Is your chocolate ethical? Chocolate producers rated

How ethical is the chocolate we buy? Check out the best (and worst) of the world's biggest chocolate companies.
Photo credit: Fuzz Kitto, Be Slavery Free

How ethical is your chocolate? Researchers have rated the social and environmental impact of the companies that control global cocoa production.

The annual Chocolate Scorecard study surveyed 38 of the world’s largest chocolate companies, including chocolate traders, processors and manufacturers.

These account for 80-90% of global chocolate products, Easter eggs among them, and include giants such as Mars, Lindt, Nestlé, Mondelez (Cadbury), Ferrero and Hershey’s.

Ranking highly in ethical terms were US-based Alter Eco, Beyond Good, New Zealand-based Whittaker’s and the Netherlands’ Tony’s Chocolonely, which is now widely available in the UK.

Only three businesses – Starbucks, General Mills and Storck, manufacturer of Werther’s Original – chose not to take part in the study, eschewing transparency and opting instead to conceal their practices.

The 38 companies were rated on the six most pressing sustainability issues facing the chocolate industry:

  • traceability and transparency
  • living income policies
  • child labour
  • deforestation and climate
  • agroforestry
  • agrichemical management.

Photo credit: Fuzz Kitto, Be Slavery Free

Is chocolate certification any good?

This year Ferrero joins the list of companies, including Hershey’s, Unilever and Ritter, whose cocoa is close to 100% certified by the Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade.

“While certification is not perfect,” says Fuzz Kitto, “it is often a positive first step in a company’s sustainability journey.”

Storck, Starbucks and General Mills were awarded the researchers’ “broken egg” for their continuing refusal to cooperate with the Chocolate Scorecard.

Storck was given the worst rating overall and awarded this year’s rotten egg for lack of transparency about its policies and practices in its cocoa supply chain, and in light of civil society complaints about the company.

“If they are making progress on increasing the sustainability of their chocolate supply chains, then we and their customers and investors would like to hear about it,” says Kitto.

A positive the researchers found this year is the massive increase in commitment to cocoa production as part of an agroforestry system, whereby cocoa and other trees are grown together.

This system has many benefits, like maintaining cocoa yields while helping farmers diversify – and restoring and improving local biodiversity at the same time.

Nestlé is notable for not only its 2021 distribution of over 1 million shade trees and a pledge for another million shade trees in 2022 in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, but also a reforestation programme.

As part of this programme, Nestlé has committed to planting 20 million trees every year for the next 10 years in the area where it sources ingredients.

The annual survey and its dissemination is a collaboration between 29 organisations from around the world, including Australia’s Macquarie University and University of Wollongong, and the Open University (UK), and not-for-profit groups, including Unseen in the UK.

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Justine Currell

As I came to understand more about the issue, including through a visit to an Unseen safehouse, I knew I needed to do more to stop this abuse and exploitation.

For the last five years of my Civil Service career, I was the Modern Slavery Senior Policy Advisor in the Home Office and led on development of the Modern Slavery Act, including the transparency in supply chains provision and business guidance.

I joined Unseen to lead the development of the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline, and Unseen’s work with businesses. I am regularly called upon to present at national and international conferences and use my experience of working with Ministers to influence other governments internationally to take action to address modern slavery and, in particular, business supply chain issues.

In my spare time I enjoy keeping fit, music, reading and travelling.

Andrew Wallis

What ultimately compelled me to act was a report on how people from Eastern Europe were being trafficked through Bristol airport to the USA. Kate Garbers, who went on to be an Unseen Director, and I wrote to all the city councillors, MPs and the Police Chief Constable challenging them on the issue. The challenge came back to us: this city needs safe housing for trafficked women. And so Unseen began.

But we never wanted Unseen to be just about safe housing. We wanted to end slavery once and for all, and that remains our driving focus.

I chaired the working group for the Centre for Social Justice’s landmark report “It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to Fight Modern Slavery”. This is now acknowledged as the catalyst behind the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015. It was a great honour to be awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours that year. On the other hand, I’ve also been described as “the loveliest disrupter you could ever hope to meet”.

This job has taken me from building flat-pack furniture for safehouses, to working with businesses to address slavery in supply chains, to delivering training, raising awareness and advising governments around the world.

When not at work, I enjoy travelling, spending time with my dog Harley, cooking, supporting Liverpool and Yorkshire CC, music (I’m a former DJ) and endurance events such as the Three Peaks Challenge and Tribe Freedom Runs – which I vow never to do again. Until the next time.