Lifestyle / Random Thoughts

Chocolate With A Heart

Chocolate hearts are a Valentine’s Day staple, behind in popularity only roses and engagement rings. But how do you know if a chocolate heart you are about to savour is, in fact, a chocolate with a heart? Time to unwrap the chocolate mystery…

Choco-licious! Chocolate is a billion-dollar per year industry.

Choco-licious! Chocolate is a billion-dollar per year industry.

This sumptuous, luscious, silky-smooth and sinfully calories-rich delicacy comes from the cocoa tree. Although both the tree and the word ‘chocolate’ are originally from the Americas, today West Africa produces almost two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, with Côte d’Ivoire growing almost half of it.

And this is where the dark side of the chocolate story is found. According to the International Cocoa Initiative, more than one million children could be exploited in the cocoa industry in Africa today, most of them in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. These are children who do not go to school, work long hours, performing hazardous tasks – not to mention, possibly never get a chance to taste the chocolate they produce.

Set up in 2002, the International Cocoa Initiative works to keep Ivorian children in school and out of cocoa industry. Photo courtesy ICI.

Set up in 2002, the International Cocoa Initiative works to improve the lives of children in cocoa-growing communities. Photo courtesy ICI.

In response to widespread child labour, trafficking and abuse, several companies – including Nestlé, Ferrero and Mars – have put in place tighter controls of their supply chain to stamp out slavery in the cocoa industry. If you’d like to know more, watch CNN’s Freedom Project exposé Chocolate’s Child Slaves  and its forthcoming in-depth report on cocoa-nomics.

One way to ensure that the chocolate you buy is sourced responsibly is to look out for certification. For instance, the Rainforest Alliance guarantees that smallholder cocoa farmers directly benefit from your purchase, and that it also helps the environment by avoiding toxic runoff from cocoa farms that otherwise ends up in soil and waterways.

Tree frog spotted in Cote d'Ivoire. Photo via Rainforest Alliance.

Tree frog spotted in Cote d’Ivoire. Photo via Rainforest Alliance.

So far, so good – but there’s one chocolate that raises the bar (no pun intended) on social and environmental responsibility even higher!

Endangered Species Chocolate was born 20 years ago out of a desire to make an impact on the growing number of plant and animal species that are disappearing from Earth. The company donates 10% of net profits to environmental organizations that are focused on wildlife conservation and habitat preservation. Each chocolate bar features the threatened species you are helping to protect. Now that’s really indulging in a cause!

Adopt a Gorilla gift chocolate pack in support of African Wildlife Foundation. Photo via Endangered Species Chocolate.

Adopt a Gorilla gift chocolate pack in support of African Wildlife Foundation. Photo via Endangered Species Chocolate.

Hope these tips will help you find a sweet and sustainable chocolate treat that does not leave a bitter aftertaste.

Happy Valentine’s and lots of love from Green Stilettos!

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