A girl loves her chocolate, that’s why I decided to make my review on one of my lifetime obsessions, chocolate. I had heard about how unsustainable the coffee bean industry can be, so I wanted to find out if the cocoa bean industry was similar. After some research I discovered that they do not really know if their ingredients are organic or not, and they are not sure if the ingredients they are using are being grown sustainably. They do have good certifications that are not fake. I have to say, most companies assume that a certification label is all they need in order to claim sustainability. But I think that sustainability should hold higher standards, and that the public expects high standards anyways. If a company is sourcing from farms that are not practicing sustainable farming methods, then how can this brand truly help endangered species? The cocoa industry has caused deforestation in the tropical forest in West Africa and South America where the majority of biodiversity currently remains in 2021. Now more than ever humans especially need to be working to prevent deforestation in tropical environments in order to save what is left of biodiversity and hopefully stop any more species from becoming endangered. For a brand that uses the noun “Endangered Species” as their brand name, and then write that they donate 10% of net profits to save our wildlife. Sourcing ingredients from assured sustainable farms would lessen human impact on the environment, and promote future biodiversity, therefore saving endangered species in the long-run. Endangered species is not just a fancy phrase that you can slap onto your brand name in order to promote sales; it is a despondent and heavy noun that carries the weight of all the lost biodiversity from human impact on nature. This company was really hard to rate because I feel that they have good intentions, and they are showing transparency, but I feel that the product could be improved and implemented more deeply into the circular economy. 1.5 / 3 Planets
Milk Chocolate is the only ingredient within this chocolate bar and it is made with chocolate liquor, milk, cane sugar, cocoa butter, lactose, soy lecithin, and vanilla. Endangered Species Chocolate sources their cocoa beans from the Cote D'ivoire, the Ivory Coast in West Africa. The other ingredients of this product are sourced from a few different places. In their other products they use american-grown berries, and california grown almonds, but they do not list the specific farms in which they source these ingredients from, or the sustainability practices used in the farming process. Unfortunately they do not list the sources from the other ingredients listed as well although they state that some of them are fair trade, and others are certified organic. They do claim to support small family owned farms in West Africa, but do not give much more information regarding the specific sources/location of their ingredients. With that information, here is what I found interesting. In their FAQ’s page someone asks if their products are organic in which they respond, “Our products are not organic. We source our cocoa from small family owned co-ops in West Africa that simply do not have the resources to afford organic certification. We feel confident that our cocoa is grown sustainably with little to no usage of pesticides.” To me, this statement is somewhat surprising yet also highly disappointing. While I’m glad they are being honest in saying that they do not know if their products are truly organic or not, I don't know why they would claim to have mostly certified organic ingredients on their ingredients page. If there is anything I have learned from my experience as a Sustainability Analyst at Voiz it's that you can never actually trust the authenticity of any “certified” label on a product, and also that the certification industry in a lot of cases is a big money grab, although there are some honest certification labels that genuinely try to hold value to the name. I was stoked to find out this company’s certifications are not meaningless graphic designs and that they actually have true value tied to them. This company should try to show more transparency to their customers within their ingredients by simply providing information on the locations/sources of the ingredients they use, and then to also let us know how those ingredients are being grown.
Cocoa production was predominately in West Africa, however, it has now expanded to South America in order to keep up with the modern market. There are sustainable and unsustainable agricultural practices in the farming of cocoa beans. An unsustainable method would involve farmers clear cutting tropical forest, making the cocoa industry one of the leading causes of deforestation in South America, and West Africa. Other sustainable methods in the cocoa industry include no GMO’s, no child labor, paying farmers well, and helping the community grow by implementing schools and health centers. Fair trade agreements usually keep these aspects in check and I was super pleased to see that this company’s certifications are legit and all hold true value to their name. I’m giving this brand a 1 / 3 planet because when I went to the FAQ’s page someone directly asks them if their ingredients are sustainable and they respond basically saying that they do not know for sure if their ingredients are all sustainability produced, but they are fairly positive. That’s a lame response if your brand is titled with "endangered species". A main contributor to the increasing number of endangered species is the continued use of non-sustainable practices in agriculture. This company should try harder to make sure their ingredients are sustainable, it’s important. These milk chocolate bars are produced and manufactured here in the U.S.A in Indianapolis, which is great because that makes for less overseas transportation, also the wrapper of this product is made from recycled materials.
Endangered Species Chocolate is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, and was founded in 1993 by an Oregon entrepreneur, Curt Vander Meer, who had two passions – crafting premium chocolate, and conservation. I truly understand the challenging task it likely is for a company to assure the sustainability of the ingredients they use through and through. That being said, I find it frustrating that this company can call their ingredients organic and fairtrade on the main ingredients page, but then in their FAQ’s page say that they are not sure if the ingredients they use are truly sustainably produced. That’s like being two-faced to your consumers because when someone thinks of an organic product they believe that means it was grown sustainably without the use of pesticides. I found on their mission page a long, yet readable, impact report that let me know more information on where their products net profits are being donated to and how those donations are being used to truly make a difference. Since 2016 $2.6 million have been donated to nonprofits who are working to conserve wildlife. That’s so awesome! This company has great values and does try to be “old school sustainable” by donating to organisations and trying to source from sustainable resources. While this old school way is still effective and useful today, personally I think that modern sustainability is embracing the circular economy. Within a circular economy a product would not have any sort of impact on the environment. Companies need to start catching onto the fact that the bar for sustainability has been set even higher in 2021! Endangered Species Chocolate has done pretty good in the past, I think it’s time they step up the game a little bit, I know they have the capability to do so.