originally published: October 26, 2016
As the first Organic and Fair Trade certified chocolate factory in North America, Theo’s founding principle is that the finest chocolate in the world can and should be produced in an entirely ethical and sustainable fashion. Our Fair Trade, Fair for Life certification validates that there is no forced labor on the farms where we source cocoa. Theo strongly values third party certification and has chosen “Fair for Life” certification because of its comprehensive and rigorous requirements. Fair for Life certification guarantees that smallholder farmers receive fair payment and that workers all along our supply chain benefit from fair working conditions.
The presence of child labor can be found in many cocoa growing regions, particularly in West Africa where the majority of the world’s cocoa is sourced for conventional chocolate production. Child labor can take many forms, from the ILO-defined Worst Forms of Child Labor such as child trafficking and forced labor to more common issues, such as children being pulled out of school in order to work on cocoa farms. Following public outcry and campaigns by informed consumers, efforts to reduce the worst forms of child labor in cocoa farming have increased over the past decade but progress has been slow. By some measures, the problem has actually grown in recent years as demand for cocoa has continued to rise.
Theo’s founding principles are irreconcilable with forced child labor. Theo intentionally sources from suppliers and farmer cooperatives that have third-party certifications in order to provide a layer of assurance regarding the labor practices and well-being of the farmers and their families.
For Theo, being a bean-to-bar chocolate maker goes beyond words on a label. To us, it means deliberate and thorough stewardship at every stage in the agricultural and manufacturing process. The premium prices that Theo pays for high-quality cocoa help farmers thrive by enabling them to improve household income and secure access to education, health care, and other vital services. Our cocoa purchasing practices promote a better quality of life for cocoa farmers, now and in the future.