Friday, May 27, 2011

Understanding Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate list

After months of research, Food Empowerment Project has published our list of chocolate companies that sell vegan chocolate. We placed this list on our website for a variety of reasons:

  1. To help people buy chocolate that does not involve the enslavement of human (children or adults) or non-human animals (such as cows and goats).

  2. To make sure consumers are informed about where companies stand on the issue.

  3. To encourage consumers to contact the companies and let them know how they feel!
Understanding our list 
The list is made up of several categories:
Chocolate we feel comfortable recommending. The first category is pretty simple. These are companies that make some (if not all) vegan chocolates. They have responded to our request for information about the country of origin for their cacao beans, and they were not sourced from areas in Western Africa where child slavery is the most pervasive. If they source from Western Africa, they are worker owned cooperatives.


Recommended - Giving them the benefit of the doubt
These are companies that are sourcing in Ghana but have created programs and are trying to do things in the most ethical way. We will be keeping you informed on their progress, but for now, we want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
 

Companies that are working with us to change suppliers are not listed.

Cannot recommend but are working on the issues in various ways. These are companies that responded to our request for information and are either under a particular certification, organic and/or have indicated to us that they are aware of the slavery issue and care enough to work on it, but, unfortunately, their chocolate still comes from non-worker owned cooperatives in Western Africa. They are currently buying chocolate with the intention of not participating in slavery, but we can't be 100% sure that it is not linked to slavery as they source from these countries in Western Africa.
 
Some of the companies that are fair trade are not necessarily going to change suppliers, but they are indeed informed companies trying to do their part.

If they are fair trade, then why aren’t they listed on our recommended list? It is unfortunate, but there has been child labor found at fair trade cooperatives. 


The fact that child labor was found here gives us reason to be concerned; therefore, we do not feel comfortable recommending them at this time. We acknowledge this might change, but for now, this is how they rank on our list.

Cannot recommend but at least responded. We list the companies that responded honestly but don’t make our list.

Cannot recommend: companies that would not disclose their supplier (no transparency for customers)
. Not disclosing where their chocolate is sourced from is really no different than those companies that did not respond at all. Not to confuse anyone, but we do not ask for supplier contacts; we simply ask from which country they get their cacao beans. Wanting to hide the information seems, well, like a sign of guilt.

Cannot recommend: companies that did not respond. As simple as that. They did not respond to our request. These companies give us the impression that they feel they are above needing to answer and perhaps have a guilty conscience. 


How do we contact the companies? Food Empowerment Project is an all-volunteer organization, and we have had a number of superb activists who have emailed the companies requesting where they get their cacao beans from. If the response is “Switzerland,” “USA” or some other non-cacao-producing country known for its chocolate, another email is sent reminding them we are talking about the beans, not the chocolate. If there is no response, another email is sent after two weeks – forwarding the original request. After another week passes, the two reminders are sent again, this time with a link to our list, letting them know they will go on our non-response list if we do not hear back. After a week with no response, we put them on our website.

Our list is updated as companies respond to us.

We encourage people from all over the globe to send us the names of companies that make vegan chocolate products that are not already on our list; we will look into the company to see where they should be placed on our list.

24 comments:

  1. Thank you so much. I love this site because you understand that veganism should be more that about non-human animal cruelty but also that we should know that humans in the food production and commodity line should not be exploited and abused. PETA has a long list of food items they recommend that are 'vegan' and 'cruelty-free', but the trail of where the ingredients are sourced are certainly contingent upon human exploitation. They clearly recommend chocolate, sugar, etc products that are not even Fair Trade and they don't seem to even have anything about being careful about how your 'vegan' food comes from all forms of oppression.

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  2. This is a great list and a great service.

    I would like to suggest a few other companies to research for the list: Valrhona (sold as an ingredient at Whole Foods plus in bars), Ritter Sport (their marzipan bar is on a lot of vegan lists), Cargill (Peter's Chocolate & Wilbur Chocolate) and the bean-to-bar artisan company Amano.

    Also, Chuao Chocolate uses El Rey as their source, should they be specified here?

    Finally, I would like to know at least generally what the open issues with a particular company might be. Something like "some products sourced from Ghana" or "some products sourced from Ivory Coast cooperative being investigated"

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  3. Thanks so much - we will look into these companies not currently on our list! We feel it might compromise the ease of using the list to include where each of the non-recommended companies get their cacao beans from, but feel free to email us at info(at)foodispower.org to ask about those companies you are interested in.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for this list , I have already written to 5 companies and will post 1 star reviews on Yelp, Google, Amazon and others sites to get them to respond and change their business practices

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  4. Thank you for writing the companies! They need to hear from dedication and compassionate people like you. Thank you!

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  5. I am confused by Fair Trade versus FEP standards for chocolate. Sweet & Sara is listed as recommended by FEP, because their beans are not from Ivory Coast or Ghana, but they say they are not Fair Trade.

    Does this mean that you consider that the chocolate they use is free from enslavement issues although it is not fair trade?

    Is there a reason that you didn't base your recommendations o/include information about which companies use fair trade chocolate?

    Thank you for all your work, its so good to have a list of chocolate companies to support!

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  6. Rachel, thank you so much for asking us to clarify our list. At this time, F.E.P. does not recommend any chocolate that comes from West Africa – as child labor was even found in fair trade fields in Ghana (to their credit they took the children out and put them in school) but given this, it seems that slavery is too pervasive in these countries. Sweet & Sara has told us that they source their organic chocolate from Latin America.
    We have just posted some information on our website on fair trade: http://www.foodispower.org/fair_trade.htm. At this point, there is no clear indication of what fair trade really means when stamped on chocolate – is it fair trade because the chocolate is or because the sugar is?

    We do hope you find our chocolate list helpful!

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  7. I don't understand what "vegan" chocolate has to do with slavery or child labor issues. If the chocolate does or doesn't contain milk, what does this have to do with where or how it was produced? I am not a vegan, but I am concerned about buying slavery-free chocolate. I think these two separate issues have been conflated.

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  8. Hi,
    Thank you so much for your message and asking such an important question. First of all, we are so glad that you, like us are very concerned about the abuses taking place in West Africa and not wanting to contribute to it. Food Empowerment Project (www.foodispower.org) (we are the organization that created this list) works to encourage a more just food system so that one day nobody (human or nonhuman) will be exploited, oppressed or harmed by our food choices. Because of this, it is important for us to find slave-free, vegan chocolate since milk chocolate is also directly linked to the exploitation and suffering of animals.(treatment of cows raised for milk - http://www.foodispower.org/cows_milk.htm)

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  9. Where is Ghiradelli? I couldn't find them on the lists.

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  10. Hi, Emily,

    Thanks for your question. Ghiradelli has been owned by Lindt since 1998. We will add their name next to Lindt so people can find it easier. Thanks!

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  11. I have a chocolate bar called Sweetriot. Where does that fall on your list?

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    Replies
    1. Emily,

      Thank you for recommending them! You should see them on our recommended list in the next few weeks!

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  12. Not sure whether you are interested in non-American production: what about Lifefood? They produce raw vegan chocolate http://www.lifefood.eu/en/katalog/organic-lifefood-raw-chocolate.html and claim to sell in continental Europe.

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    Replies
    1. Michal,

      Absolutely! We have many from New Zealand and Australia on our list and thank you for this suggestion - they will be on our list in the next few weeks under the recommended section!

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  13. more for the list...

    hail merry
    http://www.hailmerry.com/

    chunks of energy
    http://chunksofenergy.com/

    sunspire
    http://www.sunspire.com/

    thanks—this website is a wonderful resource!

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    Replies
    1. Excellent! Thank you for these! We have contacted them and keep an eye out for when they appear on our list. Thank you!

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  14. more for the list...

    hail merry
    http://www.hailmerry.com/

    chunks of energy
    http://chunksofenergy.com/

    sunspire
    http://www.sunspire.com/

    thanks—this website is a wonderful resource!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Could you comment on the World Cocoa Foundation and the Quality Partner Program by Barry Callebaut and whether these two initiatives are working effectively to combat child labor/slavery? I've seen some local comapanies that are claiming participation in these and would like to know if this is a good sign that the company be a good one to support.

    Thank you!

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  16. Thanks for your question. The problem with these initiatives is that they have accomplished very little. The farmers need to have more say than the corporations. Both of these seem to put more weight on profit. Other than Divine, we discourage people from buying chocolate that comes from West Africa. Thanks.

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  17. Thanks for such a great post and the review, i admire that absolutely amaze. Thanks and good luck.

    Thank You, Raani Chocolatier - Manufacturing Luxury Home Made Chocolates in Chennai

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  18. What about Green & Black's? They manufacture organic chocolate and some of their products are also labelled Fair Trade.

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  19. Hi, Kim,

    They did not respond to our email asking them about the country of origin, so they are on our list, just under did not respond. Because of this, we cannot recommend them. They might respond to you.

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  20. This is a very helpful list! It reminds me of the fish list (Seafood Watch) that the Monterrey Bay Aquarium puts out which has helped shape my consumption patterns. The fact that it was on a small fold-able wallet sized brochure helped too.

    I think what's important to appreciate here is that of all the chocolate grown in the world, a large majority of it goes through a select 10 companies... who capture a large majority of the market. So even if everyone followed this list, the impact would be that these small companies would be impacted more so than any of the larger companies since demand from the small companies isn't at the scale necessary to make large companies think twice.

    How can we better ensure the masses know what is conflict-free chocolate and what is not? I think the masses are more likely to consume Nestle, Mars, or Hershey products over any of those on the list provided. And any attempts at labeling seem to go by the wayside (see Cali's GMO proposals or even the chocolate industry in the run up to Harkin/Engel which basically demonstrates that the ensuing certification systems out there are as good of veils to the truth as our own USDA/FDA ones are).

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