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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee Magazine

Chocolate and Child Labor

Apr 30, 2021 08:30AM ● By Gina Saka


Unfortunately, the link between chocolate and child labor is closer than many may think. Seventy percent of the world’s cacao beans come from West Africa, primarily Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The problem is that the cacao beans from this area come as a result of unthinkably cruel child labor. Some of the largest chocolate companies that people know and love use cacao beans that were grown and harvested by the hands of children, often in life-threatening conditions.

Fair Trade Certification

The easiest way to ensure that a chocolate bar is made without child labor is to look to the label. The labels to search for are “Fair Trade,” “Fair Trade Certified” and “Fair for Life.” Fair Trade certifications not only prohibit child labor, but ensure farmers are paid fair wages. In addition to Fair Trade, look for “Rainforest Alliance Certified,” “Organic” and “Non-GMO” chocolate to support sustainable, earth-wise growing practices.

Chocolate Brand 
Ethical Ranking

Luckily, there are organizations like that continuously keep tabs on and rank the ethical standards of major chocolate brands.

Popular brands that are 100 percent Fair Trade Certified with an A rating from Green America include:

Alter Eco (A) They are also U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic and palm oil-free, provide assistance for farmers and invest in agroforestry.

Divine (A) This brand is 44 percent owned by the local Kuapa Kokoo cooperative of Ghana and invests in eco-friendly cocoa farms in Sierra Leone.

Endangered Species (A) They are non-GMO, have fully traceable chocolate and donate 10 percent of their profits to the environment and humanity.

Equal Exchange (A) This USDA organic chocolate company is committed to supporting farmers by building land resiliency. This worker co-op puts farmer relationships at the forefront.

Theo Chocolate (A) This organic and soy-free chocolate company invests in reforestation and provides living incomes to their cocoa farmers. 

At the bottom of the list are:

Nestle (C+) Nestle has chocolates like Milkybars, Rolos and Tollhouse chips. They are only 42 percent Fair Trade certified by UTZ, which is a program for sustainable farming. They are making small steps in the right direction, but are behind in aspects like traceability and agroforestry.

Mars (C+) Mars has chocolates like M&M’s, Snickers and Twix. Their chocolate is only 47 percent Fair Trade Certified, and they are behind in areas like traceability, paying living incomes and agroforestry.

Hershey (C) Hershey is 80 percent Fair Trade certified and is known for the Hershey Bar, Reeses and Mr. Goodbar. However, although they have good traceability, they still need to do more work in providing living income to farmers.

Ferrero (D) Ferrero is 75 percent Fair Trade certified and known for products like Ferrero Rocher, Nutella and Butterfinger. They are behind in providing better wages to farmers as well as agroforestry programs for sustainable cacao harvesting.

Godiva (F) Godiva falls to the bottom of the list for having no reported percent of Fair Trade cocoa, use of child labor and lack of due diligence to ensure traceability and living incomes.

This list is not exhaustive. For information on additional chocolate brands, visit

When it comes to chocolate, it’s important to choose brands that are 100 percent certified fair trade. This helps ensure a better tomorrow with fair wages for cacao farmers and zero tolerance for child labor. In addition to looking for the Fair Trade labels, consumers can email mainstream companies urging them to put an end to unfair wages and child labor by choosing ethically sourced cacao.

Gina Saka is a freelance writer for Natural Awakenings magazine editions across the country. To connect, email her at [email protected].