Eco-Friendly Chocolate Guide

What makes a bar of chocolate ‘eco-friendly’? Well, it’s a combination of ‘eco’ – that’s environmentally-friendly or sustainable, and what we call ‘friendly’ – friendly and fair to people as well. That chocolate bar needs both, and fortunately there are many eco-friendly chocolate bars out there to choose from. This is how to find them …


Palm Oil

Workers’ Rights

Child Labour

eco-friendly cocoa is grown using less chemicals
eco-friendly chocolate is free of palm oil or contains responsibly-sourced palm oil
Buying Fair Trade helps ensure workers' rights are protected.
A responsible sourcing policy helps protect against Child Labour.

Studies show pesticides are linked to a global decline in insect populations. And every day millions of gallons of excess fertiliser escape into the Earth’s waterways. This creates an imbalance, depriving wildlife of vital nutrients.

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. Oil palm trees are native to Africa but were brought to South-East Asia just over 100 years ago as an ornamental tree crop. Now, Indonesia and Malaysia make up over 85% of global supply but palm oil is produced in 42 other countries.

According to FairTrade cocoa farmers earn on average just 6% of the final value of a bar of chocolate. Fairtrade standards set a minimum price so farmers can get a fairer return on their investment despite volatilities in the market.

According to a report on child labour in cocoa farming published in 2020 around two million children are engaged in ‘hazardous’ child labour in Ivory Coast and Ghana. They are exposed to toxic chemicals, using machetes to farm the cocoa. The work involves carrying excessive loads.

Organic farming respects the natural environment, greatly reducing the pesticides and fertiliser used. Farmers are encouraged to use traditional methods such as crop rotation and using natural predators such as ladybirds to control pests. 

(source: soil association)

Palm oil is very versatile and is in close to 50% of the packaged products we find in supermarkets. It is also used in animal feed and as a biofuel in many parts of the world. However, it is a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, threatening endangered species like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino.

(source: wwf)

Many cocoa farmers experience extreme poverty, for example most farmers of cocoa in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the largest cocoa-producing areas in the world, live on less than $1 a day.

(source: fairtrade)

The report estimates child labour in cocoa has increased by 14% in the last decade. Forced labour is common. One of the causes of child labour is poverty, and this is linked to the prices paid by buyers (see Workers Rights and Fair Pay). However, improving livelihoods, coupled with awareness raising and community monitoring can reduce child labour significantly.

(source: ethical consumer)

What You Can Do …

Buy organic chocolate. Every aspect of welfare is covered under organic standards, including living conditions, transportation and humane slaughter. Some organic standards are also against genetically-modified food (GMO).

Buy eco-friendly chocolate that is free of palm oil, or from a company that has RSPO – the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil  – Certification. You will help ensure your chocolate is sustainably produced, and also that workers are treated more fairly. 

By buying FairTrade you help ensure a better wage for cocoa farmers. More or less all major outlets in the UK now provide an eco-friendly FairTrade option.

Choose a company with a good cocoa sourcing policy. This may be reflected in direct trade with the farmers, and eco-friendly chocolate may carry a recognised certification such as Rainforest Alliance or UTZ.


Many well-known brands offer organic, eco-friendly chocolate options, including Green & Blacks, Montezuma’s, Divine and Cocoa Loco.

The WWF Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard shows which brands and retailers are committed to sustainable palm oil free of deforestation and destruction of nature. Manufacturers and retailers leading the way include: Coop Switzerland, the John Lewis Partnership, Ferrero, IKEA and Mars Inc.

Some FairTrade companies: Tony’s Chocolonely, Theo and Switzerland’s Alter Eco, Divine Chocolate and Equal Exchange

Beyond Good chocolate is 100% sourced in Madagascar and certified as ‘Direct Trade’.

Lidl chocolate is 100% Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Organic or UTZ. – eco-positivity, frugality, Nature

Other articles you might like to read: Ten Good Reasons to Buy Organic How Ethical Consumer Helped Me Buy My Jeans Ten Food Sustainability Issues To Consider