The world consumes 7.5 million tons of chocolate a year. Americans spend an average of $145 a year per capita on chocolate. And we are not even the world leaders. The Swiss eat an average of 22 pounds per person and the overall European chocolate market is the world’s largest.
A market valued over $100 billion a year is bound to have its issues for the environment, human rights, and other social issues, and chocolate is no exception. The global cacao industry grapples with problems with child labor, poverty, deforestation, sustainability and other environmental issues. The response of companies across the industry varies greatly. A website called chocolatescorecard.com keeps track of how many in the industry are doing.
Recently, lawmakers in the European Union have been putting together a landmark legislative package that addresses deforestation risks in the supply chains of a number of commodities including cattle, timber, rubber, soy, palm oil, and cacao. The proposed law restricts companies that import cacao and sell chocolate to import only what doesn’t destroy or degrade forests.
Voluntary promises by big chocolate makers to save forests in major cacao-producing countries (like Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, and Nigeria) are difficult to keep. Farmers sell to brokers who sell to trading companies that then sell to chocolate makers. Tracing the origins of chocolate is difficult. Ultimately, fairly compensating farmers is the only way they are likely comply with deforestation regulations and there are unfortunately many pockets to fill before that is likely to happen.
It is up to consumers to encourage companies to do the right thing by making their buying choices appropriately.
Photo, posted January 12, 2010, courtesy of Lee McCoy via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio