The Supply Chain Cannot Be Ignored
Let's start at the beginning of the cocoa bean's journey with three of its most significant challenges: child labor, deforestation, and poverty.1 Around 70 percent of cocoa worldwide comes from West Africa, with Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana yielding the lion's share.2 Yet, an unfathomable chasm exists between the less-than-a-dollar per day earned by most West African cocoa farmers and the over 100-billion-dollar annual value of the chocolate industry.3 4 Within this abyss, 1.5 million children are toiling on cocoa farms, with at least 43 percent of them involved in the most hazardous activities.5 Simultaneously, deforestation in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire is rapidly accelerating—in 2018, they lost an estimated 60 percent and 26 percent (respectively) of forests compared to 2017.6 And at the root of it all is poverty.
Flavorful Footnotes: Cocoa is packed with potent antioxidant flavonoids, like catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidins. In fact, it has more per serving than most other foods, including green tea and red wine.7 8
It’s All Connected—Farming Methods, Human Health, and the Planet
Is there an agricultural system that delivers a consistent win for the environment, human health, and farmer profits? Absolutely! It’s rooted in these four principles: health, ecology, fairness, and care, and it’s called organic.9 From improved farmer health and increased revenues in Nigeria, to better yields, higher income, and more social connectedness in Bolivia, the benefits of organic methods are evidenced on cocoa farms worldwide.10 11 And even in the most climate-friendly type of cocoa farming—agroforestry (shade-grown)—organic performs best. A study from Ghana comparing conventional and organic cocoa agroforestry systems found organic had significantly greater above and below-ground biomass (carbon pools), higher soil carbon stocks, more biodiversity, and increased potential for farmers to benefit economically.12 13 14 Which system will you support with your next bar of chocolate?
Flavorful Footnotes: Dark chocolate is a good source of essential minerals like magnesium, potassium, and iron, and it also contains zinc, copper, and selenium. To maximize benefits from a chocolate-y serving of minerals choose 70% cacao or higher.8 15
Ethical Sourcing By the Seal
Although no one claims that third-party certification solves all of chocolate’s pressing problems, it does provide a level of desperately needed supply chain transparency. Each program delivers environmental benefits, resources for farmers, and collaborations intended to advance human rights and improve farming communities' wellbeing.16 17 18 In 2020, both the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International published new standards aimed at better addressing some of cocoa’s key issues, including boosting farmer income, combatting deforestation, and strengthening transparency.19 20 You can leverage your chocolate cravings in favor of a better supply chain when you choose these seals:
- Fair Trade
- Rainforest Alliance/UTZ
Flavorful Footnotes: Cocoa flavonoids support a healthy circulatory system by activating nitric oxide, a compound that helps keep blood vessels relaxed and flexible and inhibits inflammation, lowering the risk of plaque development.21 7 22
- “Cocoa Barometer 2020 Released.” VOICE Network, 1 Dec. 2020, www.voicenetwork.eu/2020/12/cocoa-barometer-2020-released/.
- Shahbandeh, M. “Cocoa Production by Country 2019/2020.” Statista, 16 Mar. 2021, www.statista.com/statistics/263855/cocoa-bean-production-worldwide-by-r….
- Written by Govind Bhutada, Author. “Cocoa's Bittersweet Supply Chain in One Visualization.” World Economic Forum, www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/cocoa-chocolate-supply-chain-business-ba…
- “Chocolate Market Size, Share: Industry Report, 2020-2027.” Chocolate Market Size, Share | Industry Report, 2020-2027, www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/chocolate-market.
- “Child Labor in the Production of Cocoa.” U.S. Department of Labor Seal, www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/our-work/child-forced-labor-trafficking/child….
- Higonnet et. al. “Cocoa and African Deforestation: Assessing the Cocoa and Forests Initiative in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.” Https://Www.mightyearth.org/, www.mightyearth.org/wp-content/uploads/Problems-and-solutions-concernin….
- Katz, David L, et al. “Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease.” Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 15 Nov. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4696435/#:~:text=Cocoa.
- “Cocoa Has More Phenolic Phytochemicals and a Higher Antioxidant Capacity than Teas and Red Wine.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf0344385.
- “The Four Principles of Organic Agriculture.” IFOAM, 22 Mar. 2021, www.ifoam.bio/why-organic/shaping-agriculture/four-principles-organic.
- Faturoti B. O. , et al. “Socioeconomic Impact of SARO Agro Allied Organic Cocoa Programme on Beneficiary Cocoa Farmers in Nigeria.” Https://Pdfs.semanticscholar.org/, Aug. 2012, pdfs.semanticscholar.org/747a/2f5e6ee05fdca146a1409b1320f5a03f493d.pdf.
- “Farm Resilience in Organic and Nonorganic Cocoa Farming Systems in Alto Beni, Bolivia.” Taylor & Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/21683565.2015.1039158.
- “Below-Ground Biomass.” Mongabay.com, rainforests.mongabay.com/carbon-lexicon/Below-Ground-Biomass.html.
- The Organic Center, 23 Nov. 2020, www.organic-center.org/research/organic-shade-grown-cacao-systems-store….
- Asigbaase, Michael, et al. “Biomass and Carbon Stocks of Organic and Conventional Cocoa Agroforests, Ghana.” Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, Elsevier, 20 Oct. 2020, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0167880920303789.
- “Mineral Essential Elements for Nutrition in Different Chocolate Products.” Taylor & Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09637486.2016.1199664.
- Ruf, François. “Fair Game: How Effective Is Cocoa Certification?” Confectionerynews.com, www.confectionerynews.com/Article/2017/12/20/Fair-trade-How-effective-i….
- “Better for Business Rainforest Alliance Certified Cocoa.” Https://Www.rainforest-Alliance.org/, www.rainforest-alliance.org/business/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Better-….
- “The Principle of Fairness.” IFOAM, 22 Mar. 2021, www.ifoam.bio/why-organic/principles-organic-agriculture/principle-fair….
- “Measures to Strengthen the Cocoa Sector.” Rainforest Alliance for Business, 8 July 2020, www.rainforest-alliance.org/business/reimagining-certification/measures….
- “Fairtrade Adds New Certification Requirement for Cocoa and Coffee to Boost Farmer Incomes.” Fairtrade International, www.fairtrade.net/news/new-certification-requirement-for-cocoa-and-coff….
- Corti, Roberto, et al. “Cocoa and Cardiovascular Health.” Circulation, 17 Mar. 2009, www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.827022.
- “Why Nitric Oxide Is So Important.” @Berkeleywellness, www.berkeleywellness.com/self-care/preventive-care/article/why-nitric-o….