Unwrapping the Truth of the Chocolate Industry: A Bitter Reality Behind Easter Eggs

On average in the UK, we consume about 3 chocolate bars a week, and this increases during Easter for obvious reasons. Every year, the UK sells approximately 90 million chocolate easter eggs during the spring holidays, amounting to a staggering £153 million spent on Easter eggs in 2021 alone.

However, beyond the sweet exterior of chocolate lies a bitter truth.

Environmental degradation and poverty among cocoa farmers are just a few of the realities of mainstream chocolate production. Fair trade has an interesting video to check out if you want to learn more.

60% of the world’s cocoa comes from Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, with millions of farming families earning less than $1 a day. The pervasive issues include human rights and environmental abuses such as child labour, untraceable deforestation, and the far-reaching impacts of indirect supply chains.

Cocoa, soy and palm oil are the key ingredients for chocolate and are closely linked to extensive deforestation. Indirect supply chains often involve trading these ingredients with little traceability, allowing middlemen to conceal the environmentally damaging sources. The NGO, MightyEarth, reports that cocoa plantations in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire may be linked to the loss of 65% and 90% of their forest cover, respectively. Samuel Mawutor, a senior advisor at MightyEarth explains that:

‘There is that pressure on farmers to expand the farms to be able to make more cocoa production’

So, is Fair Trade Chocolate the answer?

Farmer-owned co-operatives are a central part of Fairtrade and allows farmers to unite and organise democratically- resulting in higher incomes. They guarantee farmers earns a price that supports the costs of sustainable production. Additionally, the formation of Women’s Committees within co-ops encourages economic empowerment and gender equality. In terms of deforestation, Fair trade schemes can reduce the pressure to expand into forests by encouraging sustainable framing practices and- most importantly- by providing a liveable wage to allow this.

However, a report by the guardian investigated ethical alternatives and found that- even brands with official Fairtrade certifications- may be harbouring an unsavoury truth.

Tony’s Chocoloney, despite its Fairtrade and B-Corp certifications, faced scrutiny due to its reliance on Barry Callebaut, a major chocolate processor implicated in a 2021 lawsuit involving child labour on cocoa plantations in Cote d’Ivoire. While the Supreme Court ruled that the companies could not be sued, Tony’s Chocolonely was dropped from Slave Free Chocolate’s list of ethical chocolate companies in 2021. The company insisted on having ‘never found any cases of modern slavery in our chain’ and claimed to work with the company to ‘scale up production’.

The 2021 Eco-egg report by U switch identified Buttermilk Salted Caramel Crunch Choccy egg as the most sustainable chocolate egg in terms of low CO2 emissions and water usage. The report also found that 73% of best-selling Easter eggs contained palm oil as a main ingredient, pointing to Thorntons, Sainsburys and Lindt easter eggs as palm-oil free alternatives:

  1. Guylian 11 Belgian Chocolate Seashells & Luxury Milk Chocolate Egg
  2. Sainsbury’s Billionaires Milk Chocolate Egg
  3. Thorntons Bunny Milk Chocolate
  4. Lindt Gold Bunny Milk Chocolate Egg

The well-know and loved Cadbury easter eggs scored less than half for sustainability- with each of the eggs in the study listing palm oil as an ingredient and only 93% of the packaging being recyclable overall.

This Easter it’s important to look out for the Fairtrade symbol on your chocolate and consider palm-oil free options. More pressure needs to be put on the multinational chocolate industry to ensure fair wages and therefore prevent environmental and human rights abuses.

Featured image: RDNE Stock Project via Pexels

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