Easter, the time of year when the shelves of shops are lined with chocolate eggs of all shapes and sizes and it becomes OK to eat chocolate for breakfast. Or is this just me?
But what is the impact of this annual chocolate fest?
If you look at the ingredients list of most Easter eggs you may be surprised at how long it is. The key ingredients – cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar and milk- are all linked to industries with low wages, land grabs, child labour and in some cases slavery. The only way you as a shopper can do your best to avoid these issues is to seek the Fairtrade and organic options, or to buy from a company that has transparent and direct trading relationships with its suppliers – such as the Fig Tree in Lancaster.
Another problematic ingredient commonly found in chocolate eggs is palm oil. In fact I challenge you to find an Easter egg that doesn’t contain palm oil!
As you may be aware, palm oil production is associated with deforestation, as well as human rights abuses in Indonesia and Malaysia where over 80% of its production takes place. And issues in this market continue despite the establishment of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – a certification scheme that has tried to improve environmental and social standards in the industry. The RSPO has faced a lot of criticism for being far too weak, having been accused of ‘greenwash’ for enabling companies to appear to be more sustainable than they are through a process that “on the one hand seeks to improve company practices but, on the other hand, seeks to legitimise continued expansion [of palm oil plantations]”.
If you want to avoid palm oil altogether, seek out the chocolate eggs made by the following four companies: Booja Booja, Cocoa Loco, Montezuma and Divine.
However, if we were all to stop buying palm oil within our current economic system, we may push companies to use other oils instead. This could lead to even more environmental and social problems. It may therefore be better to buy from companies that are pushing for more sustainable palm oil production practices.
Ethical Consumer Magazine, for example, reviews companies’ policies and practices around palm oil, seeking those that are going beyond the RSPO to drive positive change in the palm oil industry. According to its latest rankings, Plamil and Traidcraft both score a best for their palm oil practices. Thorntons, Lindt, Co-op, Mars and Cadbury score a middle rating. Moo free and Nestle score a worst rating for their palm oil practices. For more information see: www.ethicalconsumer.org