Fair Trade—Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

In an era of mechanized agriculture, growing and harvesting cacao is still a labor intensive practice. Although chocolate is a huge ($74 billion annually) global business, only about 6-8 percent of this revenue actually makes its way back to the cocoa farmers, many of whom run small family operations. Labor abuse is said to be rife in some cocoa regions, and reports of farmers enslaving thousands of child workers in places like Côte d'Ivoire have sparked widespread criticism of the industry.

Labor and environmental issues have inspired the formation of such organizations as the Fair Trade Federation, Rainforest Alliance and Equal Exchange. These are associations of wholesalers, retailers, and producers whose members are committed to growing cacao sustainably, and providing fair wages and good employment opportunities to economically disadvantaged artisans and farmers worldwide. Consumers can help in this effort by choosing chocolates that are organic and carry a “fair trade” label.