Why You Should Feel Smug Buying Fair Trade Anything (Namely Chocolate)

Produced in association with the legends at World Vision.

It’s 4pm and you’re contemplating ducking out of the office/class and laying waste to whatever snacks are within close proximity. You head to the convenience store – for convenience reasons – there’s a bank of chocolate bars and blocks, some with those fair trade stickers; some without.

So, is it worth the extra dollar or two to pay for a logo? 

On a non-fair trade cocoa farm, for example, land owners can take large chunks of profit off the farmers, knocking off money earmarked for things like food, medicine, and shelter. The middlemen buyers of cocoa can take advantage of farmers’ precarious negotiating positions, offering low prices they’ve got no choice but to accept. Children as young as six can toil in the plantations to help support their families, exposed to harmful pesticides and dangerous tools and workloads. Workers on the farm may have been trafficked to labour alongside them, with brokers who lured them away from their communities to work, and land owners paying for the cheap labour, profiting.

Fair trade certification ensures these nefarious types aren’t benefiting from our afternoon cravings.


Those snacks (or any product really) with these little logos guarantee you’re one step closer to becoming the ethical consumer of your dreams. 

The FAIRTRADE brand, as they conveniently summarise on their website, offers an “alternative approach to the conventional trade based partnership between producers and traders, businesses and consumers.” They only award that logo to the products that meet the ethical economic, social and environmental standards they set; a process which involves monitoring things like where crops are grown, the way they’re harvested (e.g. not using child labour or in slave-like conditions) and how they move on from there in the supply chain. 

The World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) is another organisation that monitors fair trade via supply chains. Exploitation can thrive here in particular, whether on the ground at farms, middlemen buyers who sell the raw product on to exporters, the processors and manufacturers who transform it into a sellable / consumable product, and the final retailers (where you’re standing now, contemplating your next decision). Membership to the WFTO network and ability to use its logo is exclusive to companies who can prove they aren’t exploiting their workers; that they pay them a fair price, and go out of their way to ensure their social and economic conditions are improved. And stay that way. 
The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certification are also in the fair trade game, and are about protecting farmers and workers from exploitation but with more emphasis on biodiversity and environmental protection where farming is taking place. They certify products made with sustainable practices and under ethical labour conditions, where things like education, healthcare and food are easily available. Both of these are just as valid indicators of fair trade and super helpful when looking out for ethical products (like chocky).  

Okay, so you’re now pretty reassured that anything you buy branded with one of the fair trade logos has been through some pretty tight scrutiny; the kind of scrutiny that’s ensuring people aren’t hurt or exploited on the other end of your tongue. I mean, that’s a pretty shit thing to consider as you down your third latte or munch through another generic chocolate-covered bikkie.
So where to start your ethical kick?

Assuming you’re not as ambitious as some souls in the UK, turning entire towns and universities fair trade, chocolate is a pretty good place to begin. Let’s be realistic: you’re probably going to buy that bar of chocolate anyway. It may as well make you feel great.


Things like World Vision’s Ethical Chocolate Guide can help you navigate a field where around 95% of chocolate you can buy in Aussie shops can’t be guaranteed to be free from forced labour, or practices that employ children or trafficked workers. It’s where you’d find out that, say, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate bar is fair trade certified; likewise that Mars Bar you were eyeing off; or the block of organic dark ALDI chocolate that almost made it into your trolley on the weekend. In the end, if you can see any of those little logos, you’re in safe territory.

Either way, the Ethical Chocolate Guide condenses all of them into a helpful list – which you can find HERE – and you now know how to make a more ethically sound purchasing decision.

T o o   e a s y

Title image by Mike Clarke via Getty via Photoshop.