Ethical Sourcing Is Non-Negotiable

Following harvest in the Dominican Republic, Zorzal Cacao’s Farmer Isabel Then performs quality assurance measures removing detritus and excess material from cacao beans (baba) prior to fermentation.  This step allows for more uniform and effective fermentation creating a better, higher quality product. 

It’s been one week since The Washington Post published their expose article (“Cocoa’s child laborers”) detailing the sad truth about the child labor and unsafe working conditions that go into farming the bulk of the world’s commodity cacao.  With cacao being the essential ingredient of chocolate, it really is dysfunction that something that brings joy to so many is made at the expense of children’s health and well being.

The article did a great job of explaining in layman’s terms how major industrial chocolate companies have missed set benchmarks and goals for nearly 20 years on how to eradicate child labor from cacao production.  Mind you, these goals were set collaboratively involving said major industrial chocolate companies, US Congressmen and representatives from foreign national governments.

I found it particularly interesting that based on the numbers provided over an 18-year span, The Chocolate Industry as a whole has spent less than 0.0081% of annual sales to address this issue that they had previously promised to eradicate.  One would think that if these companies were really concerned that they might lose access to the one ingredient essential to making their product, there might have been a greater effort made than less than one hundredth of a percent of annual industry sales.

However, the authors missed an opportunity to share that there is a very important segment of the chocolate world making great strides to address ethical issues and the imbalance of money along the supply chain.  In the craft chocolate world many smaller, non-industrial chocolate makers firmly believe in the ethical treatment of workers and supply chain transparency, and their business models are built upon these standards.

We at Goodnow Farms are one of those companies built on ethical sourcing and transparency throughout the entire chocolate making process.  We make fine flavor, single origin chocolate with cacao beans we’ve sourced directly from farmers throughout the Americas.  We’ve spent a long time developing direct, long-term, quality-focused and equitable relationships with cacao farmers and producers including visits to their farms and some direct investment in operations.  These relationships ensure alignment regarding best farming, harvest and post-harvest protocols, ethical treatment of workers, overall environmental sustainability, economic feasibility, and top quality production of fine flavor cacao beans.  We pay our farmers up to four times the commodity price of cacao for their high quality products.

Instead of using commodity prices, we pay for our fine flavor cacao based on the value and efficacy of the work that was performed to produce it.  When our farmers produce top quality cacao, we can in turn make our best quality chocolate.  We believe that by having open and direct communication, setting clear expectations and paying more for a good quality product we can shift more power to the producers and empower communities.

We could not make our truly unique single origin chocolate without the fine flavor cacao we receive from our talented and committed farmers and producers.  We are grateful for the opportunity to interact directly with them and to help make positive changes in their worlds.  As a company we do our best to effectively explain what ethical sourcing means and why it is non-negotiable in the world of chocolate.  Consumer education and action is key to real change in ending child labor and unsafe working conditions in cacao.

So, while the world of industrial chocolate and commodity cacao waits in limbo, many craft chocolate makers are moving full steam ahead in addressing ethical issues and making delicious chocolate.  Don’t just take my word for it, check out this chocolate map from FCCI showing specialty cacao chocolate makers around the world!