The Dark Side of Chocolate

coffee dark candy chocolate

By Jen Pool

Happy International Dark Chocolate Day!

Chocolate may symbolize love this time of year, but in reality, despite commitments from the chocolate industry over the years, chocolate represents a far different reality. 60% of the world’s cocoa is produced by two African countries – and the latest estimates from the Bureau of International Labor Affairs have found that 1.56 million children are used for labor on cocoa farms.

If child exploitation wasn’t enough, the other issues facing the cocoa industry are mass deforestation and food insecurity for the people in the countries that produce cocoa. Because there’s a lack of crop diversification and these countries face deforestation on large scales, farmers can’t grow adequate crops for themselves and their communities. 

Simply put, the chocolate you may be enjoying or gifting to your own children this season, may have been produced through the exploitation of other children, the destruction of wildlife, and the cost of other families not having enough food. While strides have been made by the “big three” chocolate companies, Mars, Nestle, and Hershey, their pledges to stop using cocoa harvested by children – nearly two decades ago, have resulted in minimal action or solutions.

It’s a problem not likely solved in our lifetime, with an immense reach and a complicated web of exploitation and issues that we, as average consumers, aren’t likely to solve on our own. So, what can we do about it?

I’m personally a fan of lists and tangible action items, so here are a few items for you to empower yourself with:

Do Your Research:

If purchasing chocolate that isn’t tied to exploitation is important to you, do some research on what companies have pledged to end the use of child labor in their production – and what they’ve actually done beyond their pledge. 


We have the ability to educate ourselves further at our fingertips. From articles online to books at your local library, to the documentaries available on YouTube, learn more about this issue and what you have the power to do about it. You can watch the 2010 documentary, “The Dark Side of Chocolate” on YouTube. or the 2019 documentary “How the Chocolate Industry Still Profits from Child Labor”.

Your Purchase has Power:

What we spend our money on, and how we act as consumers, have influence. After doing your own research, decide how and when you’ll change your chocolate spending habits. My personal favorite brand is Divine Chocolate, but you can also look into additional brands here and here.

A friend of mine, in a course she developed on leadership, reminded me that what we’re unaware of we can’t examine, and therefore can’t change or improve. Awareness of these issues doesn’t exist to overwhelm or incite guilt about your chocolate consumption. We do this to bring to light the things that often remain in darkness so that we’re given the opportunity to make changes or improvements in our lives, which can have global ripple effects.

This Valentine’s Day season – or even on this International Day of Dark Chocolate, what if a simple switch in the purchase of chocolate helped to make a change?

bouquet of tulips near coffee mug
Photo by Brigitte Tohm on

Jen Pool is a Board Member for Grit Plus Gumption Farmstead. She also works as the Director for Equitable Opportunities for another 501(c)(3) outside of Washington D.C. and is a certified Life Design Coach and ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Trainer. 

If you’d like to know more about getting involved with Grit+Gumption and the work that we do, please email us at:, and connect with us on Socials!

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