Chocolate has been a luxury enjoyed around the world since it was brought back to Europe from South America in the 18th Century. As cocoa crops will only grow in tropical countries and have a labour-intensive harvest process, cocoa farms have a sad history of exploitation. While Europeans and North Americans enjoy a luxury product, cocoa crops are produced by poorly paid farmers in awful conditions on the other side of the world. This unethical process of sourcing cocoa has mainly gone undocumented.
At the centre of the chocolate industry’s ethical issues are the big manufacturers – the large businesses like Nestle, Cadbury and Mars. For years, chocolate companies have benefited from the low cost of cocoa and made significant profits with little thought about cocoa farmers’ struggles or the child labour that may have been used to harvest the cocoa. Thankfully, a great range of ethical chocolate brands is now available.
When shopping for ethical chocolate, a good starting point is to avoid palm oil containing products. Palm oil is a common ingredient in many of our foods due to its low cost. However, it is one of the primary driving factors behind deforestation and is responsible for the loss of biodiverse forests and endangered species like the Orangutan.
The ethical chocolate brands in our list use only sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients and ensure the cocoa farmers receive a fair price for their crops.
In the 1990s, a fresh new approach to the Cocoa market in Ghana enabled farmers to set up a co-operative. The farmers established fair trade agreements, and in working together, were able to set up their own chocolate company. The Divine chocolate range is now widely available around the UK, and the business remains focused on being ethical and a force for good.
The eye-catching Willy Wonka style packaging of Tony’s Chocolonely instantly makes you think of a factory in a children’s storybook. However, the story behind the brand is a lot more serious.
In 2003 Dutch journalist Teun van de Keuken was shocked to hear about the use of child labour and slavery on cocoa farms in West Africa. He discovered how wealthy chocolate manufacturers exploit cocoa farmers by not paying them a fair price for their crops. Tony’s Chocolonely was created to raise awareness about the issues in the cocoa industry and campaign for change.
Their website has detailed information about the challenges they face and what the business plans to do to support cocoa farmers to stop the slave trade.
The range is predominately milk chocolate, so if you want to be ethical, but you’re not a dark chocolate fan then this could be the brand for you.
Established in 2007, Ombar sources cocoa beans from Ecuador paying higher than fair trade prices. Ombar’s mission is to manufacture bars that celebrate natural ingredients and change chocolate’s perception from junk food to a superfood. Using raw and organic ingredients, Ombar has created a vegan product that has a clear ethical focus.
Cocoa Loco use organic ingredients which are accredited by the soil association. When the business was founded in 2005, the primary mission was to use organic cocoa bought at fair trade prices. Cocoa Loco have an extensive range of products all in plastic-free packaging. They don’t use palm oil and have an extensive and very tempting vegan range.
Seed and Bean
Produced in the UK, Seed and Bean are a company built on ethical principles. Their mission is to be ‘the most ethical, sustainable and delicious British chocolate’. Seed and Bean use Fairtrade certified suppliers, and all the added ingredients are organic. They are passionate about the environment, and all parts of the chocolate wrappers are fully compostable. Look out for their Cornish sea salt bar of chocolate, it’s one of our personal favourites!
This well-established UK brand was founded in 2000 by couple Helen and Simon, who discovered a chocolate business idea while travelling in South America.
Montezumas started life as a chocolate shop in Brighton, with the new business producing their own chocolate in a small UK factory. Their ethical focus is at the centre of everything they do, and they have created their own ‘trading fairly’ standards.
Their cocoa is sourced from sustainable sources, and they use 100% recyclable packaging on all their products. They are continually trying to improve their impact on the environment and care for suppliers and their community.
Pacari is a multi-award-winning chocolate brand produced in Ecuador. They work closely with small scale Ecuadorian cocoa farmers, paying a fair price and supporting native communities. Pacari is certified organic, vegan-friendly, free from palm oil and certified Fairtrade.
The company has a partnership with WWF with a percentage of sales going to support the charities conservation efforts in Ecuador.
Sourcing their cocoa directly from farmers in Madagascar and Uganda, Beyond Good make their chocolate at the source in local factories. They use a rare, and ancient, cocoa variety which is used in only 3% of the world’s chocolate. A major focus for the brand is redeveloping the local ecosystems through the use of cocoa agroforestry.
Doisy and Dam
Doisy and Dam are B Corp certified (you can read more about the B Corporation here) and produce palm oil-free, ethical and sustainable chocolate from cocoa sourced directly from Colombia. The chocolate supplier they work with supports the local community in Colombia, setting up social projects and providing education access. While not all of their packaging is currently recyclable, they aim to resolve this in the near future.
Brett Beach and Sarah Lescrauwaet started MIA (made in Africa) to help balance global trade. When they launched the business, Africa represented 12% of the global population but only 2% of global trade. A large proportion of the world’s cocoa is grown in West Africa, but only 1% is manufactured there.
MIA work with communities to set up production facilities so the local people can profit from their homegrown produce. MIA work to a bean to bar principle in Africa. By exporting the finished product, they make four times more than if they were to simply export the raw cocoa. Keeping the manufacturing process local increases prospects for the whole community by introducing skilled jobs from chocolate making to printing.
We’d love to know if you’ve tried any of these ethical chocolate brands or if you think any other chocolate companies deserve adding to the list. Please either leave us a comment below or get in touch with the team.
(This post contains affiliate links. When someone clicks on one of these links and buys a product from the linked website, we earn a small commission. Using an affiliate link does not affect the price you pay or your rights as a consumer. We don’t hide any affiliate links in our posts. All affiliate links will be clearly recognisable by a * mark after the link )