The growth in ethical chocolate brands, one even marketing itself as slave free, raises an important issue for all of us. Do we really know the impact of the products we buy, how they are made and whether they’ve caused human or environmental damage?

Concerns regarding child slavery in cocoa plantations has highlighted the issues in West Africa, where over half of all cocoa originates. So what’s the best way to buy chocolate with confidence that it is not linked to slavery?

Buying responsibly sourced chocolate is the best option and fair trade is a good start. But fair trade can be a little confusing. It only covers certain categories, and there is the Fairtrade foundation, which provides the most recognisable logo for fair trade, but there are others too – UTZ and Rainforest alliance for example.

 

So here are the basics, to help you decide:

Fair trade is about choosing products which have been produced under standards which protect working conditions and pay for farmers and workers in developing countries.

It covers products such as tea, coffee, chocolate, flowers, cotton, bananas and sugar. Such products are usually produced in locations where labour laws are weak, affording little or no protection to workers.

Logos to look out for:

  • Fairtrade Foundation logo – a third party, independent NGO, that licences use of the logo in accordance with international Fair trade standards.
  • UTZ – a Dutch based NGO, which covers coffee, tea, hazelnuts and cocoa. UTZ certified coffee is traceable from producer to roaster to consumer.
  • Rainforest Alliance: a third party fair trade certifier, which has now merged with UTZ.

So how easy is it to buy fair trade? We checked out the tea, coffee and chocolate aisles to find out.  The good news is that there is plenty of choice using the following criteria:

  1. It needs to be certified by a third party fair trade certifier
  2. This certifier must be independent with a transparent process for rating products
  3. It must be recognised and trusted by the market

We do not include in-house logos or marketing claims regarding fair trade.

Here’s what we found:

Coffee: 1 in 3 products were responsibly sourced

Tea: 1 in 2

Chocolate: 1 in 7

Why is chocolate so much lower? Partly because many of the larger manufacturers use their own in-house labelling, rather than an independent third party one. There has been a move towards this in a number of different areas – eg Cadbury Cocoa Life or Sainsbury’s Fairly traded for tea.

The key to remember is, if avoiding slavery or poor working conditions is important to you, a good option is to go for fair trade.

 

To make it easy, the Giki app will tell you which products are and which aren’t fair trade to help you choose quickly. Just scan the barcode and look out for the responsibly sourced badge.

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