Chocolate being a treat for both the environment and people
Fairtrade is a movement that started in the 1960s, to combat the growing power and exploitation of factories and corporations. There are now few people who haven’t heard of this worldwide phenomenon; an achievement that is all down to the impressive marketing of Fairtrade Certification Initiatives1, creating the Fairtrade stamp of approval. Fairtrade aims to improve the social and economic conditions of the third-world producers. Conditions that previously left countless farmers destitute. So how far has the Fairtrade movement advanced farming? And, most importantly, does this create a more environmentally friendly chocolate bar?
With an increasing concern towards environmental sustainability, there is no doubt that
chocolate production has become more environmentally friendly. In fact, over the past 20 years interest in sustainable production has seen exponential growth2. This has been achieved, helped by the environmental targets that Fairtrade sets out for farmers (where usually there would be no consequences to farmers destroying the environment). As well as this, fair trade offers education to farmers to improve their environmental standards - so that they are more sustainable. However, this does not mean that there are no more improvements to be made to environmental production. Fairtrade can increase agrochemical output3 - which goes on to negatively affect both the environment and farmer’s lives.
Yet when Fairtrade’s aim of improving economic conditions concerns female workers, there is a notable disparity. Women are seen to have been repeatedly left behind in areas when Fairtrade tries to advance economic conditions, with more men employed in the production of cocoa and coffee4.
This doesn’t mean that Fairtrade doesn’t have any positive results in improving the economic
standards of the world, as research has shown that income levels (in households of Fairtrade
cocoa production) are higher5. This does wonders in alleviating the issues of poverty, with
Fairtrade giving producers more stable and secure incomes.
As well as this, Fairtrade’s educational aims allow consumers to be aware of the change needed within this unjust international trading system6. This ensures that change is more likely to happen, and consumers are more likely to purchase through fair trade. But with the rise of more anti-slavery NGOs (non-governmental organisations), questions have
been raised over the impact of fairtrade - and the effectiveness of the organisation. FairTrade, whilst improving the economic and living standards of small-scale farmers, does little to improve the lives of the poorest of the world. Instead, alternative companies (that shoppers should also keep a look out for) like Tony’s Chocolonely have taken the responsibility of ending slavery within chocolate manufacturing.
This decision was initially made in response to the Fairtrade certified organisations refusal to
limit slavery themselves7. In fact, Tony’s Chocolonely brand won the 2022 award to stopping
slavery8 - an achievement that highlights the work it has done.
However - the improvements to the industry are undoubtable. Fairtrade has achieved the aims it set out to complete way back in the 1990s, even if there is still room for improvement. They have kickstarted the beginning of sustainability as we know it - and this has to be celebrated. And shoppers are doing good work. Whatever problem exists is down to the companies, and not to the individual. Whilst a more conscious, ethical shopper could help to reduce the hardships of exploitation - putting their money where their mouth is so to speak - this will never eradicate these issues wholly. The only way for this to occur is through the companies taking responsibility, facing the criticism, and improving their working standards.
1 Nicholls, A., Opal, C., Fair Trade: Market-Driven Ethical Consumption,
2 Cadby, J., Araki, T., Villacis, A., 2021., Breaking the Mould: Craft chocolate makers proritise quality, ethical and direct sourcing, and environmental welfare.,
3 Sellare, J., Meemken, E-M., Qaim, M., 2020., Fairtrade, Agrochemical Input Use, and Effects on Human Health and the Environment., https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800920303566
4Knößlsdorfer, I., Sellare, J., Qaim, M., Effects of Fairtrade on farm household food security and living standards: Insights from Côte d’Ivoire., Global Food Security., 2021.,
5 Goff, S., 2016., Fairtrade: global problems and individual responsibilities.,
6 Low., Davenport., 2006., pp. 315-316.
7 Van Burg, E., Blom, E., Verhagen, P., Hillen, M., 2015., Tony’s Chocolonely: How a social enterprise is changing the chocolate industry.,
8 https://tonyschocolonely.com/uk/en/our-mission/news/stop-slavery-award-2022?utm_source=Social+Medi a&utm_medium=Social+Media&utm_campaign=Serious_Stop_Slavery_Award&utm_id=Serious_Stop_Sl avery_Award