The sweet taste of sustainable chocolate


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From Valentine’s Day to Christmas and every holiday in between, Americans consume a lot of chocolate, and its impact on the world isn’t always as sweet as it tastes.

In an effort to satisfy global demand, cacao farming has moved from the traditional methods of the ancient peoples of Central and South America to a large-scale production effort that has taken a heavy toll on the environment. According to the National Wildlife Federation, modern cacao cultivation methods have lead to lost crop, diminished rain forest and contaminated waters. However the NWF believes that returning to growing cacao under the canopy of taller rain forest trees can encourage preservation, biodiversity and improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers.

Fortunately, there is a growing number of chocolate companies making ethical and sustainable products. And, lucky for you, organizations like the Rain Forest Alliance have made them easy to spot. Just look for the Rain Forest Alliance certification on your favorite chocolate candy to be sure that it uses responsibly sourced cacao. For a full list of certified products, click here.

Some companies, like Green & Black’s take the idea even further by showing you how — from bean to bar — it produces organic and Fair Trade chocolate.

Even the big guys are doing more to make their chocolate more sustainable. The Hershey Co., Nestlé, Ferrero and Lindt & Sprüngli are among the companies that are helping to fund a $13.5 million, five-year program from the World Cocoa Foundation and the African Cocoa Initiative that aims to improve agriculture systems in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria. Through this initiative, WCF/ACI will work with smallholder farmers to address such issues as economic prosperity, environmental protection and social development.

Environmental responsibility isn’t just for the cocoa farm. Such companies as Mars Inc. are doing more to reduce the impact of their farms and factories. Mars is well underway with its program launched in 2010 to assess its affect on climate change, water use, land use, and social impacts. While the company is pleased with its progress so far, it admits more needs to be done on the sourcing front. Learn more about Mars’ efforts here.

Some companies, such as Cadbury, work with their suppliers to ensure every ingredient is responsibly sourced. Cadbury does this by working with its dairy farmers to reduce their carbon footprint. Launched in February 2009, the Cadbury Dairy Guide to Low Carbon Dairy Farming provides Cadbury’s dedicated farmers with the tools they need to reduce their impact. To learn more about this program and other ways Cadbury considers the environment, click here.

Got a favorite sustainable chocolate brand we forgot to mention? Share it with us below!