by Todd Larsen, Executive Co-Director for Consumer & Corporate Engagement at Green America
Throughout October’s Fair Trade Month, we are featuring Fairness Champions, people from all walks of life with a unique perspective on what’s ‘fair’. Today Todd Larsen of Green America shares tips on how to make your Halloween treats make a difference for cocoa farmers.
The scariest thing at Halloween should be the little ghosts, ghouls and goblins trundling to your door asking for treats. Unfortunately, if you are handing out chocolates you picked up from the local grocery store, the treats you are giving out may be what’s truly scary. That’s because more than 70 percent of the world’s cocoa comes from the west coast of Africa, where farmers are often paid little for their cocoa, and child labor is rampant. It’s possible that the chocolate you are handing out to a little kid is made from cocoa harvested by another child not much older.
And, because many farmers lack proper training, cocoa trees are often doused in pesticides, poisoning the land and the workers. Major chocolate companies take in billions of dollars in sales, while farmers and families that make the crucial raw material descend deeper and deeper into poverty and the land is destroyed.
Increasingly, it’s not only cocoa farmers and their families who are facing challenges, but the major companies themselves. Because farmers have been paid such low prices, they have little to invest in improving their farming practices – not to mention supporting their families and communities. This lack of long-term thinking from the cocoa industry has resulted in predictions that demand could outstrip supply by 2020 unless we change the way we treat cocoa farmers and their families.
Shift Your Treats from Exploitation to Fair Trade
My organization Green America actively campaigns against the giants of the chocolate industry to improve conditions on cocoa farms and plantations, and improve environmental sustainability. Thanks to tens of thousands of consumers speaking out, we are seeing progress.
But, if you want to make sure that the chocolate you hand out this Halloween promotes fair labor, and is either organic or non-GMO verified, make sure you seek out fair trade options this Halloween. Some of these treats are available in stores near you or you can order online.
And be sure to order extra because you and your family will want to sample these Halloween treats yourselves. After all, the more you eat or give, the more you benefit farmers and their families.
- Divine Chocolate sources its cocoa from a women-led cooperative in Ghana that also owns the largest share of the company. Divine is a leader in ensuring that farmers that call the shots and every Divine chocolate bar that’s sold strengthens the cooperative. Divine sells milk or dark chocolate coins in bags perfect for displaying in a treasure chest at your door!
- Endangered Species Chocolate’s milk and dark chocolate bites are made with fully traceable cocoa from small farmers in the Ivory Coast. In addition, 10% of net profits from your purchases are donated to help fund wildlife conservation efforts worldwide!
- EMVI makes whimsical Halloween treats from Fairtrade certified chocolate. Check out their Fairtrade chocolate cats and witches.
- Equal Exchange is a long-time leader in providing fair trade chocolates from farmer cooperatives around the world. They have a Fair Trade Your Halloween kit ($30 + shipping) that features 150 bite-sized chocolate minis (either Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate) and 150 illustrated information cards about choosing fair trade. That way you can give tasty ethical chocolates to kids and information about why choosing fair trade matters to kids or their parents.
- Bonus treat option: Glee Gum – while we chronicled the challenges that cocoa farmers face, sugar cane farmers often face similar issues. Check out Glee Gum who sources all of their cane sugar as Fairtrade and works closely with chicle harvesters in Guatemala, Mexico and Belize to source the chewy base for their delicious gum. Available in fun pack sizes.
And finally, don’t forget to check out Green America’s other tips for making your Halloween more fair this year!