Sustainable Chocolate2019-05-21T09:29:59-07:00
Sustainable chocolate is produced with site-specific practices.

Sustainable chocolate is produced with site-specific practices for all steps of production.

Sustainable Chocolate 

What is Sustainable Chocolate?

Sustainable chocolate is produced using approved methods that ensure cacao farmers, chocolate producers, and ingredient suppliers can continue production of the labor intensive crop. According to the USDA, the term sustainable agriculture means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs1
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends1
  • Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls1
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations1
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole1


Sustainable agriculture was addressed by Congress in the 1990 “Farm Bill” [Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (FACTA), Public Law 101-624, Title XVI, Subtitle A, Section 1603 (Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1990) NAL Call # KF1692.A31 1990].1 Under that law, the term sustainable agriculture was defined as a way to secure food crops for a growing population.

The idea of sustainable chocolate emerged in 1998.  Stakeholders in the cocoa industry organized to discuss the future of cocoa. The crop was at risk due to pests, disease and the fragility of the tropical ecosystem where it is grown. Those attending the conference realized the issues were not just environmental, but social and economic as well. In order to guarantee the future of chocolate, sustainable cocoa sector was created to deliver benefits across the entire supply chain.2

Creating a Sustainable Program

Several chocolate companies have created sustainability programs to ensure the future supply of chocolate. Sustainable chocolate is produced under the 3 pillars of sustainable development:4

  1. Ecology/environmental protection: Implementing agricultural tools that reduce deforestation, end the use of toxic chemicals and prevent soil erosion.6
  1. People/ society: Farmers receive skills training to help them better manage their plantations and increase yields.6 Fair labor practices prohibit child labor.
  1. Economy: Rebalancing the profit throughout the supply chain to create a win/win proposition for every participant in the supply chain.

Sustainable chocolate is built on the three pillars of people, planet and profit. Redistributing profit throughout the supply chain provides an improved quality of life for the people farming cacao and the communities they live in. People and planet benefit through the introduction of sustainable farming methods, which improve the farm’s productivity and reduce environmental damage potentially caused by conventional farming methods. The higher a farm’s yield, the more money the farmer will earn.6

Some programs, such as Puratos’ Cacao Trace, go a step further: their chocolate bonus ensures that an additional 5 cents per pound of Cacao-Trace certified chocolate goes back to the farmers whose cocoa beans were used to create these products. “All beans can be traced back to the farmer who sold the beans and every bag of dried beans receives a tag with this information.”5,6 The traceability of sustainable chocolate has a positive impact in countries where cacao is grown such as Africa, South America, Central America, and Vietnam.6

Why choose sustainable chocolate for your baked goods?

Sustainable Chocolate has the same functionality in baked goods as conventionally grown chocolate.

Label conscious consumers and those seeking organic goods are the largest segment supporting sustainable products.4 Studies have shown that the younger generations of consumers are willing to pay more for products with a high content of ethical attributes.3 Sustainable ingredients are used by marketers to differential products from competitors.4

FDA Regulation

Sustainable chocolate is not an approved label claim used by either the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Producers that have products carrying sustainable chocolate label claims are required to provide documentation that demonstrates claim compliance to the appropriate regulatory agency. Independent Certified Sustainable labels already exist.  Rainforest Alliance, Cacao Trace, and UTZ certified all aim to improve the standards of the chocolate industry.


  1. Gold, Mary V. “Sustainable Agriculture: Definitions and Terms.” United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library, Aug. 2007. Accessed 31 Jan. 2017.
  2. Long, John C. “From Cocoa to CSR: Finding sustainability in a cup of hot chocolate.” Thunderbird International Business Review 50.5 (2008): 315-320.
  3. Vecchio, Riccardo, and Azzurra Annunziata. “Willingness-to-pay for sustainability-labelled chocolate: an experimental auction approach.” Journal of Cleaner Production 86 (2015): 335-342.
  4. Janßen, Dilani, and Nina Langen. “The Bunch Of Sustainability Labels – Do Consumers Differentiate?” Journal of Cleaner Production 143 (2017): 1233-1245.
  5. Blondeel, Jessica. “Re: Sustainable Cocoa” Received by Katie Jones, 10 Jan. 2017.
  6. “Cacao-Trace – Growing Next Generation Cocoa for Chocolate Lovers.” Cacao-Trace. Puratos. Accessed 01 Feb. 2017.

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