Our love for chocolate is undeniably high, meaning that the demand for cocoa beans is continuously increasing. Chocolate companies make a lot of money off this industry — an estimated $100 billion annually to be precise — and this number is only expected to rise.
Trust me, I get it. I’ll be the first to admit that I love chocolate and eat it regularly. But, our obsession with this bitter yet sweet treat comes at a cost, one that’s far more detrimental than you may think. Our love affair with chocolate is seriously damaging the environment, contributing to deforestation and endangering species along the way.
A new report produced by non-profit Mighty Earth revealed just how damaging the cocoa industry can be for the environment, breaking the chocolate industry wide open by exposing how these companies are illegally clearing protected land.
How the Chocolate Industry Is Causing Deforestation
The report, titled “Chocolate’s Dark Secret,” detailed just how much the cocoa industry threatens both the environment and wildlife. The report was based off investigations conducted in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Cost) and Ghana, which together represent 60% of the world’s cocoa production.
As it turns out, some pretty big name chocolate companies are growing cocoa illegally in these protected areas, including Mars, Nestle, Cadbury, Godiva, Lindt, Ferrero, and Hershey’s. These companies buy cocoa grown through illegal deforestation of national parks and other protected areas, and contribute to deforestation outside of these supposedly protected areas as well.
In the Ivory Coast and Ghana, the chocolate industry represents the primary cause of deforestation. That’s right, your Ferrero Rochers and Hershey’s Kisses could be causing some serious damage on the other side of the world.
Countless national parks and other protected areas have been decimated on the Ivory Coast. Instead of seeing what once was a national treasure, you’d find that their forests have been completely cleared and replaced by cocoa growing operations. Are your Lindor chocolate balls really worth this type of devastation?
Up to 90% of the land in national parks in these areas has now been replaced by cocoa. The Ivory Coast was once lushly forested, but now less than 4% of it is covered in forest. Deforestation isn’t the only environmental issue associated with the chocolate industry, either.
The harsh pesticides and fertilizers used to grow cocoa can negatively affect the environment, our health, and biodiversity, and the chemicals can contaminate nearby waterways as well. Many of the people (often young children) employed are living in poverty, as they’re paid unfair, low wages.
The Ivory Coast got its name because of its formerly high population of elephants, but now only about 200 to 400 remain. It’s not just elephants who are becoming endangered, as chimpanzees are close to becoming locally extinct as well. A 2015 study revealed that 13 out of the 23 protected areas analyzed had completely lost their primate population.
Mighty Earth reported:
Between 1988 and 2007, 1.7 million acres of Indonesian forest were cleared for cocoa production, equivalent to nine percent of the nation’s total deforestation for crops. Much of this deforestation has destroyed orangutan, rhino, tiger, and elephant habitat.
Cocoa is also becoming a driver of deforestation in the Congo Basin, the most intact of the world’s great rainforests. A recent study in the Democratic Republic of the Congo examined the four major cacao growing regions, and found that cacao expansion could lead to the loss of 176 to 395 square kilometers of forest in the next decade, especially in the Equatorial Province towns of Mbandaka, Bikoro and Lukolela.
If this problem isn’t dealt with, it will only worsen. As demand increases, so will the supply of chocolate, which will only further the devastation in these areas. Troublingly, chocolate companies are knowingly destroying these forests, as reported by Mighty Earth.
When these companies addressed the deforestation caused by the illegal production of cocoa, many recognized that this is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with, yet their actions are not supporting these words, as it’s not being dealt with.
It’s important that we share this type of information with one another so that we can make informed decisions as consumers. You vote with your dollar! The best way to take a stand against these companies is to stop supporting them.
So, next time you’re looking to satisfy your chocolate craving, try an organic, ethically-sourced chocolate bar. Trust me, it’s just as delicious (and arguably more so), but won’t come with a hefty environmental price tag.