chocolate candy

Lindt. Nestle. Hershey. Divine. Godivia. Alter Eco. Equal Exchange.

You have plenty of luscious options when selecting chocolate treats. With that wide selection is a rich opportunity to wield your spending power and reward firms that support environmental responsibility and fair labor practices for farmers.

Maybe you’re browsing for Halloween. Or you’re on the prowl for a scrumptious personal indulgence.

Green America, a nonprofit organization that focuses on economic action for social justice and environmental sustainability, encourages choosing wisely when buying chocolate. Especially if it involves links with child labor. And deforestation.

“It is an ideal product for voting with our dollars,” says Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Consumer and Corporate Engagement for Green America. “We can choose to purchase from brands that are working to build farmer income, address child labor, and promote ecological farming practices.”

Green America’s Chocolate Scorecard

Green America’s fresh ranking of chocolate companies features report-card grades, with emphasis on labor and environmental factors.

The scorecard is designed as a valuable resource for discriminating shoppers who appreciate information about ethical sourcing practices in products they purchase.

Green America's 2019 chocolate scorecard
Green America Chocolate Scorecard. Source:

Labor certifications, including Fairtrade, IMO Fair for Life, and UTZ, were factored into each brand’s ranking. (See more certifications and what they mean on Green America’s website.) Other factors, including efforts to support farmers — especially in West Africa — rounded out the scores.

“… we are not only looking at how much certified cocoa a major chocolate company has, we are also looking to see if the company has innovative programs and projects in place to address some of the other underlying issues of child labor in cocoa and if the company is working to address deforestation,” Green America’s website states.

Focusing on eliminating farmer poverty interconnects with and assists in resolving other social and environmental issues, according to Charlotte Tate, labor justice manager at Green America.

man with basket on back harvesting cacao fruit
Harvesting cacao. Image: Adobe Stock

Examples of chocolate companies’ noteworthy programs and practices include:

  • Divine: 44 percent ownership by a farmers cooperative in Ghana
  • Alter Eco: investing in agroforestry, which integrates cacao with other crops for a healthy and diverse ecosystem, and offers additional produce and revenue for farmers
  • Endangered Species: donates 10 percent of profits to animals, habitat, and humanity

The Rankings

Firms leading the pack with grade A rankings include

Boy holding chocolate bar
Check out your favorite chocolate’s ranking in Green America’s scorecard. Photo by Pete Wright on Unsplash

Green America points out it did not include every chocolate company in its rankings, and notes that many of the A-rated firms are members of Green America’s Green Business Network of “socially and environmentally responsible businesses.”

Mars, Nestle, Hershey, and Lindt earned middle rankings.

Godiva received an F.

Green America’s website features a separate page offering extra information about the scores, including Godiva’s.

“Godiva has stated on its website that it has a goal of sourcing 100 percent sustainable cocoa by 2020. It has not indicated which certifications it is sourcing from, what progress it is making with this goal, or what additional steps it is taking to address child labor and farmer income. While its competitors publish annual reports on their progress, Godiva only reports minimal information on its website.”

Earth911 emailed a Godiva spokeswoman about its Green America grade, and she issued a quick reply.

“GODIVA condemns forced labor or any practice that exploits, endangers, or harms people, especially children. We do not own farms and purchase our cocoa through third parties, which puts us at a distinct disadvantage on scorecards such as these that don’t allow for an accurate representation of our longstanding commitment to people and planet. We ensure ethical sourcing through agreements with our suppliers to comply with our GODIVA Code of Conduct, which explicitly prohibits the use of forced and child labor.”

dark chocolate candy pieces and hazelnuts
Let chocolate manufacturers know that you support environmental responsibility and fair labor practices. Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash

Speaking Out

While thoughtfully directing your dollars is a powerful tool to support preferred products, perhaps you’ll want to add fuel to your position.

Write a note directly to the firms you’re supporting or avoiding, explaining why you decided to purchase — or not purchase — their products.

Another route is signing a petition, such as Green America’s request to Godiva: “… share your progress with the public through a corporate responsibility report on your website that makes your progress on farmer income, child labor, and environmental protection fully transparent.”

Feature image by Security from Pixabay 

By Patti Roth

Patti began her writing career as a staff writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Still based in Florida, Patti serves as editor for Fort Lauderdale on the Cheap. She regularly writes about environmental, home improvement, education, recycling, art, architecture, wildlife, travel and pet topics.