Sweet news is always welcome in our turbulent world. Ahead of Labor Day, Dr. Bronner’s, America’s leading natural soapmaking company, announced an expansion into edible goods through a new line of Magic All-One Chocolate. The chocolate treats will be organic, fair trade certified, and vegan, produced in direct partnership with small cocoa farmers that puts the brand’s signature “All-One” philosophy into action.
Dr. Bronner’s intends to transform cocoa production based on a model it established in 2009, the world’s first certified organic and fair trade palm oil project. Based in Ghana, the “Serendipalm” initiative proved that palm oil can be grown, harvested and processed without the ecological destruction often attributed to the industry. The small farmers helming Serendipalm use regenerative practices as well as traditional Ghanaian cultivation techniques, which cause no deforestation, and no wildlife is harmed. The same practices are being adopted to produce Magic All-One Chocolate.
“All-One” is the driving concept behind Dr. Bronner’s, the idea that all living things are connected and everyone must work together for social, environmental, and economic responsibility in order to create a better future. Under the leadership of brothers David and Michael Bronner, the company has been a decades-long pioneer in establishing business practices that combine regenerative organic agriculture and fair and ethical labor approaches. One of its most effective initiatives is to teach farmers “dynamic agroforestry,” in which complementary crops are planted next to each other in dense stands. This method not only replicates the plants’ natural support system, allowing a healthy ecosystem and biodiversity to flourish, but also eliminates the need for pesticides and other chemicals, improving yields so farmers can increase their revenue. Additionally, by reducing the large carbon footprint common to non-regenerative farms, dynamic agroforestry restores soil health and works to combat climate change.
Turning these forces to the cocoa industry, Dr. Bronner’s is taking a stand in one of the sectors most in need of rehabilitation. Corruption and horrific humanitarian abuses have plagued international cocoa production since its inception; the average cocoa farmer in West African nations such as Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire earns less than $2 per day, meaning that many resort to child labor and slavery to keep costs down. A comprehensive report by the Food Empowerment Project documents that a majority of children laboring on cocoa farms in West Africa are between the ages of 12 and 16, though some investigations have found children as young as 5. In February 2021, former cocoa plantation workers brought a class-action lawsuit against seven of the world’s most profitable chocolate companies, including Hershey’s, Nestle and Mars, accusing the corporations of aiding and abetting illegal enslavement of thousands of child laborers.
“At the root of this exploitation is an extractive business model that relies on poverty prices for farmers,” writes Michael Bronner in an op-ed for Food Tank. “This extractive model is hidden behind an appalling lack of transparency made possible by complicated supply chains with many barriers between farmers and chocolate brands. Only 44 percent of Nestle’s cocoa can be traced back to the cooperatives that produced it; and 51 percent of Mars brand’s cocoa is traceable back to farmer cooperatives in its own supply chain.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Bronner’s is maximizing every opportunity to understand each link in its supply chains. Company representative Stacey Oparnica explains, “Since 2009, we’ve helped provide an estimated 800 farmers with the resources needed to convert conventional palm and cocoa fields to regenerative organic agriculture… We choose to work directly with farmers to address [supply chain issues] from the ground up: By supporting them in converting poor farming practices to regenerative organic methods that produce higher yields and higher income; by guaranteeing fair prices for the cocoa we use in our Magic All-One Chocolate (on average 15 percent higher than the conventional price); and by paying a stable fair trade floor price, which ensures production costs are always covered and farmers always earn an income, regardless of low market prices.”
Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Chocolate is comes in six unique flavors, and feature 70 percent dark chocolate with a mix of nuts and fruits. Many of the farmers involved in the cocoa cultivation come directly from the Serendipalm family, meaning that regenerative and traditional understanding of the planet have merged once again for the universal good. If chocolate is, as the Dr. Bronner’s team says, an expression of love, then this might be the greatest love of all.
Featured image: Ghanaian farmers; courtesy of Dr. Bronner's.