By choosing Equal Exchange chocolate and cocoa products, you support a company that: knows quality chocolate, supports small farmer co-ops through Fair Trade, supports organic farming practices and organic ingredients AND is worker-owned (let’s just say we’re unique).
Organic farming methods and ingredients
Our farmer partners use sustainable farming methods, without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. This prevents harmful chemicals from entering the local ecosystem and water supply, which is also healthier for farmers and their families. Many organic farmers have diverse farms, meaning they plant a variety of cacao trees, tall shade trees, and fruit and vegetable plants. This diversity allows for more diversity of wildlife as well as stronger protection against extreme weather.
Free of child slave labor
In the cocoa belt of West Africa’s Ivory Coast, it’s common to see young children holding machetes or pesticide equipment without protective gear. A report commissioned by the U.S. government found that more than 1.8 million children in West Africa were involved in growing cocoa. Ivory Coast produces 40% of the world’s cacao supply, and its beans make their way into most of the major chocolate brands you can find at mainstream grocery stores.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says hundreds of thousands of these children, many of them trafficked across country borders, are engaged in the worst forms of child labor. This includes slavery, human trafficking, abuse, and dangerous or hazardous conditions or materials (such as dangerous equipment or tools, exposure to pesticides, or being forced to perform unreasonably difficult tasks or long working hours). It also means they are prevented from going to school.
At Equal Exchange, we’re committed to sourcing fairly traded cocoa from small-scale farmers who are members of co-ops, in Latin America. Fair Trade ensures stable prices for farmers and upholds International Labor Organization (ILO) standards on child labor.
Fairly traded from co-ops
Our ingredients are grown with care by small-scale farmers in Latin America. Working as individuals, the farmers may struggle to access international markets and often receive below-market prices. But when they work together as a co-op, they become owners of a business. They have economic and political control over their lives. They have access to quality trainings and processing equipment. And, they can positively influence their communities by investing in school supplies, women’s programs, clean drinking wells, or other social development projects.
For an industry traditionally rooted in exploitation – and a reliance on child slave labor – this is a big feat.
Most cocoa on the world market is bought “blind” through importers and brokers, but fairly traded cocoa is monitored – from the farmers to the store shelf – by independent, non-profit, certifying organizations that guarantee that the cocoa was produced and traded in a socially responsible manner, specifically that:
International Labor Organization Conventions 29, 105 and 138 on child labor and forced labor are adhered to.
the cocoa was bought directly from a democratically controlled co-operative of small scale farmers. This helps them to gain more control of their livelihoods and ensures farmers a higher percentage of cocoa export revenues.
A worker-owned company
Equal Exchange is a worker-owned co-op, which means our worker-owners (full-time, permanent employees) have a stake in the business. Each member, regardless of title or department, has one share and one vote. We strive for transparency, information sharing and open-book management. Collectively we own Equal Exchange and together we’re working toward a fairer trade model – and a better world.