Six square chocolate brownies on a white plate with dark background. Photo by Azmaan Baluch on Unsplash

Recently chocolate has been getting a lot of bad press because climate analysts have started to flag up the enormous and damaging land use changes that cocoa agriculture causes. 70% of the CO2 in chocolate comes from the cocoa. The rest would be from the milk, transport, factories and so on. Before you feel bad about your chocolate habit though, it’s not all bad news.

Cocoa, chocolate’s main ingredient, comes from Latin America and it makes a productive addition to the sustainable agroforestry practiced by farmers around the tropics. (Agroforestry is a mix of multiple crops and orchards in the same fields).

However it is also the cause of a lot of deforestation in countries like Ghana, Peru, Indonesia or the Côte d’Ivoire where it is grown unsustainably as a cash crop for a few years before the soil is exhausted, forcing the farmers to move on. The CO2 emissions from the loss of trees and soil is substantial.

Unfortunately most mass market chocolate is made from cocoa from these unsustainable, polluting sources. That includes chocolate such Smarties, Cadbury’s or Quality Street.

Buying ‘good’ chocolate with low emissions is not only great for the climate but is also great for the farmers. Farmers who are paid a decent price for their produce tend to invest more in their farming methods and the future of their farms, and of course are able to lift themselves out of poverty.

The choice is huge, starting with Green & Black’s, Tony’s Chocolonely, Divine, Waitrose or Co-operative own brand and anything with the Rainforest Alliance seal of approval.


Ethical Consumer – all you need to know about ethical chocolate

The Earthbound blog – why does chocolate have a high carbon footprint?

By Adam Hardy

Zoologist at heart. Environmentalist by necessity. Stage hand, financial trader, secretary, card payments designer, software developer, fossil fuel big data warehouse consultant. Amateur psychologist. Now climate change salvage engineer.