Living Green: Ethical chocolate? How delicious

Chocolate is often a welcomed source of energy.

Chocolate is often a welcomed source of energy. My wilderness trips are not the same without it and back in the day, it was the perfect boost to my endurance training.

Made with quality and care, chocolate also is believed to reduce stress and increase concentration. However, its claims as a superfood exaggerate findings from research funded by industry, according to Nic Fleming’s 2018 article in The Observer.

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Made without quality and care, chocolate candy usually contains artificial colours, artificial flavours, hydrogenated fats, corn syrup, chemical preservatives and large amounts of sugar. Moreover, chocolate is also just one of many products consumed by Canadians that is at a high risk of being connected to child labour.

According to World Vision, there are 152 million child labourers worldwide today, 48% of whom are between the ages of five and 11 years. Instead of going to school, these children endure back-breaking work and harsh conditions to produce many of our everyday purchases such as cocoa, coffee, clothing and electronics. West Africa’s Ghana and Ivory Coast — two of the world’s top suppliers of cocoa beans — use child labour and slavery in cocoa production, according to Fleming.

In 2016, Canadian imports at risk of being connected to child labour totalled $34 billion, a 31% increase over the past five years. More than 1,200 companies operating in Canada are at high risk of importing goods connected to child or forced labour.

Purchasing a product certified by Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance or UTZ ensures that it was not made using child labour. Fair Trade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. Rainforest Alliance certification works to conserve biodiversity and ensures sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behaviour. And UTZ focuses on enabling farmers to learn better techniques, improve working conditions and take better care of their children and the environment.

World Vision’s No Child For Sale campaign and thegoodtrade.com identify an array of certified chocolate products. Here are just a few to get your taste buds primed:

• Alter Eco: Fair Trade Certified. Peruvian and Ecuadorian farmers harvest cocoa beans from organic trees, which are then crafted into truffles in Switzerland. Mixed together with organic coconut oil from Kerala, India, these truffles also come in compostable packaging.

• Camino: Established in 1999 in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, La Siembra Co-operative, which owns Camino, became the first registered importers of Fair Trade Certified cocoa and sugar in North America. Today, the co-operative works directly with 18 producer co-ops, supporting more than 36,000 family farmers in nine countries, representing Central and South America, and Southeast Asia.

• Delight Chocolate: Handmade and hand-wrapped in Canada using all organic ingredients, Fairtrade certified chocolate and sugar.

• Denman Island Chocolates: Organic Fair Trade chocolate available in Metro Vancouver at Choices, Meinhardt Fine Foods, Finlandia, Nesters Markets and Greens Markets. In 2006, the company created a conservation covenant to protect the trees surrounding its wood-framed factory on Denman Island. Every year, the company donates 1% of its gross income to local environmental conservation groups such as the Denman Island Conservancy, Sierra Club of BC, DogwoodBC, the Habitat Acquisition Trust, Western Canada Wilderness Committee and the Georgia Straight Alliance.

• Divine: Catering to milk chocolate lovers and bakers (baking bars and powders), Divine is the only 100% fair trade chocolate company that is co-owned by cocoa farmers, allowing them to share in profits and have a larger voice in the cocoa industry. Divine has been crafting Fair Trade chocolate for over 20 years, and were selected as one of the Best For The World B Corps in 2017, hence, they are World Vision’s number one choice.

• EatingEVOLVED: Free of gluten, dairy or soy, this Fair Trade cacao is lightly sweetened with organic maple sugar directly sourced from maple producers in Vermont and Canada.

• Endangered Species Chocolate: On top of sourcing cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified cacao farms, Endangered Species Chocolate also donates 10% of net profits to organizations that support species conservation, habitat preservation and humanitarian efforts. Their milk and dark chocolate bars and bites are made with fairly traded, shade-grown cacao and natural ingredients.

• IKEA: UTZ Certified. Ikea has always strongly believed in protecting children. In 2000, it developed a child labour code of conduct with advice from the International Labour Organization.

• Green & Black’s: Fairtrade Certified since 1994.

• UnReal: Founded by teenage siblings, Unreal is on a mission to “unjunk” the world by reinventing America’s favourite foods. Using only sustainably sourced, non-GMO, Fair Trade ingredients that are gluten-, corn- and soy-free, UnReal offers real healthier alternatives for the same great taste and price.

• Other Canadian-made Fair Trade-certified brands include: Galerie au Chocolat, Just Us!, Olivia Chocolatiers, Prana, Rochef Chocolatier and Fair for Life Certified Theobroma and Zazubean.

Most businesses in Canada share little to no information on how they are preventing child labour in their global supply chains. Join World Vision’s No Child For Sale campaign, calling on our government to introduce Supply Chain Transparency legislation in Canada.

This type of legislation has been adopted in the U.K. and Australia, where in the former, consumers have been given more information to make ethical purchasing decisions, and to help civil society groups hold companies accountable to their human rights commitments.

Melissa Chaun of Port Moody is an ecologist with a passion for all things sustainable. She is events co-ordinator with the Rivershed Society of BC and volunteers on various city committees. Her column runs monthly. 

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