth of cocoa-growing countries.
  • You’re directly helping micro companies and local job creation.
  • You’re helping budding chocolatiers in cocoa-growing countries survive in this European-dominated industry.
  • A shorter supply chain, making it easier to trace ingredients back to source and ensure workers’ rights are upheld.

Getting less for your money (less chocolate, less child labour, less poverty wages)

Business-as-usual chocolate is wrapped up in child labour, poorly paid farmers, and unjust global distribution of profits.

VAS chocolate is more expensive because local companies face issues including lack of refrigeration and difficulty sourcing four of the five main ingredients in chocolate: milk, sugar, vanilla and lecithin (a stabiliser), which, as small companies, they can’t bulk buy. Solutions and alternatives have to be developed and these add to production costs.

Full online access to our unique shopping guides, ethical rankings and company profiles. The essential ethical print magazine.

Two people working in cocoa plantation
Image: Benjamin & Evans, award winning youth farmers from Ghana, taking care of their cocoa trees which provide beans for MIA’s Ghana Gold bars. Copyright: Benjamin Setor.

Value-added-at-source chocolate brands

You’re unlikely to see these brands at local stores (except for some local ethical stores): you’ll have to buy online and they’ll ship to you. Many are micro companies on different continents so customer service levels may vary, and we can’t vouch for the reliability of service you’ll get.

'57 Chocolate is named after the year Ghana gained independence from the UK, and makes chocolate designed to represent and celebrate Ghanaian art and culture, challenging the idea premium chocolate can only be made in Europe.

Its chocolate is handmade in small batches with local ingredients, and cocoa (not sugar) is always the main ingredient. Its “Black Star” and feminist chocolate gift sets decorated with the faces and stories of African revolutionaries are great presents for lefty loved ones.

MonChoco is a vegan Ivory Coast chocolatier specialising in raw organic cocoa. Shipping chocolate worldwide is carbon-intensive, but its production emissions couldn’t be much lower: it literally crushes the cocoa beans ‘by bike’. (Our favourite is their ‘Beggar’ bar which features its classic chocolate with peanuts and candied fruit on top).

Pacari chocolate is made in Ecuador, allowing “50% of the wealth to stay in the country of origin and contribute to its development”. Its premium exceeds Fairtrade prices. It works with a UK distributor, so this is a great brand to encourage your local ethical store to get in stock (if it isn’t already).

Chocolat Madagascar has received over 30 awards for best chocolate. It says that the “unique rainforest, soil and climate environment” its cocoa grows in means its chocolate has developed a unique fruity flavour.

MIA chocolate is made in Ghana and Madagascar, and the whole bean-to-bar process is illustrated on its website.

Read about Fairafric in the Q&A with Dr Michael Ehis Odijie below.

How to choose the most ethical chocolate for your budget

If you want to eat chocolate, but don't want to support unfair and unsustainable practices, our flowchart helps you find ethical brands which suit your wallet and your chocolate demands.

The flowchart features Best Buys and Recommended brands on price and ethics. Prices may vary and were correct as of August 2023 using example bars from company websites, and are per 100g.

How to choose the most ethical chocolate to suit your budget
Graphic by Moonloft

Is chocolate an occasional treat, or is it one of your main food groups? Depending on how much you eat, and how much you can afford, there are different ethical brands available.

So for example, if you can get by with a small amount for occasional treats, and can afford to pay a bit more, the top ethical option is buying from value-added-at-source brands.

Limited budget (£1-2 per 100g)

  • Tony’s Chocolonely (£1.67)

If Tony’s is too expensive go for Coop (£1.25) or Waitrose (£1.12) own-brand Fairtrade chocolate.

Can afford a bit (£2-5 per 100g)

  • Conscious* (£4.98)
  • Raw Chocolate Company* (£4.37)
  • Cocoa Loco* (£3.98)
  • Ombar (£3.57)
  • Vego (£3.33)
  • Fairafric* (top choice £3.13)
  • Moo Free (£2.85)
  • Divine (£2.67)

Can afford to pay more (£5-16 per 100g): VAS chocolate

  • 57’ Chocolate* (£15.75)
  • MonChoco* (£11.14)
  • Pacari* (£10.30)
  • MIA* (£8.75)
  • Chocolate Madagascar* (£7.80)
  • Fairafric* (just £3.13 and still a top choice)

(*For brands marked with an asterisk, postage costs are included in the price, based on orders of 8-12 bars.)

Discounts on ethical chocolate

Some brands sell discounted ‘wonky chocolate’ (Moo Free) or subscription services (Raw Chocolate’s 15% subscription discount reduces its price to £3.71/100g).

Q&A with a cocoa colonialism expert

Dr Michael Ehis Odijie, research fellow at University College London, is an expert in African studies and has published on child labour and sustainability schemes in the cocoa industry.

Ethical Consumer: Why does Africa receive so little profit from the chocolate industry, despite growing the most cocoa?

Dr Michael Ehis Odijie: The short answer to this is history. Cocoa beans were introduced and promoted in West Africa during the colonial era. The general pattern of the colonial economic system required the colonies to cultivate raw materials and then export them to Europe for manufacturing or processing.

Once this pattern was established, it became difficult to change. African companies couldn’t compete with the multinational processing and chocolate manufacturing companies set up in the developed world.

We saw Ivory Coast and Ghana boycotted a global chocolate meeting last year. Were they protesting how the industry operates?

Last year the Ghanaian and Ivory Coast government institutions responsible for cocoa (COCOBOD and the Coffee and Cocoa Council respectively) boycotted the World Cocoa Foundation’s annual partnership meeting. The Foundation is essentially controlled and funded by multinational chocolate manufacturers and often seen as mere rubber-stamping where multinationals verbally support sustainability but take little concrete action.

The boycott arises from a longstanding issue: cocoa farmers are not paid enough, often not even covering the cost of production, while chocolate producers post billions in profit annually. Farmers suffer the main costs of production, both ecological like deforestation and social like child labour and slavery.

Ghana and Ivory Coast have become increasingly active in negotiating better terms. They introduced a Living Income Differential (LID), a form of premium to help pay farmers more, and are taking a more active approach to 'The origin differential,' an additional premium paid for cocoa from a particular country. The boycott is an attempt to protest the refusal of multinationals to pay these premiums.

Is there any ‘decolonised’ chocolate?

Perhaps the most promising option is to support local African brands. Buying directly from Africa simplifies the extraction of surplus from one end of the production chain, and the payment of a fair price for cocoa at the other.

Another option is, for example, European chocolate company Fairafric, a German-Ghanaian business producing chocolate entirely made in West Africa, primarily sold in European food stores. The local production of the entire chocolate bar creates more value and income per ton for the country. Unlike massive multinationals, Fairafric can trace the source of its cocoa and pays farmers more. It’s embraced the concept of "decolonizing cocoa," a phrase that I believe is fitting.

Should Fairtrade be doing more?

Seeking out chocolate brands that are Fairtrade certified or part of other ethical sourcing initiatives can help farmers receive fair compensation. However, some certified brands may be problematic, even if they’re making an effort.

Fairtrade could go further by choosing to certify only chocolate produced in Africa using specific standards and engaging in profit-sharing with farmers. That way companies like Fairafric could capture a larger market share, paving the way for the establishment of other ‘local companies’ within the region.

You’ve said before that diversification away from cocoa could be better for farmers. Could this result in less chocolate in the world?

If African countries diversified and produced less cocoa, the UK could explore alternative sources for cocoa imports or other raw material to replace cocoa, or reach a point where it’s willing to pay a fair price for cocoa. I'm not particularly concerned about what diversification in Africa would mean for Europe. It could lead to a shortage of chocolate, increase in prices, and other consequences. I usually try to write from the perspective of farmers and their communities, and I believe it can be somewhat dangerous to focus on what these changes would mean for Europe.

How do chocolate brands rate for various ethical and environmental issues?

Plastic and packaging

This guide features one of the world’s worst plastic-polluting brands: Nestlé.

If you’re fed up of plastic then the following appear to use none at all in their chocolate packaging: Cocoa Loco, Conscious, Divine, Fairafric, H!P, Montezuma’s, Raw Chocolate Company, Seed & Bean, and Tony’s Chocolonely.

Fairafric uses NatureFlex foil, which is made from wood pulp sustainable forestry and is biodegradable in your own compost. Some stockists sell Fairafric chocolate in refill pots, so you can buy it totally packaging-free.


Mondelēz faces a boycott call in the Nordic region for ongoing operations in Russia. While it has scaled back, it hasn’t stopped operations completely. Norwegian airlines, railway groups, hotel chains, retailers, and the Norwegian Football Association have all cut ties with Mondelēz, which claims it is being unfairly "singled out".

Nestlé is still being boycotted for its baby milk marketing.

Tax conduct

Ferrero, Mars, Mondelēz, and Nestlé all scored our worst rating for Tax Conduct. Nestlé had high-risk subsidiaries for tax avoidance in known tax havens including Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, and Netherlands.

Product sustainability

Companies received whole Product Sustainability marks for being value-added-at-source or Fairtrade certified. They received a half mark for Rainforest Alliance certification. They also received a whole mark for being certified organic.

Infographic comparing ratings of Cadbury vs Mars

Which is better (or worse): Cadbury or Mars?

Many people will reach for familiar brands made by the big names in the chocolate world, Cadbury and Mars. Both these companies score poorly in our guide across the categories we look at. 

But is one any better than the other? We put them together in a head to head - see graphic.

  • Ownership: Cadbury is owned by Mondelez and Mars by the Mars family. 
  • Annual revenue 2022: Cadbury's $31.5bn vs Mars $45bn
  • Climate rating: Cadbury received 'middle' vs Mars received 'worst' 
  • Cocoa sourcing policy: both have their own in-house policies, but these were both rated as inadequate in our review
  • Fairtrade and organic options: Cadbury owns one fair trade and organic brand (Green & Blacks) vs Mars owns one fair trade brand (Maltesers)
  • Overall ethiscore: Cadbury = 0 vs Mars = 2. 

Is there ethical chocolate which is not a bar?

Some of our Best Buys brands also sell different types of chocolate snacks, such as:

  • Buttons: Conscious, Ombar, Raw Chocolate Company
  • Chocolate-covered nuts and fruit: Conscious, Fairafric, Pacari, Raw Chocolate Company
  • Pralines and selection boxes: MonChoco
  • Chocolate-covered honeycomb: Moo Free
  • Malteser-esque: Moo Free.

How ethical is Tony’s Chocolonely?

Tony’s Chocolonely says it aims to make “100% slave free” chocolate.

Every year Tony’s states how many cases of child labour it identified in its supply chain. It argues that being transparent about its existence, and how it addresses the issue, could help create an end to child labour in the industry in future.

Tony’s says its long-term partners have a child labour prevalence of 4.4% (very low, presuming it’s accurate). Its newer partners have rates of 52.8%. Tony’s says that by committing to work with new partners for at least five years, it can bring the rates down, contributing to the eradication of child labour in the industry.

Its ‘Beantracker’ mechanism traces all cocoa back to source, and it knows what quantities are bought from which farms and how much premium was paid.

In 2020, the organisation Slave Free Chocolate criticised Tony’s for sourcing cocoa through Barry Callebaut (the major cocoa processor that has a host of abuses in its supply chain and has worked with Nestlé, Mondelēz, and Unilever, among others).

But Tony's says “we deliberately chose to partner with Barry Callebaut to show that it is possible to be fully traceable while working with a large processor”.

Fuzz Kitto, co-director of the NGO Be Slavery Free which produces an in-depth ranking of chocolate company ethics and works with brands to improve practices, says “Chocolonely wanted to show a big processor that it was possible for one subsection of their supply chain to become fully traceable. That way, Barry Callebaut could then offer that service to other chocolate companies. The fact Chocolonely is finding instances of child labour in its supply chain means its system is working. We all know child labour is in cocoa supply chains, but Chocolonely can find out where it is and deal with it.

"Tony’s Chocolonely is working with ‘bad company’ Barry Callebaut because they think working with it can help bring about the biggest change across the industry, more than making their own bean-to-bar chocolate would do.”

Tony's isn’t a Best Buy because it doesn’t discuss animal welfare at all, meaning its milk is likely sourced from factory-farmed cows, and it scored poorly in our carbon rating.

But it’s leading the way when it comes to pushing for large-scale change for cocoa farmers. It’s Fairtrade certified and pays a premium higher than Fairtrade.

Brands not included in the guide

We have to be really selective about brands to research in this massive sector, but we aim to cover the most ethical and the most well known.

Beyond Good was removed since our last guide as it no longer retails in the UK. Nomo and Monty Bojangles were on our radar, but preliminary research suggested they were unlikely to be Best Buys or Recommended brands. Ritter and Guylian seemed likely to score average at best.

You can use the ‘What to buy/not to buy?’ questions to do your own research on brands we didn’t include.

Key to letters in score table after brand name e.g. Pacari [F,O,S]

  • F = Fairtrade certified or marketed as fair trade
  • O = Organic
  • S = Value added at source
  • RA = Rainforest Alliance certified
This guide was published in Ethical Consumer issue 205.

Additional research by Sorcha Perris.

Company behind the Brand

Mondelēz has been criticised by Greenpeace, WWF, Rainforest Action, and Friends of the Earth for links to palm oil deforestation. It came fourth place in Surfers Against Sewage’s annual naming of the world’s worst plastic polluting companies.

(Brands owned by Mondelez include Boost, Bournville, Cadbury's, Cadbury's Creme Egg, Crunchie, Curly Wurly, Daim, Double Decker, Flake, Fry's, Green & Black's, Heroes, Milka, Milk Tray, Picnic, Roses, Time Out, Toblerone, Twirl, Owns Cadbury, Milka, Toblerone, Wispa.)

Want more information?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

This information is reserved for subscribers only. Don't miss out, become a subscriber today.