Questions about chocolate

Christmas is almost here, and during November and December alone, over 11 million kilograms of chocolate will be delivered to Finnish grocery stores. With the holidays fast approaching, it is a good time to think a bit more closely about the sustainability aspects of chocolate, in terms of both the environment and human rights. SYL’s Instagram followers have sent in the following questions:


Which certificates can I trust?

This is a very important question. There are already more than 170 sustainability standards in use in the world, and there are also various certifications for different products or raw materials. The criteria used for these certifications vary strongly when it comes to human rights. Therefore, it is especially important to understand what sets the certifications apart.

When comparing certifications to one another, you should take into account at least the following aspects:

  1. The independence of the certification system, meaning who owns the system and which interests the funders and the decision-makers represent.
  2. The extent and quality of the criteria. There are major differences between the criteria used for different certifications, and you should pay attention to two points that are essential for employment rights: actively promoting freedom of association and requiring an adequate living wage.
  3. Openness and transparency of the systems, meaning whether third parties are able to verify the criteria that the certification system is based on and how its auditing manuals interpret these criteria.


Auditing and certification systems, especially third-party certifications, are important and present the most reliable tool for monitoring social sustainability in high-risk countries.


How does cocoa production affect the people and environment of the Global South?

Over the past 30 years, global cocoa production has doubled, and almost all of this growth is coming from four different West African countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria).  The future of cocoa production is threatened by child labour, deforestation and climate change. In the West African cocoa production industry, poverty is still an everyday reality for many. Fairtrade aims to secure a living wage for both farmers and farm workers. Fairtrade is a founding member of the Global Living Wage Coalition, an international consortium that defines what is considered a living wage and aims to ensure that all workers are compensated fairly. Fairtrade cocoa farmers are always paid at least the Fairtrade guaranteed minimum price. The sales price is supplemented by the Fairtrade premium. In 2019, Fairtrade raised the guaranteed minimum price and the Fairtrade premium by 20 per cent, bringing producers closer to a living wage.

For many female farmers, the traditional cocoa trade is even more unfair than for men. Fairtrade has calculated that female cocoa farmers make one fifth of the income of their male counterparts. Fairtrade opposes this gender pay gap and helps women become entrepreneurs and succeed on their own terms.

The exploitation of child labour is still regrettably common on cocoa plantations. In two of the countries with the largest cocoa bean production in the world, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, 2.1 million children currently work in conditions that are detrimental to their health or schooling. Oftentimes, poor smallholders cannot afford to hire workers, so instead of going to school, the children will work on the family farm. This translation is a summary of a Finnish blog post. You can find more answers to questions regarding chocolate and sustainability certifications in Finnish here.


Jatta Makkula
Specialist, Fairtrade Finland universities


This translation is a summary of a Finnish blog post. You can find more answers to questions regarding chocolate and sustainability certifications in Finnish here.

As part of our project we are publishing a series of blog posts on this topic. The project Sustainability holds us up, uphold sustainability, organised by The National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL) and eight student unions, encourages students to consider the effects of our consumer habits and introduces the UN’s sustainable development goals.

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